Teams

Teams

(Click the above map for districts and teams as well as lead CIP project specialist.) 

 

Over 25 multidisciplinary local teams across Nebraska meet regularly to address systemic issues in their child welfare court system. Each team is led by a Lead Judge and Team Coordinator, and is typically comprised of County Attorneys, parents’ attorneys, Guardians ad Litem, DHHS administrators, supervisors, and caseworkers, facilitators/mediators, CASA, Foster Care Review Office members, therapists, clerk magistrates, probation, law enforcement, schools, youth and foster parents. The teams create their own action plans, which include projects and goals to improve the juvenile court system, and then meet regularly to ensure those goals are being accomplished.

Each year, it is estimated that team members donate over 750 hours of their time working on issues as part of their local teams. Not only do teams meet regularly but many also host special events, such as the National Reunification Day, National Adoption Day or Lecture Series, and participate in other systemic improvement activities. In addition to their collaboration as a local team, the teams also collaborate with state staff and other local teams statewide through conferences, trainings, data assessments and other activities.

Many teams have been recognized over the years through the Spotlight Team articles.  Some team activities have also been discussed in the Spotlight Issue section.  

Below are a list of the local teams and their leadership.  Some team sections also contain documents or materials developed as part of their goals or projects.

Click here to view the 2012 Team Summaries. 

1 District - (Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardosn, Saline and Thayer)

1 District - (Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardosn, Saline and Thayer)
1 District - (Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardosn, Saline and Thayer)

2.1 District - Cass County

2.1 District - Cass County
2.1 District - Cass County

Lead Judge: Hon. John Steinheider

Team Coordinator: Megan Duncan

2.2 District - Otoe County

2.2 District - Otoe County
2.2 District - Otoe County

Lead Judge: Hon. Bob O’Neal

Team Coordinator: Lisa Chaney

2.3 District - Sarpy County

2.3 District - Sarpy County
2.3 District - Sarpy County

Lead Judge: Hon. Bob O'Neal

Team Coordinator: Sandra Markley

3rd District - Lancaster County

3rd District - Lancaster County
3rd District - Lancaster County

Lead Judge: Hon. Toni Thorson

Team Coordinator: Theresa Emmert

Files: 

4th District - Douglas County

4th District - Douglas County
4th District - Douglas County

Lead Judge: Hon. Vernon Daniels 

Team Coordinators: Matt Ray Curtis
 

5.1 District - Team 1 (Hamilton, Seward, and York)

5.1 District - Team 1 (Hamilton, Seward, and York)
5.1 District - Team 1 (Hamilton, Seward, and York)

Lead Judge: Hon. Linda Caster Senff and Hon. C. Jo Petersen

Team Coordinator:

Files: Reunification Day

5.2 District - Team 2 (Butler, Colfax, Platte, and Saunders)

5.2 District - Team 2 (Butler, Colfax, Platte, and Saunders)
5.2 District - Team 2 (Butler, Colfax, Platte, and Saunders)

Lead Judge: Hon. Patrick McDermott

Team Coordinator:

5.3 District - Team 3 (Boone, Merrick, Nance, and Polk)

5.3 District - Team 3 (Boone, Merrick, Nance, and Polk)
5.3 District - Team 3 (Boone, Merrick, Nance, and Polk)

Lead Judge: Hon. Stephen Twiss

Team Coordinator: 

6.1 District - Team 1 (Dodge)

6.1 District - Team 1 (Dodge)
6.1 District - Team 1 (Dodge)

Lead Judge: Hon. Kenneth Vampola

Team Coordinator: Meggie Studt

Team News:

By Christine Henningsen

On May 14, 2014, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican, State Court Administrator Corey Steele, Director of Dispute Resolution and Special Programs Debora Denny Brownyard, myself, and other juvenile justice stakeholders, travelled to Fremont to visit with the Honorable Kenneth Vampola and view Dodge County’s newly renovated juvenile courtroom.

The Chief Justice’s team observed three juvenile court hearings and then met with Dodge County juvenile court stakeholders to discuss how the judicial branch, probation and mediation centers are working together to improve outcomes for our youth. In addition to Judge Vampola, the meeting included District 6 Chief Probation Officer Bob Denton, County Attorney Oliver Glass, Deputy County Attorney Sara Vanbrandwijk, and Director of the Nebraska Mediation Center Jane Martin Hoffman. The Dodge County team remarked how the new courtroom style fosters a sense of teamwork and helps to engage families. Judge Vampola remarked that it, “creates an atmosphere that we are here to help. It puts the families in a whole other frame of mind.” Judge Vampola also remarked how the new set-up helps him observe non-verbal cues from the youth that he may not have seen from the bench. For example, oftentimes he can tell how well a case is going by how close to the youth is sitting at the table. Engaging the family helps to foster better outcomes for our youth and our communities. Even when court is not in session, the new facility is used for mediations and for juvenile diversion programs, which is producing positive outcomes for families.

