Nebraska Families Collaborative

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Nebraska Families Collaborative

Nebraska Families Collaborative

Our mission is to build on child, family, and community strengths so that all children and families are safe, healthy, and thriving.

IMG 0093-editedNebraska Families Collaborative has recognized Nebraska Children’s Home Society (NCHS) CEO Karen Authier and Ruth Henrichs, president and CEO of Lutheran Family 

Services of Nebraska with the first Champion for Kids and Families Lifetime Service Award. The recognition came at the NFC Championship Luncheon held on Thursday, August 17, 2017 with featured speaker Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas.

“Karen and Ruth have done so much in strengthening families and ensuring that Nebraska is a great place for children to grow up and thrive,” said David Newell, NFC president and CEO. “We wanted to take this opportunity to recognize their contributions.”

Authier, a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner, has more than 30 years of experience in program development and replication, mental health services, and child welfare programs both nationally and in Nebraska. She has served at Lutheran Family Services, The Partners Network, Inc., Father Flanagan’s Boys Home, University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services as well as maintaining a private mental health practice. Authier also serves on the Nebraska Child Death Review Team, has received numerous awards for her outstanding leadership in the field, was appointed by the Governor to the Nebraska Children's Commission and has presented numerous times at national conferences regarding child welfare and mental health.

Henrichs has served as president & CEO of Lutheran Family Services (LFS) of Nebraska (LFS) since 1984. Under her leadership, LFS has developed programs of immigration and refugee services, integrated health care, AmeriCorps volunteer services, mental health and substance use treatment, foster care, treatment for children who have been sexually abused, At Ease services for veterans, active military and their loved ones; and early intervention/prevention services for young parents at Centers for Healthy Families® in Fremont, North Omaha, and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Henrichs is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of Lutheran Services in America, one of the largest networks of human service organizations in the United States. She has also chaired the national Board of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Immanuel Board here in Omaha.

Both women have announced their retirements. Henrichs will retire December 31, 2017 and Authier will retire on September 30, 2017.

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Teen-Girl

Birthdays should be celebrations filled with cake, balloons and excitement for what’s to come. But for hundreds of foster teens in the Omaha metro each year, 19th birthdays are often filled with uncertainty, fear and feelings of abandonment. In the state of Nebraska, foster teens age out of the system at 19, often times left without support to navigate day-to-day life on their own.

We are celebrating Happy 19 during the month of September to help shine light on the need for adoptive families for teens in foster care right here in our community. You can be a part of the solution! Help us make 19 happy once again. 

Learn more and meet real Nebraska teens looking for foster families at https://nebraskafc.org/happy19.

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Mindland Voices, Omaha World-HeraldDave-4298
August 23, 2017

As a social worker and adoptive parent, I am often asked about the foster care system, foster kids and adoption. Is “The System” as terrible as what people hear about in the news?

I invariably start my answer with, “It’s complicated.”

I strongly believe that prevention is paramount to the safety, health and well-being of every child. In a perfect world, abuse and neglect wouldn’t exist, and there would be no need for foster care or child welfare systems. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so we must begin with the reality that some families need help.

About 5,000 children a year go through the child welfare system in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, with about 1,500 kids in foster care on any given day. Ninety-two percent of local foster kids are living in family-based care, and of these, 61 percent are living with relatives or adults who are known and loved by them.

While improvements have occurred within Nebraska’s child welfare system, it is still far from perfect. Children of color are removed from their families at significantly higher rates than Caucasian children, with Native Americans and African-Americans being the most over-represented groups in proportion to the general population.

About 25 percent of kids get “stuck” in foster care for two years or longer. The longer they linger in care, the greater their risk of developing emotional, developmental and health challenges. While most kids in foster care are safe, there are adult predators who target some for such crimes as human trafficking.

Even if a perfect foster care system could be created, it would still be traumatic for the children and families who go through it. There is no painless way of separating children from their families.

Foster kids and their families find themselves involuntarily flung into a system that expects them to change, even when it is often the system that needs to change to better meet their needs. At times, some professionals experience burnout and “toxic stress” that impairs their ability to empathize and numbs them to the painful process that kids and families are experiencing.

Most foster families and professionals are well-intentioned people, but unfortunately there is a small percentage of adults who violate the trust placed in them, and these tragedies, whether child deaths or horrific abuse, are heartbreaking when they occur.


The actions of a few cast a negative shadow over all foster parents and child welfare professionals, making it even more challenging to find people willing to take up those vital roles.

This year, Project Everlast, an initiative committed to providing resources and support to those “aging out” of the foster care system, partnered with the Rose Theater and nationally known performer and activist Daniel Beaty as part of a community engagement series to address the complex issues of the foster care system. Beaty facilitated workshops with current and former foster youths, foster parents and service workers to tell their stories and share their experiences with the foster care system.

The stories they shared revealed the challenges faced within the system by both youths and adults and the long-term effects that foster care can have on a person’s life. The transcripts from these workshops were used to create a script for a play, which will be performed Friday through Sunday by a professional cast of actors at the Rose Theater. Complimentary tickets are still available through Vic Gutman & Associates. Contact Laura at 402-345-5401, ext. 109 to reserve seats.

I remain optimistic about our ability to move Nebraska’s child welfare system to one that will both protect children and strengthen families. We must design systems of care that decrease the frequency of trauma inflicted when children are removed and isolated from the people and communities they love most.

My hope is that we will continue to work toward building a system that keeps kids safe and provides hope and healing for all of Nebraska’s children and families.

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OMAHA, (Neb.) Nebraska Families Collaborative has been notified by the Council on Accreditation (COA) that is has been reaccredited. This recognition demonstrates Nebraska Families Collaborative “continues to successfully implement high performance standards and delivers high-quality services” as a provider of child welfare services in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

The Council on Accreditation is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service America (now the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities). The COA accredits the full continuum of child welfare, behavioral health and community-based social services.

“Receiving a national accreditation by the COA is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to serving children and families with the highest quality of care,” says David Newell, the President and CEO of Nebraska Families Collaborative. “We would like to thank our employees and stakeholders who’ve supported us in successfully completing the reaccreditation process.”

The accreditation will be finalized within the next four weeks. For more information on the Council on Accreditation, visit http://coanet.org/home/.

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Dave-4298OMAHA, (Neb.) Nebraska Families Collaborative president and CEO, David Newell, CSW, ACSW, has been elected chairperson of the Nebraska Children’s Commission. Newell was reappointed to the board last July by Governor Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska Children’s Commission was created by the Nebraska State Legislature in 2012 to devise a strategic plan for child welfare and juvenile justice systems and to work collaboratively with the three branches of government and community stakeholders to enhance programs to improve the safety and well-being of Nebraska’s children.

One of the original members appointed to the Commission, Newell said the Commission is focused on working to continue to improve Nebraska’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems and improve the well-being of children and families across the State. Newell plans to visit all commission members across the State in their home communities to listen to their hopes and concerns regarding the commission’s current strategic plan.

“I am humbled to be elected as the Commission’s next chair,” said Newell. “I look forward to partnering with all Nebraskans in furthering the Commission’s important mission of strengthening families and ensuring that Nebraska is a great place for all of our kids to grow-up.”

Newell’s term runs until June 20, 2019.

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Join two of the leading experts on the topic of working together to achieve transformative outcomes.

OMAHA, (Neb.) Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, and Tracy Wareing Evans, president and CEO of the American Public Human Services Association will explore the power of generative partnerships and the detailed evidence of what they can achieve at a presentation to be held at Boys Town. The event is open to the public.

WHO: Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Tracy Wareing Evans, president and CEO of the American Public Human Services Association

WHAT: Presentation on the Power of Generative Partnerships

WHEN: July 25, 2017
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Boys Town
National Headquarters Auditorium
14100 Crawford Street
Boys Town, NE 68010

WHY: Generative partnerships are something greater than collaborative efforts around single initiatives; their aim is something bigger and their potential impact can be transformative. Dreyfus and Wareing Evans will speak about the process of putting together a dynamic partnership in order to achieve true generative results.

RSVP: Registration is free, but space is limited. RSVP to Tracy Greymont at tgreymont@alliance1.org or (414) 359-6524, no later than Friday, July 14, to attend.

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Mutual of Omaha Supports Program During Take Your Child to Work Day.

