FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

At the executive level, CFS leaders meet weekly with Nebraska Children and other Bring Up Nebraska partners to ensure that the state-level efforts are coordinated. As a result, Nebraska has successfully applied for and received federal discretionary grant dollars to support community-based prevention. 11 Nebraska’s Bring Up Nebraska team understands the needs of communities and can direct resources to support the identified needs (e.g., partnering on grant applications and providing data). CFS plays an important role in engaging additional government, quasi-governmental (like the Nebraska university system and Nebraska Investment Finance Authority), and private sector partners (like Nebraska-based philanthropies) to help broadly address social determinants of health and to help them see their role within the fuller context of building family and community protective factors—all valuable factors in accelerating social norm and value changes around primary prevention beliefs and behaviors across sectors. The Work that Lies Ahead While Nebraska has experienced many successes over the past few years, there is work ahead to ensure that Nebraska continues to see progress and enhanced collaboration with all stakeholders, especially parents, foster parents, and voices of individuals with lived experience, alongside and in addition to Bring Up Nebraska. One of Nebraska’s notable natives, Malcolm X, once said, “If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.” From the perspective of some, a critic is negative and often not welcomed, and the same could be said from the viewpoint of a government agency. However, the current leadership of DHHS and CFS have welcomed accountability from a myriad of sources, understanding that accountability builds a pathway to collaboration. It has been through the accountable feedback of system stakeholders that sparked the efforts of CFS to begin a Strategic Transformation to move from a “child welfare system” to a “child and family well-being system.” This effort brought together 20 stakeholder groups and individuals with lived experience and over the past 17 months, this group has identified core principles, values, and five strategic priorities to cement the approach in Nebraska. Family Advocacy Unit Within DHHS Through this transformative work, CFS reflected internally on how to make intentional improvements with service delivery and family impact. To that end, CFS is in the process of standing up a family advocacy unit. The goal of the Family Advocacy Unit is to improve families’ experience of the systems intended to serve them. This applies not only to child welfare but also includes economic assistance programs. As recommended by the Family-Run Organizations of Nebraska, 12 the Family Advocacy Unit will be an entity that objectively reviews grievances and responds within appropriate policy boundaries to ensure that the system’s processes are working according to protocols. This will help ensure that parents’ rights are not being unduly compromised, that their efforts and progress are accurately noted in a fair and just manner and that the voice and experiences of families will lead the actions and recommendations for a more robust prevention-based CWB system. In addition, members of the Family Advocacy Unit will serve on the CFS Policy Council. The CFS Policy Council is comprised of field staff, external stakeholders, and individuals with lived experience and will be responsible for reviewing all current policies on a set cycle to ensure that our policies and standard work instructions are not creating barriers for families or any unintended disparities based on religion, ethnicity, gender, demographic location, socio-economic status, or race. ______________ 11 For example, the Initiative received the Nebraska Expectant and Parenting Grant from the Office of Adolescent Health ($900,000 annually for three years to support parenting young people whose lives have been impacted by involvement in foster care, juvenile justice, and/or homelessness) and the Community Collaboration to Strengthen Families Grant from the Children’s Bureau ($500,000 annually for five years to support the community-based prevention system in Omaha). 12 The Family-Run Organizations of Nebraska provide services to parents who have children with emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. Advocacy and support are provided by peers and parents who have lived experience to share with other parents.

110 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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