FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

Community-Led Prevention is Making a Difference Dr. Alger M. Studstill, Jr. and Emily Kluver Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Children and Family Services Nebraska will always prioritize the protection of children. But when is protection necessary? It is important to understand that children are best protected when systems and communities are focused on the well-being of children and families long before there is a concern for a child's safety. By examining and understanding the circumstances that lead to a child being removed from their home and into the child welfare system in Nebraska, we can mitigate factors leading to removals early on before neglect occurs. We believe that local communities, with support from state and national partners, are best situated to mitigate the factors leading to removals.

A Change in Our Way of Doing Business at the Department of Health and Human Services

In order to make this change to more community-based prevention services within DHHS, there needed to be a more focused and intentional approach to collaboration to ensure, as much as possible, seamless delivery of services. The five division directors (CFS, Behavioral Health, Public Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Medicaid and Long-Term Care) began to have a regular meeting cadence to address service integration, resolve barriers identified by the respective teams, collaborative approach to funding, and involvement of each sister division during any strategic planning initiatives. This shift in how we do the work and movement toward eliminating silos not only occurred at the executive level of DHHS but began to transcend throughout the Department at all levels. Whenever a situation arose in which a family or individual was in crisis and involved with multiple divisions, the deputy directors of the respective divisions would engage in discussion to determine the needed resources and support from a leadership perspective. This collaborative approach allowed for innovation, prevention, and well-being to always be front and center in the work. The Role of DHHS in Community Well-Being When families face challenges impeding their ability to safely raise their children, it is a community- wide responsibility to put those challenges in the spotlight of public attention and collaboratively implement solutions to ameliorate them. CFS plays an important role in the CWB model through funding and partnership with Bring Up Nebraska. Annually, CFS invests approximately $3.3 million in the CWB model. Specifically, this funding comes from the Promoting Safe and Stable Families grant, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act grant, the Social Service Block Grant, the John H. Chafee grant, and State General Funds. One of the most important ways the CFS team supports the CWB collaboratives is by participating in collaborative meetings. Four DHHS Community Support Specialists work statewide with all of the CWB collaboratives. The DHHS Community Support Specialist role is to serve as a liaison with local community partners, respond to complaints and concerns from local community organizations and customers, and provide information regarding programs to local organizations. 10 This is important because we want to make sure that the CWB collaboratives are aware of and accessing economic supports offered by the state such as SNAP, WIC, the childcare subsidy program and energy assistance. It also gives DHHS the opportunity to hear directly from the community about what is working and what challenges exist within their local prevention systems. ______________ 10 The DHHS Community Support Specialist role is established in Nebraska statutes at Neb. Rev. Stat. § 81-3130.

FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022 | 109

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