OMAHA, (Neb.) Now in its fourth year, the Duffels 4 Dignity Drive, sponsored by Nebraska Families Collaborative, is raising money and awareness to offer foster kids something more than a trash bag to carry their personal belongings in during their transition into foster care. The program, which began in 2013, provides children with a new duffel bag filled with essential items such as shampoo, bar soap, a toothbrush and much more.

Mutual of Omaha took advantage of its recent “Take Your Child To Work Day” in June to teach approximately 100 12-year-old children of Mutual of Omaha employees the importance of giving. Mutual identified NFC’s Duffels 4 Dignity program as its volunteer project and the children spent part of their day at work decorating bags that will then be donated to the program.

The 2017 Duffels 4 Dignity Drive runs throughout the month of July. A donation of $25 will help ensure a child receives essential items in his or her duffel bag. To learn more or to donate, visit nebraskafc.org/duffels-for-dignity.

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Eve Bleyhl of The Nebraska Family Support Network joins NFC’s Board of Directors

Eve-Headshot-WebOMAHA, (Neb.) Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC), contracted by the State of Nebraska to provide case management and service coordination for children and families involved in the child welfare system in Douglas and Sarpy counties, is pleased to announce the appointment of Eve Bleyhl, Executive Director for The Nebraska Family Support Network (NFSN) to its board of directors.

Bleyhl replaces Dan Jackson as the Executive Director of NFSN and will serve on the NFC Board of Directors.

Bleyhl has a M.S. in Urban Studies from UNO with a graduate concentration in Counseling. She has worked in the helping field for over 25 years in a variety of roles ranging from Program Coordinator for Out of School Youth at Metropolitan College to Certified Vocational Counselor with Conway Rehab to Executive Director of NAMI Nebraska and prior Executive Director of the Nebraska Family Support Network (NFSN). Bleyhl returned to work for NFSN in January 2016 as Program Manager and loves being back working with the peer support model she deeply believes in.

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AC-Back-To-School-Eblast-Graphic

Nebraska Families Collaborative is hosting our first annual "Freshen Up for School" Aftercare Event! This back-to-school event is for our 350+ active Aftercare children to prep for the new school year by providing them with personal hygiene products, new socks and underwear, and haircuts. You can help us raise money for this great event! Here's how:

Attend any public Paint Nite Event! It's simple! First, find an event you want to attend near you on Paint Nite. Then, use our fundraiser code, VF-2017BTS, at checkout and Paint Nite will donate $15 for every ticket bought with our code between now and July 15th.

Unable to attend a Paint Nite event? You can still help support our cause by making a donation to the "Freshen Up for School" Aftercare Event. Click here to make a donation today! 

All money raised will be used for this year's "Freshen Up for School" Aftercare Event. Thank you for your support!

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Black-Teen-Boy-Close-Up-2015Johnathan came into the foster care system when he was very young. He was adopted by his grandmother and then reentered the system when he was 12 years old. He had been placed in out-of-home care for five years in a variety of settings including hospitals, group homes, foster homes, and out-of-state placements.

Johnathan always talked about what it would be like to live in a family home instead of a group home. He dreamt of what it’d be like to learn how to cook dinner or go fishing. However, Johnathan had personal struggles that prevented him from many of these activities.

Nebraska Families Collaborative and its network of providers were able to come together to help Johnathan and his mother mend their relationship. Over time, they began to participate in family therapy where Johnathan was able to focus on his personal challenges and further restore his relationship with his mother. Through these sessions, Johnathan and his mother were able to overcome many obstacles that once kept them apart.

Based on the progress made, Johnathan’s team began talking about reunification. Yet, there were still barriers preventing Johnathan from returning home to his mother.

The family’s team of professionals collaborated and found solutions to overcome all of these barriers. Through the support of his team, Johnathan was also able to advocate for himself and used the therapeutic skills put in place to make the decision that he wanted to return home to his mother.

Through time, Johnathan and his mother were able to spend long visits together and he returned home permanently in April 2017. Johnathan is very happy now and continues to share his progress with his professional supports.

At this time, Johnathan has settled in to his new home. He recently graduated from high school, has started a summer job, and loves being outdoors.

