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. 

Acceptance of child’s view key to foster parenting  
Adults offers encouragement to child
There is nothing stronger than the bonds of family even when the home situation is wrapped in substance abuse and domestic violence. Nearly all children want to be with their parents, and DHHS does its best to make that happen if they can be there safely. When that can’t happen, how does a foster parent handle a child’s natural desire to return to mom and dad?
Here’s how one foster mom described it to the case manager in an email. “Things are going really well! [Child] seems to be adjusting wonderfully. We cannot imagine life without [child]. Even the rough moments are beautiful because we are learning each other and how to work out life together.
“[Child] really misses mom a lot and talks about . . . parents consistently. I noticed one day [child] was getting really frustrated over things that had not been bothersome before. So I asked what was going on. [Child] was afraid to tell me now much mom is missed and that at 18 [child] will find her. I reassured that we will love [child] forever and that is normal to miss mom and we will never be upset about that.”
After the discussion, the child knew that this family was loving, understanding and accepting of the young person’s situation. No guilt or jealousy in this house.
“We all feel like we are connecting like a family as if [child] has been with us forever! We are excited for the future regardless of what challenges it may bring,” foster mom happily typed to the case manager.
If you can provide loving support and acceptance like this and are interested becoming a foster parent, call 1-800-7PARENT (7368).
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.

