Pathways of Hope
DHHS and its partners make a positive difference in the lives of Nebraska children and families every day by providing Pathways of Hope through the alignment of services that meet their needs. The following tells the story of how Nebraskans have been helped. 

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New stories will be posted every two weeks. 


We’re there even when dad wants to make it on his own 
Dad and kids
Some parents work hard to make it on their own when DHHS becomes involved with their family, yet DHHS is always there to help them transition out of the system.
Take the father with three children ages 4 and younger. Dad didn’t want to rely on the department for help. However, he recognized all the resources made available to help him by his case manager that he couldn’t afford.
For instance, since English is dad’s second language, the case manager helped him understand the paperwork he received about the children and for other personal purposes. There’s the help he needed to arrange day care and then play therapy so mental health professionals could open communication with his kids who were suffering from mom’s non-appearance at scheduled visits. The list of services he utilized goes on and on.
As a seasonal worker, dad was challenged to make ends meet as well as provide a normal family experience for his children. While dad’s streak of independence kept pushing him to work toward a happy and fulfilling family for his children, he knew that taking advantage of services provided by DHHS expedited his efforts.
And success was not far away. The case manager saw dad organizing paperwork, planning their future, working hard to provide the support his family needed and, most importantly, there were three children who were happy, clean and safe. He took DHHS’ help, especially since the services were having a positive impact on his family.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.