Johnathan has begun to make long lasting relationships within his new community. In a few months, Johnathan’s family will no longer be involved in the juvenile court system, but many of the relationships and supports formed will continue.

Johnathan and his mother will also continue to work on their relationship, but with the support of his extended family, community, and case professionals, he has everything he needs to be successful.

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Douglas and Sarpy Counties account for a huge portion of the total child welfare cases in Nebraska — just under half. These complex cases — more than 5,000 annually in the two counties — involve vulnerable children facing serious conditions at home.

In many instances, children are removed from home for reasons including neglect, parental drug use or physical abuse.

Read more...

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ogprofileOmaha Gives! is a year-round online giving platform organized by the Omaha Community Foundation to grow philanthropy in Douglas, Sarpy, and Pottawattamie counties. Each year, there is a 24-hour online giving event in May to celebrate nonprofits. This year's giving day will take place on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The goal is to inspire the community to come together for 24-hours to give as much as possible to support the work of nonprofits in the metro area. 

On May 24, we’ll give you a dozen reasons to donate to NFC with our #12ReasonsToGive campaign, highlighting stories of real Nebraska children & families we’re helping because of your support. Schedule your donation today, and make sure to watch our social media on May 24 to learn how your gift will make a real impact for children and families in Nebraska.

The minimum donation is $10 and there is no maximum. Last year, the community raised nearly $9 million for local nonprofits!

Donate Now

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DaveReedOMAHA, (Neb.) Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC), contracted by the State of Nebraska to provide case management and service coordination for children and families involved in the child welfare system in Douglas and Sarpy counties, is pleased to announce the appointment of David Reed, Executive Director for Nebraska to its board of directors.

Reed replaces Lisa Batenhorst, vice president for Youth Care Site Operations as one of the NFC board’s Boys Town representative.

Reed holds a master of social work in counseling from the University of Kansas and has been with Boys Town for 22 years in a variety of roles. In his current position he oversees In-Home Family Services, Foster Family Services, Common Sense Parenting, Central Nebraska and East Omaha Behavioral Health Clinics, the Grand Island Intervention and Assessment program, the Duncan Day School alternative education program, the South Omaha Community Impact Initiative, and the Nebraska Family Helpline. In 2016 the Nebraska site impacted more than 9500 children statewide.

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Midland Voices, Omaha World-HeraldKathy
April 18, 2017

The writer is a longtime children’s advocate, former foster parent and founder of Voices for Children in Nebraska. She serves on the board of the Nebraska Families Collaborative.

In March, the Nebraska Children’s Commission announced the release of the Nebraska Child Welfare Blueprint Report, authored by ChildFocus, a national consulting group with expertise in child welfare.

The report provided a 15-year child welfare historical timeline of progress and setbacks, as well as recommendations about what Nebraska could do to strengthen its system of care, based on interviews with child welfare stakeholders.

As a lifelong advocate for children and families, I was heartened by the positive developments the report highlighted, especially the collaborative efforts of the Nebraska Legislature, the judicial branch, the executive branch and the private/community sector to implement a series of reforms. This is an example of “Nebraska nice,” where stakeholders come together with the purpose of improving outcomes for children and families and allowing time for new initiatives to produce positive results.

The Blueprint Report noted that while not all initiatives were successful at first, they often resulted in positive changes later as a result of stakeholder engagement and collaboration.

For example, when Nebraska passed the Safe Haven bill in 2007, the new law unintentionally created a crisis as struggling parents began abandoning their kids to the child welfare system.

While it took time to address this crisis, many positive changes emerged, most notably the public recognition that Nebraska needed to do a better job of supporting its families.

Much work remains, but some positive outcomes included the creation of the Nebraska Family Helpline and Right Turn as part of an overall plan to better assist and support families.

In 2009, Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services launched an initiative to move care coordination and case management services to private “lead agencies.” While I have long supported the concept of public-private partnerships, I did not support this initiative. It was launched without adequate planning, funding, time or stakeholder support to successfully result in such a large statewide system change.

I feared there would be many challenges for kids and families due to the systemic crisis I thought would occur. Unfortunately, many of those fears came true.

However, those challenges prompted stakeholders to work together to address the needs that came to light, in much the same way as what happened as a result of the Safe Haven law.

All of Nebraska’s stakeholders, particularly in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, came together to learn from past mistakes. They began building a better and more dependable child welfare system for kids and families, with a greater focus on achieving long-term family stability.

As a result, we saw the state’s public-private hybrid child welfare system achieve all six of the federal performance measures in 2016; a significant improvement in foster parent reimbursement rates; and adequate funding levels for child welfare services for the first time in the state’s history.

In addition, the Nebraska Children’s Commission and the Child Welfare Office of the Inspector General were created to increase stakeholder collaboration, planning and accountability in the child welfare system.

Nebraska’s child welfare system is still far from perfect, and many challenges remain that will require careful planning, adequate public funding and effective action. But the Blueprint Report gives us reason to be optimistic, and I am encouraged for the future of our families.

As Nebraska’s many child and family care organizations and agencies continue to work together for the good of all kids, there is nothing to prevent our state from being the best place to grow up for all kids.

Nebrask Child Welfare Blueprint Report - March 2017

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Pinwheel-Plant-2017April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month. More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse, many under the age of four. It's important for communities to work together to raise awareness and play a role in helping prevent child abuse. Visit the Boys Town website to learn some of the indicators of abuse. 

One way to bring awareness is Pinwheels for Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse. Nebraska Families Collaborative participated again this year in planting blue and silver pinwheels outside of our office building in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April. You'll notice blue and silver pinwheels around many communities this month recognizing this national awareness effort. Learn more about Pinwheels for Prevention by visiting the Prevent Child Abuse America webpage.

Working together, we can help children locally and all across our country. 

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SkyeYou don’t have to be an angel to want to adopt a child. You don’t have to be exceedingly special or exceptionally generous. As Lillias Freeman-Hogan puts it, “You just need to be a parent, someone who is willing to be there for the kids. To be steady, secure and have love to give.”

That’s who Terry and Lillias Freeman-Hogan are: steady, secure, loving people who wanted to open their home to teenagers and surround them with a warm, safe environment. They’d successfully raised 5 other children, 4 of their own and one that came into their permanent care. After their children had grown and flew the nest, Terry and Lillias felt that they weren’t done with this parenting thing. Not even close.

They worked with Nebraska Families Collaborative to make their desire to adopt a reality. They knew they wanted teenagers. They knew they wanted to adopt and add permanency. And they knew they could provide the type of setting to welcome a child who’d long given up on the idea of ever being adopted.

Three years ago, Skye Alonzo, a then 14-year-old, was placed with Terry and Lillias. She came a year and a half after they’d adopted another teenage girl. Their home felt complete.

Terry and Lillias’ experience was positive in every sense. “Nebraska Families Collaborative has good people who work hard and care deeply. Skye’s caseworker did everything she could to improve the lives of these kids. She was in it for the long haul,” said Terry.

As for being adoptive parents, they couldn’t imagine being anything else, even with its ups and downs. Even with its new set of parenting rules and compromises.

The love that they show and the level of commitment they’re willing to give to provide for children is astonishing. They are true angels, whether they think so or not.

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Advanced Education

Working with children and families in the child welfare system requires a highly competent and skilled workforce. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), a qualified and stable child welfare workforce is the foundation of child welfare service delivery. Nebraska Families Collaborative agrees, so we focus on hiring professionals who have college degrees in social work or similar studies to serve as our front line staff. We call them Family Permanency Specialists.

Each day, our Family Permanency Specialists (a.k.a. case managers) face critical decisions about the lives of vulnerable children and youths while working in stressful environments. Their day-to-day work with children and families spans a multitude of tasks, from conducting in-home visits to documenting case notes to giving testimony in court. Most importantly, they need to see the big picture with each family--identifying their strengths, building a strong relationship, advocating for the child(ren)'s best interest, and helping connect them to community supports and services that will help them become a stronger, healthier family. At times our Family Permanency Specialist have to tackle really difficult situations, like when a parent's rights are terminated. During those times especially, our staff have to adeptly manage what is often a highly emotional situation.

Like many other organizations who rely on skilled social workers, Nebraska Families Collaborative is finding that the number of professionals with social work degrees and backgrounds has diminished over the years. This is making it difficult to recruit new employees for this important work in child welfare. Nebraska is not alone. According to supply and demand projections, the nation will experience a total shortfall of over 195,000 social workers by the year 2030 (Lin, Lin & Zhang, 2016) if nothing is done to address this workforce shortage problem.

