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Brush With Law Becomes North Omaha Family’s Blessing

Games, gossip, good food and bad movies. Just your average teenage slumber party… until a few of the girls snuck out to a nearby convenience store and attempted to run off with a bottle of booze. The party was over when police arrived.

Seventeen-year-old Mara and her friends landed in the juvenile justice system. The Douglas County Juvenile Assessment Center referred Mara and her family to Boys Town so they could receive appropriate intervention services. The family benefitted

from several Boys Town programs, including In-Home Family Services and LIFT Together, which empower struggling families by providing them the counseling, guidance, skills and resources they need to thrive.

For Mara’s mom, Lizette, the intervention was a much welcomed blessing.

Her daughter’s brush with the law was just one of multiple challenges the family faced. Lizette worked long hours, seven days a week, leaving her little time to supervise and parent Mara, 15-year-old Ella, and baby Noah. The girls were often left to parent themselves while also caring for their little brother. The burden and stress were simply too much.

Lizette and Mara had a particularly fraught relationship. Neverending arguments and constant shouting had left them angry, frustrated and exhausted. Their conflicts always erupted around the same issues: Mara’s failing grades and Mara’s pregnancy.

There was much turmoil and heartache in the home when the Boys Town Consultant arrived to help Lizette and her children. The Consultant worked quickly to identify community resources the family could tap into for extra support, such as an early child development program and a mentorship program for Mara and Ella. In addition, the Consultant’s warm and reassuring presence gave the sisters the courage to join teen support groups where they talked with peers experiencing similar struggles. The girls realized they weren’t alone and found renewed hope.

One of the biggest stressors on the family involved school. During the height of the pandemic, Mara struggled with the logistics and discipline required for remote learning. She was failing all her classes. When in-school instruction resumed, Mara was scared for her safety and the safety of her unborn child. Several classmates had threatened her, so she refused to go back.

The Consultant reached out to the Omaha Street School, an alternative education program for at-risk youth, and helped Mara enroll. The school’s smaller environment, support systems, individualized attention and therapy services were exactly what the expectant mom needed. Mara now “loves” school. The Consultant also helped Mara and Ella establish homework routines and a structured learning space at home so they could more easily focus on their studies.

As for Lizette, despite her demanding schedule, she eagerly put into practice the parenting skills the Consultant taught her. Lizette adopted time-management strategies and communication techniques that allowed her to engage more successfully with her daughters and school staff.

Throughout the intervention, the family drew courage and strength from their faith which carried them through the hardest days. And as they experienced more success in school and at home, the family’s confidence grew. They felt empowered and wanted to continue to learn and grow, which led to even more success. Lizette praised Boys Town for her family’s transformation.

“Boys Town gave me, as a single mother, a lot of support and hope, built my faith and blessed me,” Lizette said.

Today, the family bonds remain strong. While heated arguments occasionally pop up, they’re far less intense and the family now has the skills and tools to reach resolutions. Most importantly, Lizette and her children have progressed from thinking they can’t to knowing they can!