It is no surprise that Dodge County is also working on other efforts to improve the juvenile court system. The County Attorney’s office began a truancy program to divert youth from the court system. Additionally, District 6 Chief Probation Officer Bob Denton has been working with the community in applying for Crime Commission dollars to fund detention alternatives. Finally, Dodge County recently became a pilot site for implementing the crossover youth practice model. As Judge Vampola said, “we are developing services all of the time,” to address the needs of their youth.

You can read the press release from the Nebraska Judicial Branch and story, which ran in the Fremont Tribune by clicking here.

6.2 District - Team 2 (Burt, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Thurston and Washington)

6.2 District - Team 2 (Burt, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Thurston and Washington)
6.2 District - Team 2 (Burt, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Thurston and Washington)

Lead Judge: Hon. Kurt Rager

Team Coordinators: 

7 District - (Antelope, Cuming, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Stanton and Wayne)

7 District - (Antelope, Cuming, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Stanton and Wayne)
7 District - (Antelope, Cuming, Knox, Madison, Pierce, Stanton and Wayne)

8.1 District - Team 1 (Blaine, Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha and Rock)

8.1 District - Team 1 (Blaine, Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha and Rock)
8.1 District - Team 1 (Blaine, Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha and Rock)

Lead Judge: Hon. James Orr

Team Coordinator: Suzy Beel

8.2 District - Team 2 (Boyd, Garfield, Greeley, Holt, Valley and Wheeler)

8.2 District - Team 2 (Boyd, Garfield, Greeley, Holt, Valley and Wheeler)
8.2 District - Team 2 (Boyd, Garfield, Greeley, Holt, Valley and Wheeler)

Lead Judge:

Team Coordinators: Rodney Smith and Alissa Doerr

8.3 District - Team 3 (Custer, Howard, Loup and Sherman)

8.3 District - Team 3 (Custer, Howard, Loup and Sherman)
8.3 District - Team 3 (Custer, Howard, Loup and Sherman)

Lead Judge: Hon. Tami Schendt

Team Coordinators: Valerie Harris

9.1 District - Team 1 Hall County

9.1 District - Team 1 Hall County
9.1 District - Team 1 Hall County

Lead Judge: Hon. Arthur Wetzel

Team Coordinator: Tami Gangwish
 

9.2 District - Team 2 Buffalo County

9.2 District - Team 2 Buffalo County
9.2 District - Team 2 Buffalo County

Lead Judge: Hon. Gerald Jorgensen

Team Coordinator: Caroline Cote

 

10 Central District - Team 1 (Adams and Webster)

10 Central District - Team 1 (Adams and Webster)
10 Central District - Team 1 (Adams and Webster)

Lead Judge: Hon. Michael  Mead

Team Coordinator: RuAnn Root

Team News: The Hastings Team–Establishing the Maryland Living Center

In 2012, the Hastings team of the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative partnered with other community organizations to secure funding for the development and operation of a living center for older runaway and homeless youth. At the 2012 Children’s Summit, statewide team members honored the project by voting it Project with the Most Impact. Below is a Q & A with Project Coordinator Lauren Slaughter about the Maryland Living Center (MLC).

What is the Maryland Living Center? Who has primarily been involved with planning/development?

The Maryland Living Center is a transitional housing facility that serves runaway and homeless youth ages 16-21. The youth can enter into the program for up to 18 months in which they will work on developing essential proficiencies in areas such as job training, coping skills, education, independent living skills, financial management, food management, healthy living choices, and relationship development.

Planning for this project began in 2011 when a group of community agency leaders met and identified homeless youth, especially ones aging out of the child welfare system, as a major concern in the community. RuAnn Root, Executive Director of CASA of South Central NE, took the lead and began meeting with different people in the community to figure out what options were out there for combating this problem. After meeting with Linda Addison, Executive Director of Housing Development Corporation, the two organization leaders began the execution of the project. These two women have led the march towards completing this project with support from community organizations such as Hastings Family Planning, Mary Lanning Hospital, Wells Fargo, US Bank, YWCA, Crossroads and local businesses and churches.

What are your primary sources of funding?

For the purchase and renovation of the building the Department of Economic Development is the main funder with a grant of nearly $1 million. In addition to this funding, Housing Development has fronted $400,000 for the project and over $100,000 has been raised through capital campaign efforts.

