NFPAN hosts second annual Foster Parents and Caregivers on the Green

Thank you to everyone who attended our second annual Foster Parents and Caregivers on the Green! We enjoyed connecting with everyone, including our guests from Nebraska Appleseed and Prime Home.

We appreciate the contributions of those who worked hard to make this event a success. The fellowship, games and activities were all part of a fun afternoon. We look forward to seeing everyone at our next event!

Loud advocates for change as foster parent, NFPAN network coordinator

NFPAN2018 (13 of 33) (1)
NFPAN network coordinator Bobby Loud shares information with foster parents at the March 24 meeting. (Photo taken by Dafnis Delgado)

by Juli Oberlander

One of Bobby Loud’s greatest joys is his family. For Loud, this family consists of his 17-year-old son Isaiah and the foster children he cares for in his home.

For the past five years, Loud has welcomed 10 foster children into his family. Currently, he is the foster parent of two 11-year-old boys. Loud says his passion for helping others drew him to become a licensed Nebraska foster parent.

A native of Omaha, Loud graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. At UNO, Loud was a member of the Goodrich Scholarship Program. He credits Goodrich for instilling in him the drive to become a lifelong learner and serve the community.

In 2008, Loud received a master’s in Organizational Leadership from Bellevue University. Six years later, Loud returned to UNO to serve in his current role as an academic adviser for the School of Communication.

Out of all his experiences, Loud says he enjoys being a father the most. As he raised his son, Loud began to understand how fortunate he has been in his life.

“I have been very blessed in my life, personally and spiritually,” Loud says. “I have an awesome son who has had awesome experiences. One of the things that I soon recognized is that every kid hasn’t had the experience that my son has.”

Upon this realization, Loud says he wanted to become a foster parent. However, before he trained to receive his license, Loud sought approval from his son Isaiah.

“When I was first thinking about becoming a foster parent, I had to explain to him what that was,” Loud says. “I told him his dad might have other children in the home and asked him how he felt about that. He thought it was pretty cool.”

Once Loud became a foster parent, he says he began to realize the complexity of the foster care system. He understood how children and parents suffered when the system failed to meet their needs because he often struggled as a foster parent to receive support.

After learning that other parents had similar experiences, Loud says he wanted to start an organization to advocate for foster parents. In January 2017, Loud created the Nebraska Foster Parent Advocacy Network (NFPAN) to help foster parents ensure opportunities for their children.

Since its founding, NFPAN serves as the only Omaha metro nonprofit that solely supports foster parents. NFPAN’s initiatives include monthly meetings and community events that allow foster parents to collaborate in a supportive setting.

Loud, who serves as the NFPAN network coordinator, says one of his main goals is to dispel misconceptions about foster parents.

“A lot of times there are myths about foster parents, like they’re just in it for the money,” Loud says. “People don’t understand the responsibilities, the level of training or what it actually takes to become a foster parent.”

Before he founded NFPAN, Loud says he often dealt with agencies that were unable to help him due to high caseloads and overextended staff. During those times, Loud turned to other foster parents for encouragement. Now, NFPAN serves as a supportive network for Loud and other foster parents.

“NFPAN has given me a platform and a voice as a foster parent,” Loud says. “That’s what has led to that channel to actually impact change.”

Loud’s colleagues at NFPAN share the same mission to help children. Amadi Watts, the foster parent liaison for NFPAN, says Loud inspires him to better support foster parents and children.

“I’ve learned from Bobby to keep my eye on the prize,” Watts says. “What comes with that prize is making a difference. That is very important, especially when you are advocating for foster parents.”

Like Loud, Watts is a foster parent. He currently cares for a 9-year-old and has served 10 foster children overall. Watts says he understands the challenges that parents face in helping youth who are not their biological children.

However, Watts says Loud helps him realize change can happen when foster parents work together to meet children’s needs.

“He’s taught me that talk comes with action,” Watts says. “Bobby has worked extremely hard to ensure that this is a success and that we all stick together to help families.”