Additional stories of hope are listed below.
Quick alignment of services keeps child at adopted home 
People pulling on a rope
Even a seven-year-old can be dangerous. When a healthy attachment wasn’t established with the parents, the child became assaultive and was removed by the court from the adopted home as uncontrollable. As a state ward, the case manager immediately began lining up services to address the youngster’s needs, including the school counselor, regional behavioral health office, a therapist, and treatment program.
Step-mom and dad were taught to identify the youth’s trigger points resulting in anger and developing coping skills to help their child manage emotions. They also learned age-appropriate rules for a seven-year-old. The family was provided 24-hour crisis intervention, and helped the child deal with mistrust of females because of removal from mom a few years earlier.
Thanks to the case manager’s quick response and the cooperation between services, the county attorney agreed not to file a petition to remove the little one from home. The court agreed that with the quick work of the case manager, the services and the child’s response, the youth could remain at home.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
The best lessons are the hardest lessons 
A family enjoying time in the kitchen together.
The best lessons in life can sometimes be the hardest lessons. Mom and dad neglected their children due to their substance abuse, and their children were placed by the court with a relative. The case manager kept the pressure on the parents to make changes in their lives so their children could return home. The parents’ resented her constant insistence that they do as the court ordered and they frequently had cross words with her.
Nevertheless, the case manager saw the possibility for a family to be reunited and she worked tirelessly to achieve that outcome. There were times when the parents’ dissatisfaction were challenging, but the case manager continued encouraging them and finding resources for them.
Eventually, the parents began to address their needs and discovered they could enjoy life more without abusing substances. After the court closed their case and returned their children, mom called the case manager one day to thank her for her persistence and giving them a different vision of life and family. Without her hard work to reunite their family, mom said their lives would have continued on a downward spiral. Life now is more fulfilling.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Many aim to help children 
A target with arrows in the bullseye.
Like an archer with a quiver full of arrows, case managers address the needs of children in their care. All those resources are available to meet a variety of needs, such as those of six siblings who became state wards five years ago.
The case manager worked diligently and wholeheartedly to help the children by calling together Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), guardian ad litem (GAL), therapists, schools, the adoption agency and other services during their time of involvement with DHHS. It was a team effort designed to help this family team.
Each child was challenged in a different way. Led by the case manager, the team met frequently to review the circumstances facing each child and determining who could best provide the necessary help.
All decisions about any or all of the siblings were made in collaboration by the team to find the best possible solution for each child. Bi-monthly meetings with their foster families were held to hear about any concerns so they could be handled immediately.
At the last court hearing, the GAL had high praise for the work of the case manager. The judge also recognized her extra effort and commitment. In the judge’s order, he emotionally said, “… the court commends the guardian ad litem, attorneys, case manager(s), CASA, and the foster parents for the collaborative manner in which they have worked not only to advocate the interests of the children but also to provide stability and work towards permanency.” He was touched because so many did so much and so earnestly for the children.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Someone to trust, to care, to talk with 
Comforting a teen
As if life already hadn’t been hard enough, the young adult who aged out of the child welfare system was informed that a sister had passed away. Who would you call after receiving the news? Mom? Dad? For youth who age out, typically they are no longer part of the inner circle.
Fortunately, the young adult participates in the new Bridge to Independence program, which supports former wards to age 21. Along with that involvement comes a caring person called an Independence Coordinator (IC), who was the first person the young adult called.
Besides needing comforting, the IC was told that a visit with the estranged family was not at the top of the list of experiences the young adult wanted.
The IC provided encouragement to support Mom in her time of need. After a considerable time of crying and hugs, the young adult paused and looked at the IC and merely said, “Thank you.”
With tears in the ICs eyes, she said, “Thank you for what?”
“For just being here and listening,” was the reply. The young adult explained that while trying to drop old friends that weren’t a positive influence in life, there was no one else who held her trust. “I have no one to talk to.”
Another hug followed with even more tears.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Independence Coordinator makes everything “OK” for former ward 
Mom and baby
When most daughters have a child, they are fortunate to have parents to help them out. Unfortunately, for many former state wards that’s not the case. So it was for one former ward.
She gave birth shortly after being accepted into the new Bridge to Independence program that started Oct. 1. The program supports former wards to age 21. Her Independence Coordinator (IC) had already established a good relationship with her. The new mother told her IC she didn’t have the essentials for her baby, such as clothes, bed, formula, diapers and other items.
Like most grandmothers would do, the IC set about providing for the baby’s needs by finding resources in their community. The IC gathered a car seat, stroller, bassinet, diapers, formula, clothes, towels, clothes, bibs, blankets, bottles and much more from other staff who wanted to help, along with several non-profits she knew would provide assistance.
When the new mom saw all that had been done for her and her baby, she thanked the IC over and over with tears in her eyes. Although she felt blessed, she felt she hadn’t done anything to deserve such kindness.
“Me and my baby gonna be ok!” she exclaimed with a smile.
“Yes you are,” replied the IC. “Yes you are.”
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Former Wards Receive Help through Bridge to Independence 