Recognizing the dire situation public and private programs face with a shortfall of qualified and educated social workers, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has advocated for a number of policy and regulatory changes, including supporting the use of Title IV-E for BSW/MSW education in the child welfare workforce that allows states to directly charge the costs of education to the Title IV-E program, as well as promoting incentives for BSW and MSW students to pursue child welfare work through student stipends and loan forgiveness programs. 

Nebraska Families Collaborative is also taking action to address this workforce shortage. For the past year, we have been developing a Master's in Social Work Child Welfare Cohort Program in partnership with the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Grace Abbott School of Social Work, Project Harmony and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Together, we have created an educational opportunity for 20 employees from NFC and these partner agencies to obtain their advanced social work degrees.

“This collaboration will make a major contribution to the professionalization of Nebraska’s child welfare workforce. Our employees are thrilled to have this new professional development opportunity.”

--David Newell, president and CEO of Nebraska Families Collaborative

The 20 employees, five of whom are from NFC, will spend the next three years earning a graduate degree by taking courses online and attending in-person classes every other weekend in Omaha or at the Grace Abbott School of Social Work's University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) location.

Funded by a combination of federal and private dollars, the cohort program will include an evaluation by the University of Nebraska at Omaha. For more information about the MSW Child Welfare Cohort Program, contact Donna Rozell, NFC's Chief Operating Officer at 402.492.2500.

 

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At our Community Partners Meeting on August 17, our very own Sarah Hayek presented on school success for foster youth at each of the major school districts in our area, particularly about the impact of school placement changes on the academic success and graduation rate of children in foster care. This is such an important topic, we wanted to share it with everyone who couldn't make it to hear her speak on the issue in person. Read through a summary of her presentation below!

Key Notes: 

Bellevue Public Schools
Nebraska Families Collaborative was working with a youth about to turn 19 years old and who was on an IEP (individual education plan), allowing her to attend school until she is 21 years old. This youth wanted to obtain her high school diploma vs. getting a GED. We worked with the Bellevue Director of Student Services, Kevin Mills, to get her enrolled and started at Bellevue Public Schools so she wouldn't have to change schools after her 19th birthday.

  Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.03.35 PM 

Millard Public Schools
Nebraska Families Collaborative was trying to find a way to help a youth transition to her Middle School along with her elementary school classmates and friends. The hindrance was an after school daycare. Bill Jelkin, with Millard Public Schools, became involved and went out of his way to get the local daycare to provide an exception to having an adult sign the youth into daycare so that she could walk across the street from her Middle School to her after school program.

 

Papillion La Vista Schools
A youth and his half-brother were placed with his brother's biological father, who lived in Council Bluffs. The youth's parents both wished to have their son remain in Papillion La Vista School district. Paul Bohn, with Papillion La Vista Schools, collaborated with Nebraska Families Collaborative over a number of hours to assist in getting the right paperwork filled out so that the youth would be ‘optioned’ into 
Papillion La Vista and could continue at his regular elementary school.

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Omaha Public Schools: 
Nebraska Families Collaborative was working with a youth who had completed all necessary requirements to graduate early while living at Uta Halee. She wanted to be able to partake in graduation ceremonies with her Omaha South companions. Tyree Sejkora, with Omaha Public Schools, assisted in communications with district personnel to gain permission for her to walk with her graduating class!
 
Westside Community Schools: 
When Nebraska Families Collaborative (or any organization) has youth who cannot get to school at Westside for one reason or another, Sarah Fehringer (social worker with Westside) has taken it upon herself to transport the child to school for a temporary solution so their education is not disrupted!
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Gretna Public Schools: 
Deb Seimers with Gretna Public Schools worked with Nebraska Families Collaborative so that a youth in foster care, who has always been a “Gretna Dragon,” was able to maintain his enrollment at GPS even though he had moved out of the district.
      
Elkhorn Public Schools: 
Anne Doerr, Director of Student Services with Elkhorn Public Schools, assisted with providing transportation for a youth who has always been an Elkhorn student. This ensured he could get to/from his same school even though he moved out of the district and Elkhorn Public Schools was not required to provide transportation.
 


Ralston Public Schools:
 

Marilee Cloonan and Steve Snodgrass are the only two social workers for Ralston Public Schools. Between them they share all the Ralston school buildings. They are always up-to-date on information regarding Nebraska Families Collaborative youth and are willing to collaborate and share information as needed to make sure teams are pulled together to help make the best decisions for youth in their school district!

     

  

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100+ Women Who Care Omaha is a group of women who care deeply about the Omaha community. The group gathers every quarter for a one-hour meeting, and each member writes a $100 check to a charity that the group selects. This combined donation is making a real impact locally. Since 2014, they have donated $40,000 to local charities!

We are excited and honored to announce that 100+ Women Who Care Omaha have decided to partner with our Duffels 4 Dignity Drive, gifting us $5,000! Help us match this gift by making a donation now and doubling the drive's impact!

Donate Now

A huge thank you to 100+ Women Who Care Omaha for making a big difference for Omaha, for Nebraska Families Collaborative, and for foster children!

Learn more at https://100womenomaha.com and show your support at https://www.facebook.com/100WomenWhoCareOmaha!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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We would like to share a story about a family who made it their mission to bring love and warmth to children entering foster care. Beverly Valasek and the Hein Family made special pillows last November and donated them to the Duffels 4 Dignity program at Nebraska Families Collaborative. The children who received the pillows absolutely loved them! So we reached out to Bev to see if her family would be open to donating more. They immediately jumped on board!

Bev and nine of her siblings originally made these pillows in memory of their mother. Bev talked to her employer, the Douglas County Housing Authority, who also donated books, coloring books, crayons, personal hygiene items, stuffed animals, and toys…anything a child might want or need.

They plan to continue making the pillows so that every child entering foster care gets a pillow this year.

A huge thanks goes out to the Hein family for their big hearts and for continuing to make the pillows so that every child will receive one! Special thanks to the Douglas County Housing Authority for going above and beyond to join Bev in donating!

Here is Bev’s story as she shared it with us:

heinfamilyI am a member of the Hein family. Our mother and father had sixteen children, ten girls and six boys. We have eight living sisters and every year the sisters get together in October to catch up and spend some quality time together. Last October we decided to do a community project in honor of our mother.

My sister, Jeanette, had made some pillows that had pockets in them. We thought they were very cute. I had seen the video “Removed” when I attended an NFC event. I was so touched by this video that gives us the opportunity to see--through a child’s eyes--what it feels like to be removed from your home and placed into foster care. Our family decided to make these pillows and donate them to children going into foster homes. We wanted each pillow to have a book and a flashlight. We wanted the flashlights because of the fear the children must feel, especially at night.

So all eight of my sisters and one brother went to Conrad, Iowa, for three days to spend time together and make pillows. Conrad is a small town that has a quilt store called Hen & Chicks. Above the store they have a wonderful place called The Nest where large groups can stay and work on projects like this. It was like being in a college dorm--so much fun! That weekend we made close to 100 pillows for the children. I took half of the pillows back to Nebraska and contacted someone I knew at NFC. She said she was sure they could use the pillows.

Several months later I was contacted by NFC. They asked how the pillows came about and was there a way to get more? I contacted my family and they brought more pillows that had been completed. My sister, Jeanette, sewed 65 and brought them from Tennessee. NFC had mentioned that they stuffed the pillows with coloring books, crayons, snacks, and all kinds of things. [They told us] the children were thrilled with the pillows.

I reached out to the staff and board members of Douglas County Housing Authority where I work to see if they would be willing to donate items, or money to purchase items, to put in the pillows. Many people went out and shopped for the children and many gave money. Julie, an employee at Douglas County Housing Authority, reached out to Hy-Vee on 108th and Fort Streets and to Wal-Mart on north 99th Street and they both donated. When we were done, we had collected so many wonderful things for children and teenagers [in foster care].

The generosity and love of all of the people involved in this project was incredible. Every one of us goes through difficult times in our lives and we can all remember when someone showed us a kindness or reached out to us when we needed it most. We found one small way to give back to deserving children and let them know that people think about them and care.

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