“When people think of Boys Town, they mainly think about the residential program. That’s still a hallmark of what we do here but over the last seven to eight years, there’s been a push to shift our attention to working in the communities we serve,” said Christopher Miller, Director of South Omaha Program Operations for Boys Town.
Miller said 85-90% of families have shown a positive impact by being connected to the programs the South Omaha office offers.
“They are seeing results in their families. We do follow-up surveys with all our families to ensure that we are providing the high quality we say we do. And we have a high success rate with these programs,” he said.
The office, which is located at 4612 S. 25th Street, is meant to be accessible and visible in the community. Miller explained all the services they offer are community-based.
“Our goal in South Omaha is to strengthen families, keep youth out of trouble, in school and safe at home. If we do that we are doing really well,” said Miller.
Though Miller acknowledged there are situations where kids need to be or are ordered to be removed from their homes, if it’s at all possible, he said keeping kids and families together is the best approach.
One conscious choice they’ve made in the South Omaha office is to hire employees that are from the neighborhood. Miller thinks having the experience of going to South High School and growing up in the area, provides credibility to the families they work with.
“It’s also an economic driver for the community because we are hiring people from here to stay here and serve the community,” Miller said.
And the results of their programs speak for themselves. In 2016, the South Omaha office received the Omaha South High Magnet School’s 2016 Community Hall of Fame Award.
The award was for service in the community and service to South Omaha High.
“We run a number of different programs in the South Omaha community tied into both home services and the school. South High is one of our key partners. We do a lot of family-based services that ultimately help kids do better in school,” Miller explained.
One of their primary programs is called Care Coordination. South Omaha operates as a link to community providers. So a family may go to the office and say ‘my kid is struggling in school, not getting along with their teachers or not doing well in general.’
Miller said when that happens, staff go into the home, do an assessment of the family.
“And we may find out that yes, there are issues with the child in school, but there may also be issues with financial sustainability or behavioral health. Or maybe a family needs access to a food pantry or something like that. As you look at the whole picture/whole family, you can see that many problems may impact the overall operation of the family,” said Miller.
So if a kid isn’t doing as well in school as they could be, he said his office tries to help fix some of the other problems, working with the family and school and linking them all together.
Certain families may need to set up a study space with their kids and keep them on a schedule. They would have homework, dinner and bedtime at the same time every day, no matter what.
According to Miller, staff work on teaching the parents how to manage the schedule of the family and help their kids learn how to follow instructions and accept decisions
“This is more skill-based. Care Coordination is about linking people to more community assets than they can get access to on their own,” he said.
The South Omaha Boys Town office also has parenting classes, called Common Sense Parenting. Miller said there are 20 classes a year where parents can attend and learn skills like how to relate to their kids, how to set boundaries, ways to communicate more effectively, and ways to curb their tempers so they don’t overreact with their children.
Miller said kids and families that need more therapeutic services will find access to those services there too.
“We have a positive alternative to a suspension program which is where kids are suspended from school. We work with South High School so kids can come to our office and get caught up with school work. While they’re here, they also learn skills to help them be more effective in the classroom,” he said.
There’s also an intake and compliance specialist that goes to South High twice a week and is available for staff to refer parents directly to the Boys Town office. This person can do a quick interview with them and see if they fit the service profile and then get them moved into continual care.
“Boys Town is a strong community partner linking people to resources that already exist,” Miller said.
Last year, the South Omaha office served over 1,000 children.
South Omaha Boys Town, 4612 S 25th St, Omaha, NE 68107,