Worried teenager
A new program called Bridge to Independence began Oct. 1, to help former wards through age 21. Almost immediately, the Independence Coordinators (IC) who work with the former wards had an impact.
One young adult called the IC in tears because a three-day notice was received to pay late rent or be evicted from an apartment. Not having the funds to pay the rent at that time, the IC calmed the young adult and helped in contacting the apartment complex to discuss payment options.
Meanwhile, the IC reached out to community contacts and resources to find help for the young adult. After locating a couple sources, the IC connected the young adult with a housing program that helps former state wards. The program paid the overdue rent and accepted the young adult into the program.
Now, the young adult also is receiving ongoing rental voucher assistance, training in budgeting and help finding a job.
The IC served in the role usually reserved for parents. However, as it is with many former wards, they didn’t have that guidance when they left foster care. Through Bridge to Independence, former wards now have the opportunity for help when they need it, as well as Independence Coordinators who care and knowledge about resources to help them.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Foster parents earn special titles from appreciate child 
Foster mom and child
Special people become foster parents. As the young child anxiously waited for mom to receive a visa to enter the U.S., a severe illness struck the youth. Dad was unable to meet the child’s health needs. DHHS found licensed foster parents who speak English and the youth’s language and welcomed the child to their home.
To meet the child’s needs, the foster parents went the extra mile and attended education courses on nutrition and medication maintenance, attended appointments and bought and prepared healthy meals to address the child’s specific health issues. In addition to supervised visits with dad, he was been invited to dinner with the foster family.
Since both families were from the same culture and understand the language, the foster parents truly made a difference in the lives of the youth and father.
In response, the youth realized the foster parents were there to help. And to the youth, these special foster parents earned special titles . . . Tia and Tio . . . in the language of the child, “aunt” and “uncle,” as a show of respect and affection for their care and tending to the youth’s and family’s needs.
Foster parents working with birth parents have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference. If foster parenting interests you, please call 1-800-772-7368.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Wanted: Loving family member and a home 
Father and SonThe youth missed mom and home. When mom landed in prison, grandma became guardian. Missing mom, the youth’s behaviors were too much for grandma to handle, and eventually the Youth Rehabilitation and Training Center became home. While there, all the youth wanted was to be with his grandma.
When mom was released from prison and her child from the YRTC, mom and grandma said they didn’t want the youth in their homes. It appeared all that was left for the youth was foster homes and group homes. But, at every opportunity the youth ran back to mom and grandma only to be returned to that out-of-home placement. The ongoing rejection fueled the desire for attention from mom and grandma.
Detention seemed the only way to keep the youth at bay. The case manager had already been in touch with the youth’s father to serve as part of a support team to help. Despite several years of absence, it was obvious the father cared for his child. As the challenges mounted to find a place for the youth, the case manager asked the father if he would take his child into his home. Dad’s response was immediate. He would take the youth, who was surprised and pleased that dad agreed.
Renewed by the love of dad and knowing someone in the family cared, the youth settled down and applied himself at school and a new-found family. Since then, school attendance is steady, dad’s family shows the youth that they care and the youth is doing well.
Every child deserves to be wanted. Sometimes just being there for children is what they need. 
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
She dreamed of becoming a soccer mom.
Soccer momMany mothers earn the title of “soccer mom” because they shuttle their children from sports practices to games and back to practice once again. While that may sometimes appear to be as tiring for mom as it is for her children, there are some who, because of their family circumstance, only dream of garnering that title. Oh, that life could present only the challenge of transporting children from one activity to another.
One such mom suffered from addiction and when a case manager became involved with the family, the plan was for her to attend outpatient treatment. After meeting with the case manager, she was faced with the possible loss of her children, who she was unable to provide care. She knew it was now up to her to straighten out her life, or else the unthinkable would most assuredly happen.
The case manager helped throughout her struggle . . . directed her to treatment, encouraged her to stick with the program, helped her up when she fell down, and most of all provided her the confidence she needed to rebuild her self-esteem and gave her the courage to fight on.
There were many days when it seemed impossible that the mother that she could do it, which required more strength and discipline than she thought she could muster. But, the quality of the treatment, mom’s willingness to try and buoyed by the case manager, she received her first sobriety coin for one month without drinking. That soon turned into two months, then three and four.
Mom felt she was over the hump and life again was good . . . the way it should be, and she thanked the case manager for her trust and compassion. Now on the right track, she worked hard and saved money to rent an apartment for her family and buy a car. At her next appearance in court, the judge agreed she had made it, and the case was closed.
Mom sent the case manager a text message the other day. It showed her with a huge smile on her face with her arms open wide inside her minivan. All it said was, “Officially a soccer mom.”
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do. 
DHHS’ goal is to keep children safely at home  
Father and sonThe youth has mental health concerns and was made a ward of the state. Dad had worked with the behavioral health provider to help his child prior to a court appearance. On recommendation of the case manager, who saw hope for permanent placement with the father, the court agreed to set the next court appearance later than usual to provide more time to analyze the child’s safety and needs and the dad’s ability to care for the youth.
