Strong families are the foundation of strong communities and the fundamental building block of society. In Nebraska’s communities, many institutions have worked to create a great quality of life for local families. These institutions include our schools, churches, service clubs and numerous other volunteer organizations. Throughout the years, the state of Nebraska has partnered with our advocates committed to supporting vulnerable families and children in crisis.
This week, we are renewing the partnership between the state and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (CFF). Together, we’re launching a new initiative called Bring Up Nebraska. Bring Up Nebraska will encourage local communities to develop collaboratives that connect local families to available resources.
As we travel the state, we see the perseverance of Nebraskans who are working to provide great lives for their families. The fact is, though, all families face challenges. Whether it’s their finances, health or relationships, some Nebraskans find themselves unable to connect to resources that can help solve their complex problems. As a result, problems go unaddressed and families suffer.
Bring Up Nebraska’s mission is to support families as they work through these challenges. This initiative will establish collaboratives in communities across the state, connecting families experiencing challenges to available resources.
How does a collaborative work? Groups and individuals in local communities come together to assess their unique needs, strengths and issues. This process includes key community players such as service providers, educators, health care professionals, law enforcement, businesses, government agencies and most importantly, parents and youth. These stakeholders develop long-term plans for their community, create aid networks and organize resources in their area to prevent crises from happening to vulnerable families and children.
Locally-led collaboratives are best suited to develop plans that will support their communities while preventing negative outcomes. These collaboratives are close to their communities and are better able to understand local needs and capabilities. Their planning increases community supports for children and families so they can avoid getting put into the child welfare system.
The long-term plans developed by communities can prevent crises by:
• Coordinating resources in the community.
• Identifying and supporting solutions to remove barriers in community-based prevention efforts.
• Raising awareness of what is working and what is needed to promote a community-based model around prevention.
• Bringing local, state and national partners together to develop new strategies around prevention for Nebraska, including setting priority policies and practices.
• Making sure all Nebraska communities have more support and opportunities for community-based prevention.
Organizations like Community Action Partnership and the Boy Scouts of America are already involved in these collaboratives. These groups and others like them are growing their community’s commitment to mitigate the challenges facing vulnerable families before those challenges become a crisis.
To date, 11 locally-led collaboratives have been established: Dakota County Connections, Douglas County, Families 1st Partnership (Ogallala), Fremont Family Coalition, Hall County Community Collaborative, Lancaster County, Lift Up Sarpy, Norfolk Family Coalition, Panhandle Partnership (all 11 counties), Zero 2 Eight Collaborative (Platte and Colfax counties) and York County Health Coalition.
This is just one of the initiatives which has launched in the last couple of years to improve the well-being of Nebraska families and children. Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) successfully launched Alternative Response. Alternative Response helps parents safely care for their children. The program is already available in 57 counties and will be rolled out to our other 36 counties by the end of this year. Additionally, last year DHHS launched their System of Care for Behavioral Health. This new system is helping deliver better behavioral health services to Nebraska children and youth.
As these initiatives and others continue to grow, we hope more communities and citizens will step up to form a collaborative in their own community. There are two main ways to become involved in Bring Up Nebraska:
• Get involved as a volunteer, a partner, or as an organization that wants more prevention resources that align with community priorities. To take part in your local collaborative or for volunteer opportunities, go to www.nebraskaimpact.com.
• Provide a financial gift to a community collaborative or learn more about Bring Up Nebraska by visiting www.bringupnebraska.org.
Nebraska is the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family because of our people and strong communities. Initiatives like Bring Up Nebraska will help ensure this will remain true for years to come. We invite you to get involved and work to develop a collaborative in your community so even more children and families experience the Good Life that we all know and love.
This column was submitted by Gov. Pete Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore.