KEARNEY, Neb. — Over 100 community leaders discussed how to keep children and families out of state systems and the prevention work being done throughout Nebraska at a Bring Up Nebraska conference in Kearney on Tuesday.
The conference dealt with the statewide prevention work through community efforts and the Bring Up Nebraska initiative.
Bring Up Nebraska gives local communities the ability to form plans to prevent some of life's challenges from becoming a crisis in Nebraska.
Community leaders discussed what has and hasn't worked and what has yet to be done in terms of statewide prevention work.
According to Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner, Nebraska is a model in the community based prevention work.
"They've taken concrete actions to bring so many stake holders together in communities to develop a shared vision, a common commitment to working together, so the communities can be much more responsive to their children and families," Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner.
Prevention work across the state of Nebraska has risen in recent years with the idea of becoming more proactive than reactive.
After a family situation at home, Bobbi Taylor spent seven years in and out of the juvenile and foster care systems.
"I felt very vulnerable. I didn't have a voice. I felt that they controlled every aspect of my life, regardless of what I did or didn't do," said Bobbi Taylor.
Taylor eventually found herself in a sticky situation two weeks before she aged out at 19 years old.
"I didn't have a job, I wasn't in school. I didn't really have a home to go to and so I really had to navigate how to be an adult by myself after that," said Taylor.
Taylor said it was a rough patch at first but was able to get her grounding.
"I started getting connected more with the community and was advocating for youth which really led me to success in where I am now," stated Taylor.
Children's Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner said it's a privilege to sit on a podium with two young adults, including Bobbi Taylor, who have experience in the child welfare system.
Milner added, "who are now able to actually be advocates and support for so many other young people coming through the system."
"I think as we being to learn the lessons of what works and how we can best serve children and families, we will be in a much better position as a system to totally revamp the way we do child welfare in our country," said Milner.
A conference like this, is one step in learning what works for those they serve.
"To think about how we can change a child welfare system that's largely reactive and after the fact to one that's much more proactive and supportive of families," said Milner.
Milner's instincts say the prevention work has brought down the number of children in the system because of the value attached to the prevention efforts.