The case manager solidified the father’s plan, identified additional family services to help him, and built an informal support network around him to ensure safety. As an alternative to out-of-home placement, intensive family preservation services were proposed to prevent the unnecessary separation of the family members.
In court, the case manager unveiled the bevy of plans to keep the youth safely with family by providing support services, building a support network and a risk management and crisis plan for the child. The court and all legal parties were satisfied and the case was dismissed.
As a result of the caring work of the case manager to align services, find a support network and construct a long-term safety plan for the youth, a lengthy court case was avoided, the child was kept out of the child welfare system and in the arms of a loving father.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
You may be the one who can best help a child 
Math Teacher and StudentSo it was with the teen who was preparing to leave the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center. With just 30 days before release, DHHS talked with the youth. One person stood out as special to the youth; a former math teacher who had established a positive relationship with the teen.
The case manager began looking for the teacher and found an email address. She asked if the teacher would be willing to be a part of the youth’s informal support team, and a positive reply was immediately received.
A phone call soon followed and it was discovered the teacher is a licensed foster parent. By the end of the conversation, the teacher offered to take placement of the youth. Both the teacher and teen were excited for their reunion.
You never know who may be the one who holds the key to a child’s heart. In this case, it was a teacher who would not give up on the youth despite the passage of time and the teen’s run-in with the law.
It could be you who can make a difference in a child’s life, whether you know them or not. Get more information about becoming a foster parent, or call 1-800-7PARENT.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Judge praises case manager for turning youth’s life around
Smiling JudgeIt had only been two months that the case manager worked with the adolescent. The youth’s record during the previous 17 months showed no willingness to adjust behavior. Two unsuccessful group home placements led back to dad’s home for one more try to get the youth back on track. Services had been provided, but the teen did not engage in them. A tracker, electronic monitor, drug testing and family support were attempted, but still no change.
Then, the new case manager began building a relationship with the youth and father. With troubles at home and with the law, the teen had been unwilling to cooperate. The case manager’s attempts to reach out with compassion and helpfulness, coupled with genuine empathy, struck a chord in the youth and within two weeks willing changes began to be made.
At the next court hearing, the judge heard the story of the youth’s progress after failing for so long. She also was told about the commitment and effort of the case manager who was able to quickly reverse the adolescent’s attitude. The judge stated for the record that the teen was lucky when the case manager walked into the youth’s life and helped turned it in a positive direction. For the case manager she had only provided what her experience, training and the job required. But to the youth and father, it meant a new chance at a better life.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Seven years sober and full of thanks
Good Job!  Written on a chalk board.It had been seven years, but the mother still remembered the case manager who helped her through the most challenging part of her life. Speaking with a Deputy County Attorney, she asked her to relay her appreciation to a case manager for the encouragement she had given her, even though it meant the mother’s children were taken from her.
At the time, Mom abused methamphetamines, which caused her to turn her focus from her two children, both under 10 years old. Their needs weren’t being met and they suffered because of Mom’s addiction. For the case manager, who was new to the job, the situation left her with no choice but to recommend to the court that the children be removed for the mother’s home.
It was only the case manager’s fifth case, and she felt bad making the recommendation, but she had to protect the children so they would have a chance at a better life than Mom could provide while abusing meth.
To the mother, the case worker’s recommendation was a wake-up call and she said she was ready to address her addiction. Treatment services were provided and Mom made progress. Along the way, the case manager stayed in touch sending her text messages congratulating her accomplishments and urging her to stay sober.
After 10 months, Mom continued working the program and had stayed off meth. She assumed her role as mother of the children after they were returned to her. The case worker monitored her ongoing progress and after six months, she recommended the case be closed, and the court agreed.
Mom was tearful relating her story about how the case manager turned her life around. Losing custody of her children was the best action at the time. With sincere thanks, she said she appreciated the faith the case manager showed in her, which helped her during her darkest days.
While talking to the Deputy County Attorney, Mom noted that it was the seventh anniversary of her sobriety, all because the case manager made a difficult call, provided services and stayed in contact with her and offered her encouragement.
The case manager choked out her reply, “Stories like this remind me why I still do this.”]
During the holidays, the case manager admitted she always thinks about the mother and how her family is there supporting her so she can support them. It’s always a warm feeling to remember those you have helped, but now this case manager heard that the family also remembers, and thanks, her.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
What you may never realize is happening to children
Families ripped apart are put together by case managers.
Most of us have little understanding of the challenges many foster children experience, and the emotional trials they endure with their parents and in the child welfare system. Following is just one story to illustrate one family’s journey that is headed toward resolution but isn’t completed and may not include the children’s biological parents. For many readers, we grew up in at least secure situations with one or both parents present. Although research shows that home is the best placement for children, there are situations where even one parent may not be what’s best for children.

