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40 years of volunteering at the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Since 1982, Nebraska’s foster care system has turned directly to local communities to help oversee foster families’ efforts.

Nebraska’s Foster Care Review Office is currently charged with overseeing the cases of the more than 4,000 children currently in out-of-home care. Their efforts are heavily dependent on 300 volunteers from 53 locations across the state, who serve as board members.

“We are going to honor some of those who have served for as many as 30 years,” said Monika Gross, CEO of Nebraska’s Foster Care Review Office. “We play an important role in giving the third party, independently, supervision of cases. Sometimes, when you’re a little weeded out with a case, you do not necessarily see the forest for the trees, so our audit board members, some of whom have a lot of experience with this, can in a way provide a broad overview of the case. “

Volunteers such as Ron Dupell, an Air Force veteran from Elkhorn, and Boys Town teacher Wauneta Warwick from Omaha, who have opened their own home as a foster family, review foster care closely and provide important feedback to caseworkers.

“Because you make a difference in children’s lives,” Dupell said when asked what motivates his efforts. “You can look over someone’s shoulders and say you know, maybe you should try this, maybe you should consider it, or by the way, we know something that will help this case and help it further.”

“I’m happy to hear that the kids are better off,” Warwick said. “And that parents want their children home, and they work towards that.”

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The voluntary board members undergo training and resources to understand child welfare and the juvenile justice system to help them provide the highest quality of case reviews possible.

Ultimately, whether volunteers or government professionals, the ultimate goal is to provide what NFCRO calls “good results.”

“When I was very young, the help from the system was simply not there,” Dupell said. “I have lived and traveled in 33 countries and 48 states, I have seen a lot and I have seen families in trouble, in crisis, not being able to get the help they needed.”

“We want all children to either return to their families or, if they are unable to, find a permanent home with a loving family,” Gross said.

Warwick has lived the experience on his own, opened his house as a foster home and saw how the review process benefits families.

“I have two grandchildren who lived with me for six years, and my daughter adopted them,” Warwick said. “I just saw that they have done well with the assessment committee.”

NFCRO also supports a web portal with significant data and information about the foster home system in the state.

Gross hopes the information will help people better understand the system and perhaps join those offering foster care throughout the state.

“It’s important for people to know that there is always a need for foster care,” Gross said. “Foster families come in all shapes and sizes. “People often say I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m not married, and that does not matter.”

“All you need is to have a heart for children and to want what is in the best interests of children,” Gross continued. “The other thing is just to keep in mind that there are children who have been separated from their families, and they need our support, they need support from the local communities, and the families also need support.”

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