A Better Way Re-Imagining a Community-Based Child and Family Well-Being System in Nebraska Jennifer Skala and Jennifer Wallage, Dr. Alger M. Studstill, Jr., Emily Kluver, Sarah Helvey, Schalisha Walker Introduction It’s easy to talk about the need to invest in community-based services, but actually making the vision a reality is much more challenging. Stakeholders across the country often ask, “What state is doing this well?” While we don’t have all the answers, nor do we have a perfect system by any means, in Nebraska, we have been doing this work for the past 15 years and have some valuable lessons to share as well as next steps and solutions as we re-imagine a community-led child and family well-being system. Background Twenty years ago, Nebraska had one of the highest rates of children in out-of-home care in the nation (10.9 compared with 5.2 per 1,000 children). 1 This reality prompted the state to implement significant policy changes and started a journey to focus on prevention and community-based supports and services for families. At the system level, changes in policy and legislation began with the implementation of Structured Decision Making (SDM) and Alternative Response (AR). However, the real shift occurred by listening to the barriers elevated by families and local communities, leading to an enhanced collaborative approach focused on well-being called “Community Response” (CR). As a result, each year since 2010, there has been a downward trend in Nebraska’s out-of-home care rate, with today’s rate being 7.2 per 1,000 children in Nebraska compared to 5.1 in the nation. 2 The Movement in Nebraska Jennifer Skala and Jennifer Wallage Nebraska Children and Families Foundation Nebraska’s Community Well-being (CWB) model under the Bring Up Nebraska initiative is based on the belief that all individuals and families face challenge. Providing support early, before challenges turn to crises, improves outcomes for children, adults, and communities. 3 Local communities are the foundation of the work because they are best situated to provide services and supports that build protective factors and resilience to future challenges. Decision-making about what works to protect and promote child and family well-being lies within the communities and homes of families; whose lived experiences are the true drivers of transformation. A community-led prevention model is the replacement for standardized formulaic one-size-fits-all menus of services that may not address families’ true needs or be accessible to them where they live and within their cultural contexts. This is the heart of our program, and thriving children, young adults, and families are the result. ______________ 1 Nebraska AFCARS and NCAN data that is submitted to the Federal Children’s Bureau. 2 Nebraska AFCARS and NCAN data that is submitted to the Federal Children’s Bureau. 3 Nebraska’s Community Well-Being model was selected by the federal Children’s Bureau to participate in the first-tier cohort of Thriving Families, Safer Children: A National Commitment to Well-Being and is also identified as a promising primary prevention approach by the Children’s Bureau.
102 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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