Five children were living with mom only. Their dads were not involved with the family. Mom continues to struggle after many years of mental health issues and substance abuse. School was not a priority to her and she did not take part in her children’s case plans or their therapeutic services or visitations. When confronted with challenges, mom’s response was to run away. Her children suffered mightily. That’s why the family came to the attention of DHHS.

The two oldest children have lived in group homes, foster homes, detention facilities and shelters, and also ran away several times. It can be the oldest who find it the most difficult to adjust as a state ward.

However, the third oldest had only two placements, was thriving and seeking adoption by loving foster parents.

The fourth child, whom mom hid from authorities for four months, was taken into custody only a few months ago with the help of the oldest child who made contact with mom. The younger child was not attending school and mom was not providing adequate care. Since coming into state custody, the child has excelled academically and developmentally after being placed in the same home with the oldest child, who had served as primary care taker when they were with mom.

The fifth child, under five years of age, remains on the run with mom, and working with law enforcement, siblings, relatives and others it is hoped the youngest will be located.

Meanwhile, the other children are in permanent placements as mom is not actively involved in the court case. A motion to terminate her parental rights has been filed.

The case managers have coordinated sibling visits every weekend and the children have bonded. The oldest has stepped up as a role model for the younger siblings, as well as a much older, sixth sibling who joins them on the weekends.

The children are committed to maintain their family relationships and to watch out for each other. Thanks to the hard work of their case managers, their safety, family bond and brighter futures are sustained. Few readers can imagine the turmoil of childhood under the conditions of a non-supportive mother, non-involved father and dangerous living conditions. DHHS case managers strive to provide the resources for children in care of the State to help them live better lives.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Making prom a positive rite of passage 
Teen applying makupSurely you remember those important social events in high school, such as homecoming and prom dances. They were important rites of passage as you learned about dating, dealing with crushes, and dressing up for the big event. You had fun with friends that left you with memories you fondly remember to this day.
Barb Boettcher, who works daily with state wards as a Children and Family Services Specialist in the Department of Health and Human Services, recalls those occasions. And, she knows the importance to a young woman of seeing her date’s eyes light up when she appears in an attractive dress and perfectly applied makeup. At that point in your life, nothing is more important to you.
For some state wards, however, a fancy dress and makeup are beyond their means. But, help is available to foster children! In Lincoln, the Foster Care Closet provides donated clothing to state wards, and at prom time formal dresses are at a premium. Barb has seen young women decline an invitation to attend a dance, or they wear a dress that falls far short of what other young ladies wear. She knows how discouraging and embarrassing it can be for a young woman at that age.
Barb decided to step up and offer her help. As extra income, she sells cosmetics out of her home. It was only natural for her to offer her makeup samples and expertise in applying it to the young women on the day they selected dresses.

Inexperienced hands learned the basics of applying makeup, and the finer talents of choosing the right lipstick and applying eye makeup. For nearly all the young ladies, it was new information and very much appreciated. They responded with anxious appreciation as the importance of the looming event weighed on them.

Their hugs and smiles let Barb know that what she gave them was more than just makeup. It was self-confidence and a comfortableness that comes with knowing they will fit in and not stand out as different. And, it was a touch of love that was nothing more than what Barb provides every day to help children in the child welfare system.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
When mom’s anger really means something else
Grandma helping momThe ability to read people becomes second nature to case managers. For instance, anger may not be anger, but someone who is overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do.
To say that the teenage mother, who had just given birth, was difficult to help would be an understatement. She accepted no advice and when the discussion turned to her responsibilities, she would shut down and leave the room.
Finally, it all became too much to bear and she disappeared. With no mother there, the child became a state ward and was placed in foster care.
After a week, mom returned but she was still in the mode of not trusting anyone, and remained guarded and was easily upset. Having seen similar responses in the past, the case manager knew to be calm, patient and to keep mom updated on the status of her case. The case manager assembled strong family supports to assist the new mother. Grandma, the new mother’s mom, moved in to help her daughter and babysat while her daughter worked.
In a two-week period, mom’s anger and resentment began to fade away as she spent more time with her child and enjoyed overnight stays. Her lost feeling, that was so obvious to the case manager, disappeared. At the next court hearing, the judge closed the case and returned her child to her custody. At the news, the mom wept out of relief, hugged her mother and thanked her for all her help. It was the first time the case manager had seen that much emotion from her, finally showing how scared she had been and how much she cared for her child.
The father of the child was located and he not only wanted to be a part of his child’s life, but so did his family. The future for mom, and especially her child, looked a lot brighter.
As the case manager paused to reflect on the case, she discovered that the more she listened and followed through on her discussion with mom, the more mom trusted that the case manager was there to truly help keep her and her child together. Now, mom was ready to move on with her life.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
All they wanted and needed was a second chance
Frustrated parentsImagine your feelings after having your children removed from your home. You miss your kids and they miss you. In that unsettled situation, your kids act up and are moved to new foster homes. Their and your frustration grows. You’re angry at the system and want life to return as it was. However, changes must be made for the safety of your children before that can happen.
With a new case manager, the parents expected the worst until she said, “Let’s make a fresh start and go back to the beginning.” Cautiously, the parents explained their frustrations, their worries and their loneliness without their children. The case manager confronted them with the issues in the home that made reunification impossible. She outlined the necessary changes and challenged them to resolve the issues. And so, they began to work.
With renewed hope and commitment to improve their family’s situation, the parents’ anticipated their next trip to court with eagerness and anxiety. Seeing the parents’ desire to be reunited with their children and the steps they’d taken to change, the judge’s years of experience told her they needed milestones, deadlines, and incentives to achieve so they could identify an even more definitive pathway to get their children back home. Despite a few hiccups, the family made progress . . . a lot of progress.
Later, at a review hearing, the case manager recommended the family was ready for more responsibility. Following a month of monitored and overnight visits, it was agreed that reunification could occur.
The parents and children were excited at their reunion, and the parents had improved the home environment and proved they were willing to sustain those changes. They thanked the case manager for listening to them and caring enough to give them another chance. She congratulated them for committing to change their circumstances and for working hard to show their children could safely return home.
The parents wanted to show their appreciation to their case manager but didn’t know how. Their simple, “I love you” was more than enough for her.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Big engines and even bigger hearts
Caseworkers have a myriad of resources to help children, including men sporting tattoos who ride big motorcycles . . . “bikers,” in other words.
The child told mommy that her boyfriend was sexually abusive, but she refused to believe her little one. However, an adult at school did and the boyfriend was arrested. When mom maintained contact with him despite a court order and continued with marriage plans, the court removed the child from the home.