Additional stories of hope are listed below.
Foster parents can also help parents  
Lady offers encouragement to mom
Foster parents not only provide a safe place for state wards, but they also can help parents as they learn how to handle children as well as manage their own lives.
The mother’s boyfriend had physically abused the baby girl, and mom was dealing with substance abuse. The court outlined changes mom needed to make in her life, but after a year, she hadn’t followed through on them. Worst of all, she remained with her abusive boyfriend.
The court moved to make the child available for adoption. The thought of losing her baby induced a heavy dose of reality to mom. She changed her focus in life and started following the steps necessary to get her little girl back. The child’s foster parents encouraged mom and provided as much support as they could along the way. Mom completed a treatment program, found housing and passed all drug tests. She also ended her relationship with the boyfriend.
Still, the time it had taken for mom to respond was too long and the county attorney filed to terminate her parental rights. But, mom continued to work hard to earn the case manager’s trust. Eventually, monitored visits were approved.
Three months later, the county attorney withdrew the termination motion, and the case manager requested that mom be allowed to have overnight visits. After two months, and mom’s improved response, the case manager asked the court to allow the child to return home. Mom prepared a safety plan and described how she would continue to work and attend school with support from the foster parents. The motion to terminate her rights was dropped.
At the next court hearing, after the judge reminded mom of all that she had accomplished, her daughter was then returned to her.
Throughout the process, the foster parents stood by the child and the mother, even to the point of providing support for mom after her daughter left their care. To this day, they remain available to the little girl, and especially to her mother. Foster parents do so much for the children in their care, but they also can play a role in reuniting families.
If you’re interested in providing foster care, call 1-800-7PARENT (7368).
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Recognizing abuse and recognizing the love of a parent  
Sad teenager
The teenager frequently ran from home seeking a safer place to live. You see, dad had temporary custody and mom lived in another state far away. Mom wanted the teen to know dad, but she didn’t know that dad was abusing the youth who escaped to get away from the violence.
Police removed the teen from the home and the case manager looked for relatives. Immediately, the youth told her about mom and contact was made. On hearing about the abuse, she made the long trip to Nebraska with court papers in hand indicating she had custody of the youth.
Like a scene from a movie, when the youth and mom saw each other, they ran and embraced for a long, long time. The mutual affection was obvious and moved the case manager. She spoke to the county attorney and guardian ad-litem about dropping the temporary custody request so the youth could return home with mom.
On that recommendation and the agreement of the county attorney, the judge dismissed the case and the teen left the courtroom with mom. But, before they were gone, they thanked the case manager for informing mom about the youth’s situation and for recommending dropping temporary custody. In fact, they said they loved her. To them, the case manager’s actions on their behalf were assurance they once again would be safely together.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
The trauma of neglect soothed by loving, safe care  
Two little boys scuffling
At their young ages, the three siblings had seen a lot. Since their births, they had been neglected and lived in squalor. Even at tender ages of only a few years, they were left to their own devices to eat regularly and care for their needs. Mom and dad frequently abused substances and domestic violence prevailed in the home. 
When the family came to the attention of authorities, and the court removed the children from the home, placed them with relatives, and DHHS worked with the parents to try to help them so the children could be returned. 
The neglect the siblings experienced had traumatized them and they displayed significant negative behavioral issues requiring a lot of assistance from DHHS and especially loving and well thought-out care by their relatives. Over time, their behaviors improved as did their relationships with the foster parents.
In fact, the loving home that provided safety and structure became the children’s preference to live and they expressed their desire to always stay with their relatives. All that prevented that from happening was the effort of their parents to resolve their drug and domestic violence issues.
For a while, mom and dad tried but little-by-little their compliance with court orders and the visits with their children became less and less frequent. Eventually, the couple returned to regular substance abuse and no longer visited their children who had been placed with relatives, and the county attorney filed for termination of parental rights and the judge agreed.
Now the door opened for the three siblings to be adopted and their relatives jumped at the chance. With the impact of the trauma they experience now reduced and more manageable, the happy family completed the adoption and the three now live in a safe and loving home.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
Ward most appreciates case manager  
Writing a letter of appreciation
The real-life experiences that appear in Pathways of Hope are told from information provided by case managers or their supervisors. This one is a letter received by a case manager from a state ward who was placed in the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Geneva.
“Today in group we learned about these lessons in life called ‘highways.’ We’ve been doing them for almost two weeks now. Today was our last day. [We were told to] write a letter to someone we appreciate.
“Most people wrote about their boyfriends. My first thought was you. Some people looked at me like I was crazy. I want you to know I appreciate you. I appreciate you trying to do what’s best for me. I’m thankful you got picked to be my case worker.
“These last few years have been stressful and I know I was a big part of it. I’m sorry for all the times I let you down or disappointed you. I really appreciate you never giving up on me. I appreciate you pushing me to my full potential and never letting me stop trying.
“Most of all, thank you for keeping your promise from day one. You said you’d stay with me until it was time for me to get off papers. You’re the only person who said you’d always be here and meant it. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why I mess up when I get so close. When I’m off papers, you’ll be gone. My tracker will be gone. Then what?
“Soon, I’ll be 18 . . . then 19. I know I don’t have much time before these little charges could turn into serious charges that could eventually get me into York. My biggest dream is college. My biggest fear is being my mother. In the end, all the choices are mine. When I think of you, those goals I have seem possible. I thank you for giving me hope. I never needed fancy clothes, that deck of cards, or Applebee’s. I needed you to be here for me and that’s exactly what you did. You were here through thick and thin. I thank you so much for everything.
“One day, I hope I’ll be in your shoes doing something good for someone else. You’re a good person and I’m thankful God put you in my life.
“P.S.  . . . Although it’s difficult, I’m learning to accept the fact that someone is always going to be here. It’s time for me to grow up and start making responsible choices. I’m not so scared to move forward anymore. Thank you for giving me the push and support I needed.”
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
“There’s no place like home.” 
Ruby Red Shoes
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s final words were, “There’s no place like home.” That’s the commitment of the Children and Families Services Division in DHHS, if children can safely stay there. So it was for the young adult who nine years earlier was made a state ward by the court. For most of eight years, time was spent away from home in residential treatment, group homes, foster homes, detention and shelter care. But home was where the youth wanted to return.
Enter a case manager determined to make that happen for the young adult. It wasn’t easy because the years of separation from mom built-up resentment accompanied with an unhealthy attitude. But the case manager found effective services to give mom the help she needed to steer her child in a positive direction.
In addition, dad had been absent. The case manager worked with the youth and dad to start regular visitations, emphasizing the importance of father’s influence on the young adult’s life. Mutual commitment resulted in two years of visits every other weekend.
Returning home with services to help both mom and the youth, regular visits with dad, and with a variety of other services aimed at addressing their needs, smoothed the way for a happier situation.
At the next court appearance, the judge was skeptical when the case manager requested closing the case since she felt there was nothing more she could do for the family and the youth was assimilated at home. The judge waited until the next hearing to rule. After reviewing the case and hearing no objections, the judge offered compliments to everyone and closed the case, allowing the youth to remain at home. Truly, there is no place like home.
Providing pathways of hope. That’s what we do.
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.
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.

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