For ongoing and operational costs Maryland Living Center was able to secure a Transitional Living Program grant through the Families and Youth Service Bureau (FYSB). This grant is for $180,000 each year for 5 years. A 20% match for this grant has been met this year with funding from Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Mary Lanning Hospital Trust, and local churches and individual donations.

How has this been a community effort?

This project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the community support it has received. Some examples of community collaboration are partnerships with Hastings Family Planning for reproductive education and health needs, the Mary Lanning Clinic for primary health care, Wells Fargo for financial literacy education, Hastings College for peer mentors and facility workers, YWCA for job training assistance, Horizon Recovery for Life Skills and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment options, Healthy Beginnings for parenting education, and New Dimensions and South Central Behavior for mental health. Hastings Public Schools has also been very supportive and assists our program with the distribution of emergency food and hygiene kits. Other support for the program has come from local churches such as First Presbyterian and First St. Paul’s Lutheran who have contributed in numerous ways.

Discuss the importance of the location.

The location of the facility is great for our youth in the program as it is centrally located near many of our partners that will offer services. Within walking distance are the YWCA (job prep), Hastings Family Planning (reproductive health), Wells Fargo (financial literacy and bank accounts), Russ’s Market (food, employer), Hastings College (peer mentors), Walgreens, Keith’s Pharmacy, Mary Lanning Health Clinic & Hospital, and other local shops and food establishments. It is also near a couple parks, which allows for fun recreational activities.

How do you see the courts or DHHS being involved?

I think there are many roles that the court and DHHS will have in our program. Often the youth that enter into the child welfare program and court system are runaway or homeless youth. Maryland Living Center gives an extra support system and option for courts and DHHS to access when looking for assistance for youth. Collaborating in making sure to meet the needs of the youth in the community, especially those aging out of the system, is critical to our program goals.

What are the guidelines for the MLC (i.e., rent, who’s eligible, general rules, etc.)? What responsibilities will the young adult have?

General guidelines for the MLC program are similar to most transitional living programs. Youth that enter into the facility must be runaways, homeless or near homeless, 16-21 and their income under the 110% of poverty line. We require youth to do background checks, sexual registry checks, and urine analysis tests upon entering into the program in addition to completing a formal intake and the Daniel Memorial Independent Living Assessment. Rules for the program will depend on what level the youth is at. The program is split into a 3 level system and as you progress in the program and move through the levels the less restrictive the rules are. The youth do have curfews, a sign in/sign out system, random apartment checks, random UA testing, volunteer 3 hours per month, are required to pay in 30% of their paychecks for rent/utilities and save 10% of paychecks to use after graduating from the program, and follow case plans that are designed with the youths input that will cover the needs of the youth on an individual basis.

What has been the most difficult hurdle?

The most difficult hurdle thus far has been making sure that we raise the money needed for the renovation of the building as well as making sure we have a healthy operational budget that will allow us to give each youth the services he/she is in need of. I would also say that garnering support for the project at times was difficult because people in the community were not always aware of the need for this type of program. Homelessness and being a runaway in rural Nebraska doesn’t always look the same as it does in inner cities which is what the general public is used to seeing so getting them to believe and understand that youth homelessness is a huge problem in our area wasn’t always easy. Over time however, the community has come together and supported this project in a really fantastic and amazing way.

What has been the most rewarding experience so far?

It is hard to name just one! I think every day there is something that happens that makes this a rewarding experience. Whether it is a development in the project that takes us one step closer to the doors opening or an accomplishment of one of our youth like getting into college, there is something each day that reminds me of what a program like this can mean to someone. It is all very exciting and we can’t wait to open the doors and help as many youth as we can.

How do you think this will help a young adult transition to adulthood?

MLC will help youth transition into adulthood in many ways. First, housing a youth and ensuring that their basic safety needs are being met allows a youth to focus on more than where they will rest their head at the end of the day or where their next meal is going to come from. After meeting these basic needs, we will help youth to discover what their goals are and collaborate on a plan to meet those goals. Assisting them in enrolling in school and gaining employment are essential in helping prepare them for adulthood. In addition, providing life skills training, fiscal literacy education, and helping to build permanent connections in the community will help the youth to be more successful once they are out on their own.

Lauren Slaughter, the Maryland Living Center Project Coordinator, can be reached at 402-463-1030.