Placed with a foster family, the child began to improve except, as happens frequently with victims of abuse, the child accepted the blame.
Searching for ways to help the child, the caseworker called on a reliable and effective group that had helped other children. The loud rumble of their engines was the child’s first introduction to these angels on wheels. With leather vests, dark sunglasses and long hair on their heads and chins, two bikers strode into the foster family’s house.
At first, the site of the bikers took the child back, but their training in dealing with abused children soon saw the two members of Bikers Against Child Abuse compassionately talking to the child. They offered a blanket and vest and let the child select a road name. The two lovable bikers made assurances they would always be available to help whenever the child was scared, day or night, and placed their names and phone numbers in the vest. All the child had to do was call.
Following their presentation, the child realized the blame rested with the boyfriend. The bikers followed up with the child in coordination with DHHS and local authorities before the child was to testify in the trial. Over the months, the well-trained bikers earned the child’s trust and gave the youth the confidence to talk about the abuse. It was easier with the two soft-hearted bikers at the child’s side.
When the child arrived on the day of the trial to testify, the low thunder of motorcycles greeted her outside the courthouse. And, it wasn’t just the two biker friends who were there, but they also brought many of their friends clad in bandanas and sunglasses who were ready to provide support.
All eyes turned to the heavy clomp of the bikers’ boots as they escorted the child into the courtroom. With the caseworker and BACA members there, the child felt protected and ready to tell the story of abuse. It wouldn’t be the child alone in the stand, but the caseworker and BACA providing encouragement and inspiring confidence. The guilty boyfriend confessed, and the child left with a whole bunch of new and protective friends.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Pulling an adult out of depression and isolation
Heavy-set man dancing
Depression can be debilitating. And when depression is coupled with a weight issue, it can create isolation. That’s where the adult was in life after reaching 600 pounds in weight. Unable to leave the apartment, it became increasingly dirty and bug infested with a foul odor. Eviction was threatened.
Adult Protective Services was called several times but the adult continued to gain weight. Employment was impossible and the situation spiraled to a disability. Health became a vital concern to the case manager and doctors recommended surgery. But, the doctors said, surgery wasn’t possible until 100 pounds was lost. The task seemed to be a mere fairy tale, and the adult refused the surgery again and again.
That’s when the case manager issued a challenge offering that if the adult would work to lose the necessary weight, APS would provide the needed support so work could become a future goal. The challenge was accepted.
The case manager found organizations and people to donate supplies and equipment in the quest to lose weight. The adult drank protein drinks and worked hard on a “pedaler” machine.
Along the way, the case manager became a cheerleader and someone the adult turned to for encouragement when the struggle became too much.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
The impact of guilt and the greatness of understanding
Dad and guilt-ridden son
Guilt can be a powerful, overwhelming force that changes lives, and not necessarily for the better.
The pre-teen youth and a sibling were placed in a good foster home. After all, the foster parent had parented the youths’ mother, who also had been a state ward. It was only natural, and welcome from the child’s perspective, that when mom struggled in an abusive relationship the youth and sibling went to their grandmother figure. The only problem for the older youth was that two other siblings went elsewhere.

After more than two years, the foster parent wanted to adopt the two children. The youth’s attitude changed. Temper tantrums, disobedience, and other more serious bad behaviors ensued including the involvement of law enforcement. The younger sibling soon began imitating the older youth. The situation continued to worsen with the two children and the foster parent began reconsidering adoption.

The youth then “acted out” and law enforcement was called. Surrounded by the caseworker and loving foster parent, the youth broke down and finally admitted feeling guilty about being adopted because it would not occur for the other two siblings. It seemed so unfair to be happy and to experience a loving home while the other two siblings could not. The pre-teen thought that poor behavior would make it fair for all siblings because no one would be adopted.

