40 years of volunteers at Nebraska Foster Care Review Office

Since 1982 Nebraska's foster care system has turned directly to communities to help oversee the efforts of foster families.
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:36 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Since 1982, Nebraska’s foster care system has turned directly to communities to help oversee the efforts of foster families.

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

“We’re gonna be honoring some of them who have served for as many as 30 years,” said Monika Gross, executive director of Nebraska’s Foster Care Review Office. ”We play an important role in providing that third party, independent, oversight of cases. Sometimes, when you’re kind of in the weeds with a case, you don’t necessarily see the forest for the trees, so our review board members, some of them have a lot of experience doing this, are able to kind of give a broad overview of the case.”

Volunteers like Ron Dupell, an Air Force veteran from Elkhorn, and Boys Town educator Wauneta Warwick of Omaha who has opened her own home as a foster family, review foster cases up close, providing vital feedback to caseworkers.

“Because you make a difference in kids’ lives,” Dupell answered when asked what motivates his efforts. “You’re able to look over someone’s shoulders, and say you know, maybe you should try this, maybe you should consider that, or by the way, we know something that’ll help this case and help it move forward.”

”I get satisfaction when I hear the children are doing better,” Warwick said. “And that the parents want their children back home, and they are working towards that.”

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

Ultimately, whether volunteers or state professionals, the end goal is to provide what NFCRO calls “great outcomes.”

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

“We want all children to either return to their families or if they’re not able to do that, to find a permanent home with a loving family,” Gross said.

Warwick has lived the experience firsthand, opening her house as a foster home and then seeing how the review process benefits the families.

“I have two granddaughters that lived with me six years, and my daughter adopted them,” Warwick said. “I just saw that with the review board they have done well.”

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

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

“It’s important for folks to know there’s always a need for foster homes,” Gross said. “Foster families come in all shapes and sizes. Often times people say I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m not married, and it doesn’t matter.”

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

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