Tag Archives: Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

The Big Give

September 6, 2016 by
Illustration by Kristen Hoffman

Omahans give. That is no secret. Just consider the amount generated by the Omaha Community Foundation’s fourth annual Omaha Gives campaign. The 24-hour funding drive amassed almost $9 million, a new record.

In each September/October issue, Omaha Magazine helps our readers determine where to spend their charitable donations through a special advertorial called The Big Give. Inside this section, you’ll find information on a variety of charities, including their mission statements, wish lists, event dates, and more. Click here to view the entire Big Give.

This year, The Big Give spotlights:

100 Black Men of Omaha


The ALS Association Mid-America Chapter

American Red Cross

Assistance League of Omaha

Autism Action Partnership

Ballet Nebraska

CASA for Douglas County

Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha

Completely Kids


Diabetes Education Center of the Midlands

Empowerment Network

Film Streams, Inc.

Food Bank for the Heartland

Gesu Housing, Inc.

Global Partners in Hope

Green Omaha Coalition

Heartland Family Service

The Hope Center for Kids

ICARE Youth Services, Inc.

The Jewish Federation of Omaha

The Kim Foundation

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Nebraska Children’s Home Society

Nebraska Humane Society

The Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition

Ollie Webb Center, Inc.

Omaha Against Hunger

Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Home for Boys

Omaha Public Library Foundation

Open Door Mission

Outlook Nebraska, Inc.

Phoenix Academy

Project Harmony

Rejuvenating Women

Release Ministries, Inc.

The Salvation Army

Santa Monica House

Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter


United Way of the Midlands

Youth Emergency Services

Riding Off

October 27, 2014 by and

As I write this, my little girl is deciding what she’s going to wear her first day of high school.
My Baby Girl.  In High School.

I’ve written a column or two before about how fast the parenting years fly by. There was the “I can’t believe they are starting kindergarten,” to the “I can’t believe they’ve finished elementary school,” and the shock of my oldest starting middle school, then high school….

And now, my youngest—who is, by the way, far taller than me now—is excited and a little nervous to be starting her high school career.

She’s excited. I’m stunned.

She will do very well. She’s organized, smart and very conscientious. She has great and loyal friends. She has a devoted family, plus great confidence and self-esteem. So good, so far.

But the other part of this whole equation is how I am no longer counting the years that my oldest will be home. I’m down to months. Twenty-three to be exact. He’s starting his junior year, so about 23 months from today, I will be waving goodbye to him at his college dorm. I’m actually starting to pin ideas for graduation parties and think about how to put his scrapbooks together.

I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly far away that all once seemed.

Over the years, we have attended many graduation parties for the children of friends, but my kids were the ones playing on the swings or chasing each other around the yard. Thinking of them as one day being the honoree being asked, “So, have you decided what you want to study?” or “Where are you going to college?” or “Do you know what you want to do for a career?” seemed like a far, far distant eventuality. I mean, these were my little kids, after all.

But there it is—time has moved on. I am now the parent of two amazing high school kids. We will spend this school year talking about ACT scores, college visits, and dreams for the future. We will have crazy schedules, as many meals together as we can, and important conversations about working hard and being kind. I will continue to hold my breath until my 16-year-old driver makes it home safely every night.

A couple of years ago I begged young mothers to listen when someone older reminded them how short their time was with their children.

One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, her babies will no longer throw fits in the grocery store, have meltdowns during church, or poop all over her clean floor.

One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, she and her husband will yet again be able to have a date without having to worry about a babysitter.

One day, far sooner than she wants or expects, there will no longer be sticky fingers on her sofa, a washing machine filled with the evidence of two children sick at 3 a.m., and no more frantic calls to the doctor when the fever spikes at 102.

As these things begin to disappear, so will the other things. That sweet baby smell when they first come out of the bath. The toddler who crawls into your lap for kisses. The preschooler so excited to show you how he can write his name. Or ride a bike. In all of the busyness that is our lives, during days that sometimes seem like they will never end, things begin to slip away. And you barely notice it until it’s too late.

And then, when you do realize it, sometimes you cry.

Because unless someone reminds you, you forget that you are in a season of your life. A very, very important season—where you have the privilege of being the parent of young children. And although the days can be long, difficult, and challenging, the time is so very, very short.

So, I guess as I head into this last phase of parenting my kids at home, I wanted to revisit my encouragement to parents of younger children. Keep it all in perspective. Be mindful of what stuff matters and what really doesn’t. Most stuff doesn’t.
Your kids do.



Weaving the Safety Net

September 6, 2014 by and

It’s just depressing, to be honest.