With the guilt feelings in the open, services were provided so the youth’s needs could be addressed. Today, the youth and sibling are now adopted into the happy home.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A fun, yet serious, game
A child playing checkers.
Merely playing a game or shooting baskets can be the start of a whole new way of life.
Already in court, the youth displayed violence at home, in school and during therapy sessions. It appeared a higher level of care could be necessary outside the home.
Following an evaluation by caseworkers, the family chose to work voluntarily with DHHS for the safety and well-being of the youth and siblings. DHHS provided support for the family and a caseworker visited the home randomly each day. The worker played sports and board games with the child and they began to talk. Coping skills and positive reinforcement were passed along to the youth and change began to occur. Mom and Dad also received individual attention to help them establish their authority in the home and control the youth’s behaviors.
As a result of the individual attention provided the family, there were no more outbursts or violent behaviors by the youth, and the home settled down. Given the caseworker’s success, the court determined the youth could remain at home while more services were provided.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A home for the holidays
A festivly lit living room
Caseworkers will tell you about their jobs that it’s not about the salary. It’s all about helping kids and families live better lives. And, experts say that state wards placed out of their home fare better when they have a connection during the holidays with family or someone significant in their life.
For caseworkers, who develop a bond with the children in their care, a child alone and separated from those they love during the holidays should not happen. It can leave a child feeling as if no one cares.
Caseworkers in the Southeast Service Area made a commitment Oct. 1, to find a home for each child in their care placed out-of-home during the holiday season. Whether it was the cost of a ticket to see the child, coordinating numerous arrangements, or sending the child to a favorite coach, teacher, neighbor or relative, no effort was too small so state wards could have as close to a family-oriented experience as possible. Some caseworkers not only were able to make plans for late December, but their kids also were connected with others at Thanksgiving.
In a strong commitment to these youth, every caseworker came through for their kids, and every child either was in a home or was visited by someone special to them. For the caseworkers, their holidays were brighter, warmer and filled with peace of mind that the children in their charge were having the same experience.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Little girl hugging her fatherDaddy & child given second chance
The DHHS caseworker was receiving a big hug from a little child. It was the happiest day of the child’s life, and Daddy stood nearby grinning from ear-to-ear. Until a year earlier, he didn’t even know he had a child. He was in jail at the time, which he deeply regretted.
On this day, the case was closed, and the child cried out of happiness after the court ruled Daddy could take the child home with him. She had been in foster care for six years, and at that moment the child’s next concern was whether the worker could attend her school holiday program the next day. It seemed to the child the one constant in her life, until that day, was the caseworker.
For Daddy, this day was the fulfillment of a lot of hard work, commitment and proving he was worthy to be called “Daddy.” After he was released from jail, the caseworker learned more about the father and felt he deserved a second chance. The worker arranged services to help the father. He attended therapeutic visits, every court hearing, every meeting, straightened out his life and proved to be a very good person and daddy. After a year of proving himself, the court agreed to grant him custody.
Happy for the family, the caseworker approached the father with an extended hand to congratulate him. “I don’t want to shake your hand. I don’t shake hands with people who change my life and trust me enough to give me a chance to be a parent. I hug them.” With tears in his eyes, he hugged the worker. By the way, the case worker thoroughly enjoyed the holiday program.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A caring home filled with love
Step dad and adopted son.All the youth wanted is what most kids have... a caring home filled with love. When biological Dad began abusing methamphetamine, he also abused the youth as a toddler. When authorities discovered the abuse, the child was placed out of the home.
It hasn’t been easy. While Mom and her new husband were actively involved, she became ill and passed away. With no support from a blood relative, the youth felt alone and struggled in school. Hurting from the loss of mother, the teen began getting in trouble and was passed from home to home until landing in a group home.
An Individual Education Plan was developed and the school identified how to address the youth’s issues. As improvements were made, the caseworker became determined to get the teen out of the youth home.
Life started coming together through the education plan, the work of the school and the teen’s still-involved step-father. Sports became a focus and training occupied last summer’s activities, earning a spot on varsity. The principal became a mentor. Step-dad followed through on a promise made to Mom to see that graduation occurred. The caseworker was there every step of the way. On National Adoption Day, step-dad became “father.” For the youth, the support that gathered around him made all the difference in his success as the case was closed. The long trek left the teen with what was needed... a caring home filled with love.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Light at the end of the tunnelFrom darkness to very bright light
There was no light at the end of the tunnel for Mom. Facing what appeared to be a dismal future with no lifeline within grasp, Mom was arrested for driving under the influence and physical abuse and neglect of her children. Underlying her obvious challenges, a caseworker found she lacked the resources and education to improve her life.
The caseworker steered her to long-term residential substance treatment. When completed, her plan called for attendance at multiple Alcoholic Anonymous meetings each week and family therapy with her children and for each of them.
A light began to show at the end of that long tunnel and it was becoming brighter, which encouraged her to turn from a life of alcoholism. She’s stayed away from alcohol for more than a year, and completed her GED. Parenting classes followed as well as locating independent housing. She completed her GED and today is enrolled in vocational classes.
And, Mom has sustained a home for her children with help from a program called Employment First, which provides job training, education, and employment preparation. Given her success, she earned her driver’s license back early, and she received a voucher to buy a car. Like the engine on a train, Mom and family are out of the tunnel and headed toward an even brighter future.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do. 
ToddlerBringing a Family Together
Taking wobbly steps, the little one moved cautiously from the couch to the coffee table and reached for the curious rock-like substance left there. As with most finds at that age, it was jetted into the mouth and swallowed. The parents noticed but were too late to stop the ingestion of methamphetamine.
After the child quickly became ill, the parents rushed to the hospital. On explaining what happened, authorities were contacted and the child was removed from the home.
The caseworker immediately involved relatives as participants in a safety plan to support the parents with supervising visits, and helping with transportation. Relatives learned other strategies from the caseworker to help the parents.
Chemical dependency evaluations and treatment were arranged for them by the caseworker. Five weeks later, after showing progress in their treatment program and developing a strong safety plan with the caseworker, unsupervised visits with the child were allowed at home. Soon a hearing was held to transition the child home. In less than five months in placement with a relative, the child returned home while monitoring continued.
Immediately engaging the family, developing a strong safety plan and providing programs targeted at the parents’ needs coupled with ongoing monitoring ensures the child will be safe and the family will once again be a family.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Teenager and mother spaeaking with a caseworker.View from the other side
Mom had worked for years in the child welfare industry. Now what was she to do? Her child was in the juvenile court system. What would she do to get her child back on the right track? How would she be viewed by other professionals, especially her child’s caseworkers?
Anxiously, she attended the first meeting and found true professionals only wanting to help her child and family through a rough part of their lives. Mom and her family felt supported, important and welcome throughout the entire case. At case closure, Mom praised the caseworkers for providing effective services, peace of mind, comfort, support, information and tools that they continued to use to heal as a family.
Teenager holding a baby.Aging out and growing up
The former state ward already knew that life isn’t easy. After all, she had spent years as a ward and when she aged-out of the system she had little more than the street for a home. She became pregnant, and a home for youth in trouble welcomed her there. With no parent role model in her life, the new mother struggled, and was at risk of being forced out of the home and having her baby removed from her care.
The caseworker and youth home collaborated to find relatives who would take her and the child into their home. There was no need to involve law enforcement or the courts. Since then, she has transitioned successfully with the natural support of family and has learned parenting skills. Today, she is safe and a good parent to her child.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do
Number one fan
Picture of a girl holding a big foam finger that say #1.Sometimes all a family needs is a cheerleader. When abuse of a child was noticed, a caseworker visited the family. Mom, a single parent, was overwhelmed by a full house of children, and it was decided the situation could be handled outside the court system.
A caseworker offered Mom help, but she was resistant. When individual and family therapy was suggested, Mom reluctantly agreed and discovered new ways to deal with stress. She also began dealing with other issues she had avoided for years. A therapist worked with the children, which improved their behaviors at school allowing Mom to stay on the job uninterrupted. A daily routine was established to reduce the household’s morning chaos. Parenting classes also have helped Mom. Through it all she learned it was okay to ask for help, including her family who became involved for support. And, Mom also found out that the caseworker was her number one fan.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Once a Husker . . .
Husker BabyThe caller was anguished about what to do. Finally, it was decided to call the Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-652-1999) with concerns about the pregnant woman with mental health and substance abuse issues who was at the hospital delivering her child. Mother died from complications.
With no legal guardian for the infant, out-of-state family was contacted. They soon arrived and the case worker pursued legal guardianship for them. She enlisted the help of a local attorney who completed the guardianship pro bono. Meanwhile, the case worker remained with the family at the hospital and helped them access local funds to bury the mother. As the family finalized funeral arrangements, the case worker rushed a personal gift to the infant. The child’s mother was an avid Husker fan and she took the child a Husker outfit as a memento of Mom, and the child’s place of birth.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Native American Mom and ChildCollaborating to Find Family Care

