How do we go about building resilience in children, teens, and families? It begins with prevention. When you think of “prevention,” chances are you probably think of routine doctor visits, regular oil changes, or any number of other measures we take in daily life to avoid bigger, costlier issues down the line. Examples of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s preventative practices include implementing Pyramid Model parenting tips, providing home care family support, supporting community outreach programs for youth, encouraging social skills and reading activities for preschoolers, and pointing families to child development resources including coaching and books.
When it comes to developing resilience and creating supportive resources for our parents, teens, and children, we believe in starting early. It makes sense, then, that Nebraska Children’s prevention work is centered around resolving the challenges families face that could easily snowball into a larger crisis if not addressed early on.
Something as simple as falling behind on rent can easily set off a chain reaction that leads to child welfare system involvement – something no family wants to face. So many supports and services already exist within communities, but often when a young person or family is faced with a challenge, they’re not supported and embraced to maximize their own potential.
So what’s the answer?
We believe it is our job to bring out the possibilities and build resilience in children and teens, along with opportunities that lie within us and our communities so that children, youth, and families can thrive. We believe collaborative, community-based prevention efforts that rely on involving youth and families are best situated to identify their own solutions. Local communities are experts in their own environments and in the supports and services in their area. That’s why Nebraska Children partners with communities and a number of state and national partners to support collaboratives that create a prevention system for all friends, neighbors, and coworkers to thrive – an effort we call Bring Up Nebraska. Our goals for this effort include:
- Keeping children safe and with their families whenever possible
- Coordinating state and local services and funding to better address youth and family needs by filling gaps in services and avoiding duplication
- Supporting and respecting youth and parents as they raise healthy and resilient children while increasing self-sufficiency and well-being
- Addressing youth and family challenges before they become a crisis that could require state systems involvement (child welfare, etc.)
- Supporting community ownership of prevention efforts and each community’s unique needs, strengths, and resources
- Sharing the latest community data on the well-being of children, youth, and families, as well as evidence about what solutions work best
- Promoting the economic benefits to communities when its families – and therefore its workforce – are thriving.
In partnership with communities, Nebraska Children and our Bring Up Nebraska partners are supporting more collaboratives across the state, and working to bolster and expand the ones that already exist, like the Hall County Community Collaborative, the Fremont Family Coalition, and Growing Community Connections.
JoAnn Gieselman is Director of Growing Community Connections in Dakota County and has been with the collaborative since its inception. Her tenure with the collaborative has given her a unique perspective on the preventive power of collaboration.
“What is neat is the way this collaborative has come together,” she said. “They can see the big picture of how we all fit into this collaboration. We understand that if there are challenges to families and in our community, those ultimately affect our youngest family members, so we work together as a well-oiled, organized machine to support the children and families in our community.”
By partnering with many organizations as well as entities like law enforcement, schools, hospitals, and mental health providers, Growing Community Connections is known as the number to call when a young person or family needs information or services.
That’s just one example. Since implementation of these prevention systems, Nebraska has seen the following data:
- Juvenile arrests decreased by more than one third, from 15,162 in 2009 to 8.984 in 2018.1
- The number of children/youth in out-of-home care decreased from 4,950 in June 2017 to 4,098 in June 2019.2
- The number of substantiated cases of child abuse dropped from 3,520 cases in 2009 to 2,043 in 2018.3
- In the past year, 31 counties involved in Bring Up Nebraska directly reached over 3,700 families and over 14,000 young people and children. Of those numbers, only 39 had a substantiated case of abuse or neglect.4
1 Analysis of Nebraska Crime Commission data. 2018 data excludes arrests on Nebraska State Property.
2 Analysis of Foster Care Review Office Annual Report data. Total includes youth in DHHS and youth on probation.
3 Analysis of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Children and Families Child Abuse and Neglect data.
4 University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute (October 2019). Community Well-Being Annual Report 2018-2019. Data on substantiated cases of abuse and neglect reflect number of enrolled children who were later part of a substantiated case of child abuse or neglect, as based on provider and/or family self-report; at times reports are made by providers in partnership with parents when all prevention efforts fail to meet the full need.