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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Child Welfare System

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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dnewellby David Newell, President & CEO, Nebraska Families Collaborative

Open any family photo album and you are likely to see many of the same pictures of children at every life milestone: birth, crawling, first tooth, first step, first day of school, and so on.  These images are an important reminder of the importance of children “being seen” by the caring adults in their lives and those life milestones need be cherished and remembered.

All of us—child or adult—need to be seen, heard, and engaged by those around us. People need attention and interactions with others in order to thrive just as much as we need food, water, and air.  In child welfare, one of the most important things we do on a monthly basis is visit our children, parents, and foster parents to see and hear how they are doing and then respond to the needs that we discover during these visits.  When these visits go well, the healing process speeds up, which leads to great results for both children and their families.

So what does technology have to do with visits with children? Everything. As part of our strategic plan, NFC is looking at the possibility of using a new technology called Mindshare. This will take places in stages, beginning with being able to analyze data for patterns and trends more effectively than before.

Down the road, NFC envisions fully deploying Mindshare. One of the most exciting features of this technology will allow NFC caseworkers to use a smartphone to take a real-time photograph of each foster child during their monthly visit. The child’s image would immediately be uploaded into the state database along with information on the date, time, and location of the visit. In short, operating Mindshare at its full capacity will allow Nebraska’s foster children to be seen in a new way for every visit. At NFC, we believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Mindshare will be an important step forward in seeing the children we serve.

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June 10 marked the first in a series of Community Listening Forums where NFC invited youth, parents, foster families, professionals, and other community stakeholders to discuss a sensitive topic—improving the child welfare system.

 

The forums are part of a “Community Response” grant project funded in part by “Promoting Safe and Stable Families” federal funding under subgrants from the US Administration for Children and Families, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

By October, four Community Listening Forums were held—three at Omaha North Magnet High School and one at the Boys Town South Omaha office located at 25th & L Streets. Over 200 people showed up to give their voice to the issues they see in the current child welfare system.

Three key themes emerged from participants’ input: 1) trust; 2) cultural competence and humility; and 3) prevention.

The next step for the “Community Response” project is to develop a strategic plan that addresses the identified issues. NFC will continue to seek out and include youth and family voice in the process, ensuring that we are targeting issues they find most important.

You can view the summary of the first 3 meetings HERE.

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The article below was published in the Omaha Star on July 25, 2014. It gives a great overview of the purpose of our Community Listening Forums.

You can see the results of the June 10th Community Listening Forum HERE


Omaha Star Article - Community Shares Thoughts on Child Welfare System

Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC) and local community partners sponsored a two-hour "Community Listening Forum" at Omaha North High School on June 10. "It was an opportunity to hear from families formerly or currently involved with the child welfare system, and from other community members in the North Omaha area who came out to share their thoughts regarding the child welfare system," stated Dave Newell, President and CEO of NFC.

The forum gave attendees an opportunity to share their concerns, ideas, and suggestions regarding the child welfare system; however, it was also a time to discuss how to build trust by working together. Reverend Tony Sanders of Family First started the discussion of trust by facilitating a trust activity with the entire group. "We believe that trust starts with having these kinds of conversations and really listening to families," shared A'Jamal-Rashad Byndon, NFC's Community Initiative Consultant. The forum initiators stated that this event was not a time to address case-specific issues or make promises about future changes. Rather, it was an opportunity for "people to be heard" by key decision makers in the child welfare system.

Each table sat six to eight community and agency people who shared a meal together and then were asked to discuss and respond to the following questions.

  • What can we do to build trust or improve trust between those working within the system, and those in our community who are affected by the child welfare system?
  • What are the top three issues that we should address in child welfare?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you do to prevent families from entering the child welfare system?
  • What can we do to get more families and community members involved in helping others who are affected by the child welfare system?

At the end of the hour, small groups from each table reported to the large group. All comments were gathered and summarized by NFC in order to be shared later with attendees and the larger community. One message was clear—the "system" is much more than just NFC, the private child welfare agency contracted by the state to provide case management services for Douglas and Sarpy Counties. The "system" also includes the courts, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, guardians ad litem, family and county attorneys, CASA volunteers, and multiple other service systems, such as child placement agencies, foster parents, visitation and transportation providers, family support organizations, mental health providers, substance abuse services, healthcare and education systems, and domestic violence programs. Together, all of these entities must work in partnership to better serve children and families who come to the attention of the child welfare system.

The Community Listening Forum attendees had suggestions for improving many aspects of the system. Several themes emerged about how to improve trust, such as improving relationships with families, following ethical practices, and ensuring cultural competence throughout the system. Problems with the way the system functions, professionalism, and consistency were among the top three issues attendees identified with Nebraska's child welfare system. Attendees also suggested increasing outreach to the community to help engage more families and community members. For a full report of the June 10 Community Listening Forum findings visit www.nebraskafc.org.

Upcoming Community Listening Forums will be held at Omaha North HS (36th & Ames) on August 28 and October 23 from 6-8 p.m. A light meal and childcare will be provided for everyone who registers in advance at www.eventbrite.com. A Community Listening Forum in South Omaha is also planned for September. More details will be provided at a later date.

When a child enters the foster care system, everyone has a role in making sure that the best interest of the child is at the forefront, and that parents get access to programs and services in a timely manner. "It's going to take improvements being made in every aspect of the system, and by everyone personally involved with the children and their families, in order to really see sustainable change to the system," stated Kim Hawekotte, Executive Director, Foster Care Review Office.

If you are interested in volunteering or becoming actively involved in improving the system by serving on an advisory team, becoming a foster or adoptive parent, serving on a Foster Care Review Office local review board, or volunteering in other capacities, please contact one of the event co-hosts—Nebraska Families Collaborative, Black Men United, TEAM Inc., Progressive Research Institute, Early Prevention Nebraska, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Foster Care Review Office, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Boys & Girls Club of Omaha, Omaha Housing Authority, or Southern Sudan Community Association.

If you would like more information about the Community Listening Forums or about ways to become involved, contact A'Jamal-Rashad Byndon at 402-492-4278 or ajamal-rashad.byndon@nebraskafc.org.

This event was funded in part by "Promoting Safe and Stable Families" under a sub-grant from the U.S. Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Nebraska Families Collaborative, and Black Men United.

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