At the recommendation of DHHS, a safety plan was ordered by the court for a family. The plan was violated and the court determined the children were no longer safe. For the children, it meant placement in a foster home while the parents were incarcerated. DHHS collaborated with attorneys, service providers and the courts. A close relative of the children was consulted, who agreed to be their foster parent. With the children’s culture and safety in mind, DHHS moved them to a loving home. Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.

Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Teenager deep in thoughtAn indirect pathway to success
Sometimes it takes a while for the message to grab hold. For several years, a youth had been a ward of the State. The teen ran away when the help and the rules were too much. Not certain where to go, the teen’s only comfort was distance from the pain. It can take a lot to admit you’re wrong, and the youth realized running away was a mistake. The teen called authorities.
As the DHHS case worker examined the case, it was felt the best place for the youth was with a relative, and one was found. Because of the nurturing, love and care the child received, the youth is no longer a state ward and is attending college and back on the road to success. Providing pathways of hope.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A woman grasping her head in frustrationHelping those who are overwhelmed
Her three-year-old child was physically impacted because Mom drank too much alcohol while pregnant. Every day was a reminder to Mom of what she had done to her child, and it fueled her continued abuse of alcohol. A DHHS family services specialist called in family and visited weekly with the mother and child. After the mother's situation came to her family’s attention, they provided support, and the mother learned she could turn to them for help when her burden was too heavy.
She now receives treatment and more closely monitors her child’s health. Mom has a positive outlook with the help of family and ongoing services. And, most importantly, Mom is learning how to manage the stress that comes with a high-needs child.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Working Together to Quickly Find Father
A child sitting on a man's shouldersSquirming in Mom’s arms, the baby tried to find relief from abusive pain as they entered the hospital. The child was too young to explain who caused the pain the previous day. Fortunately, caring people were there to provide protection and safety. After a short examination, hospital officials knew the pain was the result of abuse.
Law enforcement was called. Initially, Mom said her boyfriend claimed the child caused the self-inflicted pain. Later, she admitted her boyfriend had used abuse as discipline. Law enforcement removed the child, arrested her boyfriend and contacted the Department of Health and Human Services.
With the help of the mother’s friends, the biological father of the child was located in another community. He had been looking for his child since he and the mother separated. With the help of an attorney, the father quickly filed for and the court granted custody. After passing background and suitability tests, the child was returned to him in less than 48 hours.
The child healed and did not need additional medical attention. In the meantime, DHHS, the local police department, the foster care agency, the county attorney and the district court worked closely together to expedite placement with the father to minimize the impact on the child.
Child abuse is heartrending. For employees of DHHS, law enforcement, the courts, county attorneys and community-based agencies, the protection and safety of children is their paramount concern. That’s why they coordinate and cooperate in the care of children and to help families find resources to become healthier and happier.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A man looking at the drink in his hand.
Helping children by helping Dad
All too often, neglected and abused children are raised by parents who are under great stress from experiences in their childhood or more recent incidents. The father knew he was mistreating his children. Nothing seemed right in his world and he misused alcohol to try to stop the pain.
A DHHS family services specialist worked with him and took the situation to the local community’s collaboration group. There, other community organizations provided additional useful information and DHHS gave him appropriate services to address his needs. The family is happier and Dad continues to make progress on his challenges.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Child sleeping in a cribFinding Safety within a Family
The court said the parents could not contact each other due to domestic violence. But, it happened anyway, and an infant was severely injured by the father. Also, the home wasn’t habitable. For the safety of the infant and a sibling, they were removed from the home. DHHS followed up with relatives to find a safe placement.
Fortunately, they located a close relative who immediately called for assistance from her church and community. In short order, the relative was able to care for the children through the donation of a crib, diapers and other supplies.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Family Reunited and On the Road to Recovery
A man running through an airport
Love surmounts distance no matter how far away. As soon as DHHS informed the father living on the coast that his wife was jailed for felony child abuse, he boarded a plane and flew back to Nebraska. The children were quickly placed with him that same day. The next week, discussions with the family resulted in agreement that the father would ensure the safety of his children. A judge dismissed a petition to terminate parental rights. The family joined him, and the mother is receiving treatment. Quick action on the part of DHHS, the county attorney, the courts and the father kept the family together and placed them on the road to recovery.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
A happy familyBy the bootstraps
The brothers and sisters saw something that children never should see; the death of a sibling.
Mom needed to make changes to ensure the safety of her children. In the meantime, her children were placed safely with a close relative.
Mom wanted her children back home but her situation had to improve. The case worker lined up parent training, therapy for her and the children and several other services. Mom found a full-time job and held onto it to show that she was a responsible provider.
It took some time, but with the help of DHHS and its service providers, Mom proved she could safely care for her children and sustain a lifestyle that would provide her and her children a better chance at life. Her children are now home where they should be living in a safe and loving environment.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Cleaning upMaking a home safe
Failure to thrive. In the field of child welfare, it means a child has poor physical growth due to neglect. When the DHHS case worker arrived at the home, it was obvious the baby wasn’t receiving enough food. Making matters worse, the home was in disarray with rotten food, trash and feces on the walls and floors.
The worker located other family members. Together, they worked out a plan with the parents to make the home safe for their children. In the meantime, it was agreed the children would stay with a close relative until the apartment was safe and in a livable condition.
All agreed to a safety plan. Everything is going well, and DHHS continues to monitor the situation.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Yes You CanJust wanted to hear she could do it
The child put up a brave front, but the worker saw there were more challenges in the youth’s life than appeared in court. The worker lined up a number of evaluations. During that time, she encouraged the youth by pointing to unused potential. The help the child received and the positive attention from the worker began to make a difference. Grades improved and the youth met all requirements set by the court. The case was closed.
Months later, the worker stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch. As she was leaving, she heard, “I know you!” It was the youth she had helped. Running from the other side of the counter, the youth hugged the case worker.
Happily, life at home was much better and the job was also helping. The youth paused and then said the future looked bright for the first time in life. The youth thanked the worker for providing a positive influence exactly when it was needed. No one had ever said that to the youth before.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Teenage girl making cookiesA cookie is worth a thousand words
“Thank you” stated the words on the cookies presented to the case worker. With the teen hugging her, and siblings lovingly wrapping their arms around the case workers legs, the teen said, “Thanks for not giving up on me.”
The thanks were well deserved. The teen had been involved with the courts for shoplifting. To make matters worse, the teen was keeping bad company, which resulted in truancy, increasing law violations and trouble at home. The case worker set up a treatment plan with goals to achieve. She also arranged individual and family therapy that taught the teen how to apply therapy to everyday life.
Unannounced drop-ins by the case worker went well except for one instance when the teen was again in the company of others who were a bad influence. House arrest was ordered. The teen and case worker completed a plan to avoid those who would cause the teen trouble.
Soon, the teen was building positive relationships and gaining self-confidence. Not once did the teen test positive for drugs and family relationships significantly improved. “And, thanks for pushing me to be better,” the teen said. For the case worker, no cookie ever tasted better.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.

P.O. Box 95026
Lincoln, NE 68509-5044
Phone: (402) 471-9272
Adult & Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline