Family Advocacy Movement, directed by Melanie Williams-Smotherman, hosted a panel discussion this evening that brought together professionals and parents affected by Nebraska's system. The panel consisted of Vicki Maca DHHS administrator working on "Family Matters" the state-wide reform of NE CPS systems, Melanie Williams-Smotherman the director of FAM, James Holt an independent mental health therapist and licenced clinical social worker, Sarah Forrest a policy coordinator for Voices For Children in Nebraska, David Newell the President and CEO of Nebraska Families Collaborative, and Richard Wexler the director of NCCPR.
There was general agreement among panel members that Nebraska's child welfare system is in grave danger; a belief supported by the facts. The main point: Far too many children are removed from their homes. There was general agreement that foster care should be a last resort and that better systems should be in place for prevention. James Holt spoke of his dedication as a professional to solutions that result in family unity, Vicki Maca spoke of the "Families Matter" reforms, Sarah Forest spoke of fairness and justice for kids, but Richard Wexler laid down the gauntlet when he said that the numbers tell the story of whether professionals and state leaders are serious about reform. He said, "Watch the numbers and we'll see if the words matter."
It will take the fortitude and commitment of parents, professionals, and government to institute the reforms necessary to begin to rebuild this broken trust and set our state on a track that will serve families in need with respect and ultimately ensure the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens, our children!