Nebraska Families Collaborative Blog

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NFC News

Subcategories from this category: Connections Newsletter

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Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC) is celebrating National Adoption Month in November when 56 children will be adopted in Douglas and Sarpy counties. Each has a story to tell, but one certainly comes to mind.

This month, NFC featured a story about “Ava” on its website. Ava has lived in nine different homes. Her father died and her mother was unable to care for her. Ava lived with her grandmother until she became ill and died of cancer. NFC family permanency specialists didn’t give up on Ava and eventually she found her forever home.

Ava’s younger brothers, Cason and Nathan were in the same boat. Both their mother and father were unable to care for them. The boy’s grandfather Brian, had a friendship with a woman named Gwen, the owner of a daycare. Brian asked Gwen to take care of his boys, should anything happen to him. When Brian died in May of 2015, Gwen kept her promise.

While it hasn’t been easy for Gwen or the boys, Cason and Nathan were brought up in a loving home with structure, consistency and unconditional love. On November 18, 2017, at the Douglas County Civic Center, Cason and Nathan will join 41 children of all ages who will be adopted and go home with their new families. The ceremony will begin at 8:00 a.m.

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Ava is not your typical teenager. After the unexpected death of her father, her life was turned upside down when she found herself immersed in the foster care system and living with her elderly grandmother. Life was on a good path for Ava, and her grandmother was preparing to legally adopt her.

Tragedy struck again when Ava’s grandmother died from cancer, leaving her future uncertain once more. NFC continued to search for and reach out to extended family to help Ava build connections she would need throughout her life.

Through one of those searches, NFC discovered an aunt and uncle who had lost touch with Ava over the years and who would happily welcome Ava into their home. After successfully passing the extensive home study and background checks, Ava could move in with her new family.

NFC wrapped services around Ava and her aunt and uncle to help with the transition. Her new family has been very supportive of Ava, helping her excel in high school. They are also working with Ava on setting future goals for college and beyond. Ava’s aunt and uncle also know how important is to her to stay connected with her two younger brothers, and were able to assist her in obtaining a part-time job at a local daycare where her two younger brothers attend.

Now she gets to spend time with them regularly. Through the ongoing support and services from NFC, Ava was successfully adopted in July 2017.

Ava’s future is bright and she has the promise of a forever family she deserves.

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Nebraska Families Collaborative promotes programs throughout the region to attract the best of the best.

OMAHA, (Neb.) Across the region, from Iowa to South Dakota and right here at home in Nebraska, Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC) is working to attract talented individuals who are passionate about creating opportunities for children and families to thrive in our community.

For example, the University of South Dakota partners with NFC through an internship program and an annual lunch and learn with the Department of Social Work; The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Grace Abbott School of Social Work has teamed with Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as well as nonprofits like NFC to create the Child Welfare Cohort, providing a tuition-free, partially-online master’s degree program specifically for employees working in child welfare. NFC leaders are also working closely with the University of Nebraska Kearney, Creighton University, and Iowa State University to connect social work students with careers following graduation.

This concerted effort comes at a time when NFC is operating within 96 percent of state mandated caseload ratios, meaning that only five of its 149 family permanency specialists are exceeding their caseload limits.

Accomplishing that feat has not been easy. “It’s taken time to get to where we are today and we continue to recruit across Nebraska and the Midwest to bring the most talented people to our team so we can best serve kids and families in our community,” said Dave Newell, NFC president and CEO.

But it’s not just about recruiting. It is also about retaining excellent employees. NFC uses both traditional and not-so-traditional benefits to attract and retain employees. From the traditional – flexible work hours, student loan forgiveness and employee assistance programs – to the not-so-traditional such as on-site yoga, dog therapy, massage therapists and food trucks, NFC understand the stress that its employees can face and works to promote a healthy work environment.

“I am very proud to work for Nebraska Collaborative Families. We work together to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” said Judith Gutierrez, Liaison Coordinator for Culture. “We want to ensure that parents have a voice in decisions about their children and we work together to support the values, culture and language of all.”

For more information on working for NFC go to nebraskafc.org/careers.

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Teenager-with-cupcake-and-birthday-candle-2017Emily has been preparing for this day since last spring as a senior in high school – filling out her application form to get into college, completing her FAFSA form for financial aid, developing a budgeting system all with the help of Nebraska Families Collaborative’s Independent Living program in preparation of turning 19 and being on her own.

Today, Emily is one of 58 18-year-olds in the Foster Care System in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. She, like many others, will age out of the system on her 19th birthday.

“Last year we launched the Happy 19 campaign in an effort to bring awareness of the challenges teenagers or children with special needs face when they age out of the system at 19 and find themselves with little to no support,” said Dave Newell, NFC president and CEO. “As more of these young people approach their 19th birthday, we wanted to once again bring this issue to the attention of the general public.”

NFC’s Independent Living specialists, formed at NFC in February of 2017, serves young people like Emily, between the ages of 16 - 19 so that they’re prepared to be more self-sufficient when they age out of the system at 19.

“Regardless of where they go when they leave us, they’ll be better prepared and have the life skills they need to be successful,” said Crystal Aldmeyer, NFC Independent Living Supervisor.

At this time, NFC is serving 48 independent living youth. The goal is to serve between 60-75 independent living youth in the future.

Referrals for Independent Living all go through a program known as Project Everlast which then refers youth to NFC, Pals, Child Saving Institute (CSI) or Branching Out. Pals, CSI and Branching Out can serve a total of 240 youth. Last June, 2016, NFC had nearly 500 youth between the ages of 14-19 in its care. The reason NFC added the Independent Living program was to add additional space for independent living services. Currently Project Everlast has a waiting list for youth seeking independent living services.

NFC is a public-private partnership with the State of Nebraska. It works with its community partners to provide foster, kinship and group home care in Eastern Nebraska. As part of its role, NFC seeks to urges caring adults to consider adoption, especially the adoption of teenagers.
The theme of the campaign is “Help Us Make 19 Happy Once Again.” You or someone you know can be part of the solution to help reduce the number of children like Emily who find themselves without family support just as they turn 19.

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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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Are You a Potential Foster Parent?

Loving, patient and caring foster families play an essential role in ensuring the healthy development, safety and well-being of children and are critical in our goal of strengthening families and reuniting children with their birth families whenever possible.

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Are You Considering Foster Adoption?

Adopting a child is a uniquely beautiful and powerfully emotional journey. Loving, compassionate individuals discover space in their hearts for children in need of a forever family. Our resources will help you get started on the road to adopting a child.

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