Every hour or so, another email comes. Sometimes, it’s every 45 minutes.
A child has been removed from their home. He isn’t safe there. She’s been
neglected. Sometimes it’s several children, and their caregiver was arrested or is
too drunk to care for them. Sometimes their adults are fighting and the children
are in the crossfire.

The children need a place to stay. Right Now. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2:00 am.

Jessyca Vandercoy oversees Permanency and Well-Being Programs for Children
at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS). She sees the emails come in. It breaks
her heart. Because far too often, there’s no good place for the child to stay.

“We have 61 licensed foster families and another 10 more waiting for final approval. Our families are always fostering children,” Vandercoy says. “Sometimes they can take another child. Often they simply can’t because there are no more beds. And it’s just wrenching to see the lists of kids with nowhere to go.”

So what happens to those children when there’s no foster home available for them? It varies. Local foster care providers like LFS regularly receive a status report on children and teenagers still needing placement who have no or limited options. On the one summer day that we looked, there were 23 children on the list. Many were teenagers living in emergency shelters. Others were under 10, living in group homes. One was only three years old. The hope is always that a child will be able to move into a foster home near his or her school, but once that option is exhausted, the next step is changing schools.  And probably not for the first time. Many children lose count of how many schools they’ve attended.

Despite caring social workers, case managers, and well-intentioned care givers, this is no way for a child to live, especially a child who has been removed from the home by no fault of his or her own.  Children generally end up as wards of the state because, in some way, their adults have failed them.

“It’s traumatic enough for the child to go through the experience of being removed from their home,” Vandercoy says. “But then to compound that trauma by then not having anyone willing to take them in….” Her voice trails off as she shakes her head. “It’s just rough.”

Vandercoy would know. She was once in foster care herself and is now the mother of children adopted from foster care. “These children matter,” she says. “They are part of our community and deserve to be safe and loved. One day they will be adults, and we need
to do everything we can to help them be well-adjusted and happy.”


If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent through
Lutheran Family Services, call 402-661-7100.  Or email the foster care team at LFS at
fostercare@lfsneb.org.  A new foster parent licensing class begins in September



July 28, 2014 by

Jane tried to kill herself three times. In rapid succession. She came to Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS) after being hospitalized following her third try. First, she received therapy to stabilize her mental health. Then she entered long-term therapy to address the root causes of her suicide attempts.  She was successful at achieving sobriety and ending suicidal thoughts.

But she continued to live as a victim, anxious and depressed—and not really knowing why. Although she had a college degree, she worked a dead-end part-time job.  She had no money, so she continued to live with an emotionally draining family and date an abusive person.

Jane (not her real name) began working with one of the LFS therapists who provides specialized trauma therapy called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,” or EMDR. EMDR is most widely known for treating post-traumatic stress (PTSD), but LFS therapists recently completed a pilot project that found it also was highly effective in working with other kinds of trauma. With EMDR, Jane’s therapist helped her identify a sexual assault from her childhood. Within two months (eight EMDR sessions), she showed dramatic improvement in the level of distress from this memory.
Within two weeks of completing EMDR therapy, Jane had found a new, full-time job, moved into her own place, and broke up with her abusive boyfriend.

Jane credits the image she first saw during EMDR: her adult self, protecting her “child self” from harm.  Jane says she never realized how powerless she once felt. Now she realizes that she is not responsible for other people’s actions.

When someone experiences trauma—a car accident, a sexual assault, witnessing violence—whatever it might be, the brain tends to freeze that moment in the person’s mind so it never gets resolved or processed. Any event that triggers this memory brings back the entire trauma—the sights, smells, sounds—every time. Such memories have a negative effect that interferes with the way the person sees the world and reacts to other people.

EMDR essentially works to unfreeze this memory, allowing the brain to process it the same way as it does non-traumatic memories. The specific eye movements and light configurations used in EMDR allows the person to break the connection between the memory emotional impact of the trauma, which then allows them to release the emotional pain associated with it. Eventually, they can remember the experience and process it intellectually without reliving it every time, or allowing those emotions to guide their current behaviors.

For Jane, EMDR was truly a life-changing therapy. A very positive one.

Experts say one in four adults and one in five teens experience mental illness within a given year. If you know someone who might benefit from this type of trauma therapy, please contact your local LFS office.

When Hurting Parents Need Help

March 20, 2014 by

Jamie* simply didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t find a job. Had no money. Really didn’t care anymore. It was easier to just lie on the sofa and sleep. If she could find a few bucks, she could get a bottle of bourbon—which would help her block out the reality of her disappointing life. After all, her kids could fend for themselves, right? They didn’t really need her.