Based on his experiences as a foster parent, Loud says he strives to encourage other foster parents through his personal example. His goal is provide youth with the same opportunities he had as a child.

“Being a parent has helped me reflect and see how fortunate I am,” Loud says. “I have even told my parents, ‘Thank you so much,’ because what if they had not done some of the things that I am a beneficiary of? Now I have an opportunity to give foster youth experiences they were not exposed to, and that gives me great satisfaction.”

Article- ‘A quiet wave’ of grandparents in Nebraska are stepping in to raise their grandchildren

“I think if you’d ask people in Nebraska, they might know somebody raising their own grandchildren. But I’m not sure anybody realizes the extent of the issue. … It’s a quiet wave.”

More than 10,000 grandparents in Nebraska— 2,500 in Omaha — raised grandchildren under age 18, according to 2016 census data. That’s why the Nebraska Children’s Home Society created a class and support group for grandparents who care for grandchildren in Omaha.

Read this article to learn more about a grandparent who is a part of this trend:



NFPAN celebrates National Foster Care Month

By Juli Oberlander

More than 400,000 U.S. children currently live in foster care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Foster children average about 8 years of age, but they enter the system from infancy to 18 years old.  While foster children are no different from other youth, they often experience abuse, neglect and trauma before joining foster families.

Many foster children deal with hardship in their lives. However, they can flourish with the support of parents and caring community members. We at NFPAN believe in the importance of recognizing and encouraging children’s potential year-round. This May, NFPAN celebrates the powerful relationships between children and caregivers.

As National Foster Care Month, May commemorates the dedication of foster parents who open their homes to at-risk youth. Since 1988, the country celebrates caregivers who mentor and encourage youth as well as organizations that support parent-child relationships. At NFPAN, our focus is to provide resources that foster the well-being of parents and youth.

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on April 29, 2011 about National Foster Care Month.

“For nearly half a million youth in foster care across our country,” Obama said, “the best path to success we can give them is the chance to experience a loving home where they can feel secure and thrive.”

Like Obama, our goal is to ensure supportive homes for youth. This May, we celebrate the promise of every American foster child. Our mission at NFPAN is to offer opportunities for children to connect with other youth through events at Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands and NorthStar Foundation.

By supporting foster children at home and in the community, we work to promote the purpose of National Foster Care Month. Foster children are never alone, and we can provide them with a voice to help them succeed.

NFPAN gives foster parents voice with legislative plan

NFPAN2018 (7 of 33)
Foster parents address shared concerns about the Nebraska foster care system at the March 24 NFPAN meeting. (Photo taken by Dafnis Delgado)

by Juli Oberlander

Wherever Bobby Loud went, he found foster parents just like him. Whether he was at the movie theater or the grocery store, Loud encountered foster parents who struggled to receive resources and support from foster care agencies.

Loud had always thought he was alone in his trials as a foster parent in need of advocacy from local agencies. Over the past five years, Loud has served as a parent to about 10 foster children. Loud, now a foster parent of two 11-year-old boys, says change is necessary for foster parents to support youth in their care.

In January 2017, Loud founded the Nebraska Foster Parent Advocacy Network (NFPAN). After connecting with other foster parents, Loud initiated a spring legislative plan to advocate for Nebraska legislature bills that help parents and their children. Loud and his colleagues plan to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, to lobby and share information with state legislators on child welfare committees.

The objective is to support bills in committee that propose foster care reform and better out-of-home placement for foster children. As NFPAN’s network coordinator, Loud says foster care reform can start with legislative change.

“We’re not trying to change everything,” Loud says. “It is a huge system. But if we can impact families and the youths in a positive way, it will give me great satisfaction.”

Loud says NFPAN works with various agencies that advocate for foster care reform. Some of its key partners include Nebraska Appleseed, the National Foster Parent Association and other nonprofit organizations that support foster children.

Another important partner is ReConnect, Inc., an Omaha nonprofit that helps at-risk youth including foster children. NFPAN holds its monthly meetings at Reconnect, Inc.’s facility at 42nd and Center Streets. NFPAN also works with ReConnect, Inc. to advocate for parents and youth.

