Nebraska Families Collaborative Blog

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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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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Bev and nine of her siblings originally made these pillows in memory of their mother.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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AimeeHoughI can say that being a social worker was never in my plans growing up. I wanted to be a veterinarian because helping save the lives of animals and helping pet owners was my passion. However, when I took a job in the social work field I instantly knew that this is what I was meant to do. This is what makes me different.

All over the world there is — and will always be — abuse. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of it. But I work at Nebraska Families Collaborative, so I can help change a child’s reality one day at a time. It all starts with one person wanting to make a difference. While I may not be able to save the entire world, I will be able to help change the lives of others.

Consider an Omaha Gives donation to Nebraska Families Collaborative to help support our mission so we can help make a difference in the lives of others. 

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JewelI remember hearing a kinship family say, “We didn’t see it as a choice, we saw it as the only choice.” This really resonated with me because I learned that these families will do whatever it takes so the child involved can live in their home.

These families drop everything in order to take care of a child who is important in their life, no matter what their own circumstances. They want to ensure the child they care about doesn’t have to endure further stress by having to live among strangers. We get to meet these amazing families and help them to find the resources they need to be able to manage adding one, two, and sometimes up to 8 more children to their family. They are determined to keep the children safe and to help them reunite with their parents as quickly as possible.

Relationships are the foundation of humanity and we learn everything through our relationships with the important people in our life. Kinship Care allows the children we are serving at NFC to maintain these important relationships and live with people they know and trust so they can continue to learn and grow and focus on their number one priority, which is being a kid. That’s why I love my job.

Donate now during Omaha Gives to help further our programs and mission.

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D4DAt 16 years old, Matthew was moving to a foster home with all his possessions packed into a large, overstretched trash bag. He was immediately given a compact duffel bag to replace it.

Noticing the confused look on Matthew’s face, the NFC employee smiled and told him to open it. As he unzipped the bag, Matthew exclaimed, “WOW! It just keeps growing! This thing is HUGE! I can put everything I own in it!” Once he had the bag completely unfolded, he proudly walked around pulling the bag behind him, saying, “It has wheels!”

We’re certain this one act of kindness changed his whole day. Consider an Omaha Gives donation to Nebraska Families Collaborative to help support our mission so we can help more kids through our Duffles 4 Dignity program. 

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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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Help Support Our Mission, Donate Today!

Your donation to NFC will directly help children and families in the Omaha community. Consider making a donation and help support those in need. All donations make a difference – every little bit counts! And, there is more than one way to donate!

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