Abuse is not the only reason children are removed from their homes. Often, the home simply isn’t safe. Their single parent isn’t working. The utilities have been turned off—no running water, electricity, or heat. Dangerous substances are consistently left within a child’s reach—drugs, alcohol,
cleaning solutions.

In this particular case, this severely depressed mother had five children and the oldest, at age 12, is doing what she can to take care of her brothers and sisters. By the time social services became aware of this family’s plight, the mother was months behind on her utility bills. Their apartment was cold. The children lugged water in jugs, and there was little food in the kitchen, none of it fresh or healthy. Although this mother truly did love her children, she needed someone to care enough to help her out of her despair. If conditions weren’t improved immediately, the children would be moved into foster care for their own safety.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS) can become involved in cases like this in a number of ways. Sometimes, LFS caseworkers become engaged through the schools, as in the Learning Community Family Liaison program. LFS Family Liaisons are in 14 Omaha schools, working alongside parents to help determine if home issues are impacting a child’s ability to learn and excel. Family Liaisons have worked through problems as simple as helping a child get glasses to as serious as preventing a family from becoming homeless.

LFS also becomes involved through referrals from the courts or from other providers. Through LFS Safety and In Home Services programming, caseworkers intervene with families in crisis—with the primary goal of creating a peaceful home where the children are safe. In Jamie’s case, the caseworker was able to work with her to find a full-time job, daycare for her children, and resources to get the family’s utilities back on. The caseworker also directed Jamie to an LFS therapist who was able to prescribe medication for her depression. This particular program, Intensive Family Preservation, is usually involved with a family from three to four weeks but no more than two months. Other services within Safety and In Home Services include Parenting Time for children who have been removed from their home but are now allowed supervised visits with their biological family members, and Family Support, where clients learn appropriate social and parenting skills, develop self-esteem, or get help in finding community resources.

The overarching goal of these programs is to build and strengthen families by developing self-sufficiency. Most client/parents struggle with the day-to-day reality of extreme poverty. It’s not that they don’t love their children. They just need compassionate guidance in learning to provide and care for them safely—skills that many have never seen modeled in their own lives. LFS is committed to helping them get there.

*Name has been changed for privacy.


“I Just Want Someone to Love Me”

November 1, 2013 by

I’ve worked at Lutheran Family Services for well over three years now, and I can pinpoint my toughest day at work.

It was the day I was interviewing foster children for a fundraising video. At the time, I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. I could have done a better job preparing myself. But I didn’t.

So I walked into the conference room and started interviewing “wards of the state,” one by one.

What struck me the most was that they were just kids, not statistics. Kids, very similar to my own children. Attractive, smart, funny—really delightful to be around.

One young man had worn nice slacks and a tie because, as he put it, “I just want to look nice.” This was the same boy who shyly told me about coming in second in a free-throw contest just that afternoon. Later, he admitted how much he liked to play football and really wanted to be on a team, but he couldn’t because there was no one to take him to practice. As a football mom at the time, that just broke my heart. How could there be no one willing to make that commitment to this child who was obviously an athlete?

Another beautiful young woman talked about her frustration with her education. Because she had been moved from one foster home to another, one school to another (she had lost track of how many), she was a year behind in high school. She should have been preparing to graduate, she told me, but all of the moves had set her that far back. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be a nurse or go into the military. I suggested being a nurse in the military. She thought that was a great idea. “I’m going to have a bright future,” she told me.

The kids talked about being taken out of their homes because they weren’t cared for properly. Being in foster care is not their fault. They’ve lost the only home they know, and many times they lose their siblings, too. Few foster homes can take sibling groups. Despite efforts to help siblings stay in touch, it’s a challenge.

While the goal is always reunification with family, it’s not always possible. And once these children become eligible for adoption, the goal then becomes finding the right permanent family. Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska operates a program that searches a child’s history to find that one relative, teacher, or neighbor who might be willing to provide loving permanency.

I realized that if every parent could sit where I sat that day, all of these children would already have homes. We often hear of the numbers of children in Nebraska’s foster care system, but for their own safety, we don’t always see the faces or hear their stories. But the simple message from each one of them was the same, “I just want someone to love me.”

Can you imagine your own child feeling that way? I couldn’t either. So, on that tough day at work, when all I wanted to do was take home every child I had talked with, I went back to my office, and I wept for them. And I wished with all of my being that the right family for each of those beautiful children was just a few steps away from making their dreams come true.

November is National Adoption Month. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, or foster child adoption, please call Lutheran Family Services at 402-661-7100 or e-mail: fostercare@lfsneb.org.