“It’s about providing resources and pointing a finger in the right direction,” Loud says. “It’s about just listening. If we can provide better care and consistency to youth, that’s another take-away.”

Loud says legislative change needs to happen in terms of agencies’ high caseloads. Often, one staff member handles youth cases, and agencies are not able to meet every child’s needs. When that happens, agencies often displace children.

Displaced children often experience behavioral issues. These problems can cause the state to put foster parents on hold, which often leads to investigations.

Loud says this problem affects the entire foster care system from agencies to community centers and schools.

“It has been challenging and revealing to see how complex out-of-home reform is,” Loud says. “Advocacy might be a small word but it is a difficult word. You can get resistance, but we’re up to the challenge.”

As NFPAN works to initiate legislative change, Loud says he realizes the importance of normalcy for foster children. Having the same experiences as other children leads to lower levels of stress for the youth and their parents.

NFPAN’s goals for its legislative plan are to support bills that help foster children meet their personal, treatment and academic goals. Support from legislators will allow foster parents to more effectively advocate for their children and themselves in the future.

Amadi Watts is a foster parent with the goal of improving Nebraska foster care. Watts, the foster parent liaison for NFPAN, says he hopes the organization can provide further resources to foster parents through its initiatives.

“It’s been a journey,” Watts says. “We’re hoping for the best because there’s nothing else out there like this. It’s very much needed.”

Like Loud, Watts has welcomed about 10 foster children into his home. Watts, who currently cares for one 9-year-old, says NFPAN’s legislative initiative seeks to help guardians and caregivers in addition to foster parents.

“It’s powerful to be in a position to help children,” Watts said. “We have a lot in common due to our willingness to provide to children who are at risk.”

Watts says NFPAN’s tagline, “stronger together,” is indicative of the organization’s mission to help foster parents and other caregivers support youth.

Loud says NFPAN can empower foster parents through its legislative and community outreach initiatives.

“Foster parents as individual people can feel very powerless and limited,” Loud says. “However, when there is that commonality of interests, that’s where it starts clicking. We really are stronger together.”

NFPAN addresses need for change in Nebraska foster care

By Juli Oberlander

Nearly 16 percent of Nebraska foster children were in out-of-home care in 2013, according to the 2015 Kids Count policy report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Meanwhile, the national average of children in out-of-home care is 14 percent.

This statistic shows the need for Nebraska policymakers to assess the areas where the state has “fallen behind” the nation in providing adequate care for children, according to an article in the Lincoln Journal Star. Sam Huppert, communications coordinator for Voices for Children in Nebraska, finds the current foster care model is the reason for the problems children face.

“Despite federal laws mandating that children are quickly moved out of group placements, thousands of children are living in these situations,” Huppert says. “This inefficient model breaks up siblings and moves children away from familiar routines, causing further traumatization.”

Huppert’s statement shows the need for state legislators to advocate for foster children. In order to help children, Nebraska policymakers must prioritize placement of youth with kin or state-registered foster families rather than in group homes. Support for foster children starts with change on the judicial level, and the Nebraska Foster Parent Advocacy Network (NFPAN) dedicates its efforts to accomplishing that purpose for Nebraska youth.

NFPAN’s latest initiative to help Nebraska children is a judicial outreach and awareness plan that will communicate the mission of NFPAN to presiding Douglas County Juvenile Court judges. Nebraska children need an advocate in order to succeed, and change must begin with concerted efforts on the part of policymakers and organizations.

Infographic- Nebraska foster children in 2017

Each year, the Foster Care Review Office (FCRO) releases an annual report on the state of foster care in Nebraska. In 2017, the FCRO found 63 percent of Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) cases involved parental neglect as the reason for children’s removal to foster care. To help these children, NFPAN strives to provide support to foster parents in order to secure the future for Nebraska youth.

NFPAN infographic

© 2018 Juli Oberlander