10 West District - Team 2 (Franklin, Harlan, Kearney and Phelps)

10 West District - Team 2 (Franklin, Harlan, Kearney and Phelps)
10 West District - Team 2 (Franklin, Harlan, Kearney and Phelps)

Lead Judge: Hon. Timothy Hoeft

Team Coordinator: Darrie Streeter

10 East District - Team 3 (Clay, Fillmore and Nuckolls)

10 East District - Team 3 (Clay, Fillmore and Nuckolls)
10 East District - Team 3 (Clay, Fillmore and Nuckolls)

Lead Judge: Hon. Michael Burns

Team Coordinator: Julie Bergan

11.1 District - Team 1 (Dawson and Gosper)

11.1 District - Team 1 (Dawson and Gosper)
11.1 District - Team 1 (Dawson and Gosper)

Lead Judge: Hon. Jeffrey Wightman

Team Coordinator: Dee Hudson

11.2 District - Team 2 (Arthur, Chase, Dundy, Keith and Perkins)

11.2 District - Team 2 (Arthur, Chase, Dundy, Keith and Perkins)
11.2 District - Team 2 (Arthur, Chase, Dundy, Keith and Perkins)

Lead Judge: Hon. Edward Steenburg

11.3 District - Team 3 (Furnas, Hays, Hitchcock and Red Willow)

11.3 District - Team 3 (Furnas, Hays, Hitchcock and Red Willow)
11.3 District - Team 3 (Furnas, Hays, Hitchcock and Red Willow)

Lead Judge: Hon. Anne Paine

Team Coordinator: Linda Smith

Files: My Ten Year Plan

11.4 District - Team 4 (Frontier, Hooker, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson and Thomas)

11.4 District - Team 4 (Frontier, Hooker, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson and Thomas)
11.4 District - Team 4 (Frontier, Hooker, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson and Thomas)

Lead Judge: Hon. Kent Turnbull

Team Coordinator: Amanda Speichert

12.1 District - Team 1 (Box Butte, Dawes, Grant, Morrill, Sheridan and Sioux)

12.1 District - Team 1 (Box Butte, Dawes, Grant, Morrill, Sheridan and Sioux)
12.1 District - Team 1 (Box Butte, Dawes, Grant, Morrill, Sheridan and Sioux)

Lead Judge: Hon. Russell Harford

Team Coordinator: Rebecca Fernau

Team News:

  • Collaboration a Common Concern of Child Welfare Conference Speakers
     
  • Chadron State College Conference a Collaborative Success
     

    By Christine Henningsen, J.D. 

    On November 5, 2014, child welfare and juvenile justice students and professionals came together for a day-long conference hosted by Chadron State College. The event, which was free and open to the public, is held every year as the capstone project of the “Communities & Organizations” class within Chadron’s Social Work Program. Adding to the success of the event was the collaboration with the District 12- Northern Panhandle Through the Eyes of the Child Team led by Judge Russell Harford. Team Coordinator, Rebecca Fernau, is a graduate of the Chadron School of Social Work and a current caseworker with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The focus of this year’s conference was the need for cross-systems collaboration to meet the needs of our youth and families. State Court Administrator, Corey Steele, presented the keynote address, which outlined recent changes to Nebraska’s Juvenile Justice System and explained how advances inadolescent brain research have helped guide us towards interventions which result in better outcomes for system involved youth. Jeanne Brandner, Deputy Administrator in the Office of Probation Administration assisted Steele in the keynote address, emphasizing the need for a collaborative community effort. A panel discussion following the keynote address provided concrete examples where collaboration can and should occur for youth. Panelists included: Dr. Shannon Black, psychologist and sex offender expert; Judge Susan Bazis; Judge James Worden; Juanita Sherick and William Cross, Director and Social Worker with the ICWA ONTRAC office in the Pine Ridge Reservation; and Dr. Caroline Winchester, Superintendent of Chadron Public Schools. The panel both answered questions from conference participants and challenged participants to take steps to increase communication and collaboration across systems. Judge Bazis also presented on the changes to Nebraska’s guardianship and conservatorship laws and how those can be utilized for Nebraska’s youth. A student in the School of Social Work, stated that the purpose of the conference was to “ensure the well-being of children by educating and empowering community members and service providers.” The knowledge gained by all participants and the bringing together of so many case professionals only leads us towards that goal. The efforts of Chadron State College and Judge Harford’s Through the Eyes Team is to be applauded!

Files: Chadron Foster Parent Recruitment

12.2 District - Team 2 (Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden and Kimball)

12.2 District - Team 2 (Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden and Kimball)
12.2 District - Team 2 (Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden and Kimball)

12.3 District - Team 3 (Banner and Scotts Bluff)

12.3 District - Team 3 (Banner and Scotts Bluff)
12.3 District - Team 3 (Banner and Scotts Bluff)

Lead Judge: Hon. James Worden

Team Coordinator: Katherine Batt
 

Winnebago Tribal Court

Winnebago Tribal Court
Winnebago Tribal Court

Lead Judge: Hon. Patrick Runge