Changing Communities: Boys Town's South Omaha Office Monday, Jan 23, 2017 Page Image Page ContentIn 2014, Boys Town opened an office in the heart of South Omaha, Nebraska, as part of community initiative efforts outlined in the Strategic Plan."We went into the community and listened to see what the community needs and how Boys Town fits in as part of Father Boes' initiative to concentrate services in areas of high need," said Chris Miller, Director of South Omaha Program Operations. Nearly three years after opening, the office is making huge leaps to help children and families in the high-risk Omaha community. Now a staff of 12, the office has a new three-year strategy to take their programs and services even further. This three-year strategy focuses on establishing community partnerships, offering an array of services to children and families, collaborating with other organizations and providers for the benefit of the community, demonstrating a clear physical presence, generating new and innovative ways to fund Boys Town services, implementing data collection, and establishing a marketing plan. "Our overall goal is to strengthen families, keep youth in school, out of trouble and safe at home," said Miller. Both Miller and Regina Costello, Manager, South Omaha Programs, were brought into the South Omaha office last summer with the responsibility of leading the charge on this three-year strategy and growing the programs. Specifically, the two were tasked with beginning both Care Coordination Services and the Parent Connectors Program. Care Coordination Services is an intensive, family-centered case management program designed to help families navigate through complex systems such as the mental health care system, school systems and available community programs. Through the Parent Connector program, parents can speak to a peer-parent from the community who has been in a similar situation and who can help the family navigate the path to helpful services."We spent time last summer at both the California and Nevada sites being trained on these programs," explained Costello. "We are now at the one-year mark since beginning these services in South Omaha." That one-year mark has brought success to the office and has helped grow Boys Town's presence in the community. So far, the South Omaha office has helped 551 children and 221 families through Care Coordination Services, Parent Connector Program, Common Sense Parenting® classes, Behavioral Health Services, and a Community Speaker Series."Someone is coming in our door every day for help," said Costello. "That's why our location in the community is so important. Word of Boys Town's presence in the community is spreading."The South Omaha office is unique to the community because it helps non-system children and families. This means that children and families are able to receive help before a crisis occurs and the police or State of Nebraska gets involved. "Helping non-system families is imperative to the community. These families now have access to programs and services designed for early intervention," Miller said.In addition to its location on one of the main streets in the community, Boys Town also has a staff member whose office is located in South High School. "Our staff is easily accessible and it removes barriers for students or families looking for help," added Miller. "We are also looking to partner with the middle schools that feed into South High School so we can connect with families even before high school." The South Omaha office also uses community events for outreach and to bring awareness to their services by setting up a booth or participating in a parade. Just recently, the office staff and additional Boys Town volunteers took part in the community's annual El Grito Celebration – a parade and festival celebrating the Mexican Independence Day and National Hispanic Heritage Month. Both Miller and Costello agree that without their staff, the South Omaha office would not be as successful as it is today. "The staff understands that work is outside of a regular 8 to 5," Costello said. "Our staff is very dedicated to the mission and a lot of them are from the community and are graduates of South High, so they want to see the community change for the better." Going forward, Costello and Miller want to continue to spread the word about Boys Town in South Omaha and foster community partnerships. They do, however, realize there will be some challenges along the way. "It's a challenge because we're on the front edge of the mission," said Miller. "We are living in the grey area and need to learn as we go." Miller, Costello and the staff at South Omaha are excited to see where the office will be in the next few years and to witness firsthand the changes they can bring to the South Omaha community.