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Right Turn's A Step Further: Responding to the Needs of Families

I would like to take a minute to tell you about our A Step Further program. A Step Further is having a BIG impact on the families we serve and we are so fortunate for the ground work laid out early on in Right Turn by some really special people that made this program possible. A Step Further was a vision that was created by a couple of night owls, Jessyca Vandercoy and Linda Dubbs. From the very beginning in Right Turn, it was evident that the programs and services available in the community were not enough to meet the complex needs of families parenting children who have, sadly, experienced so much trauma and loss in their lives. Jessyca and Linda knew this first hand - both as adoptive parents and Jessyca as an adopted person herself. They were able to combine their life experiences and education with their professional knowledge and experience and set the foundation for A Step Further. They had a vision to be able to help other families experience the joys of parenting, childhood, and family life – just as parents hope when building their families. Jessyca continues to work with Right Turn staff to fine tune A Step Further by traveling around the state and facilitating the A Step Further Workshop for parents. We are so thankful for her continued dedication to A Step Further in her current role as the Director of Permanency and Well-being Programs at Lutheran Family Services. We also have sincere gratitude for both of our collaborative agencies, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska and Nebraska Children’s Home Society, who have contributed to Right Turn to make what we do possible and successful.

A Step Further takes what we know about attachment, brain development, trauma and loss, and healing and puts it into practice. Parents become part of the healing process for their children and begin to understand their child's behavior, mental health needs, and challenges differently. A Step Further is firmly rooted in research on the impact trauma and loss has on the brain and how changing the focus in every day parenting can impact brain development. Parents help to heal the parts of the brain which are underdeveloped or harmed because of child trauma and begin (or continue) to build a positive, enjoyable relationship with their child.

Thanks to forethought and insight from our Right Turn Board of Directors, we have evidence that A Step Further is making an impact for parents and children. In addition to all of the wonderful feedback we receive from families who participate, The Prevention Group - a research collaborative developing and testing meaningful interventions for school, home, and work environments - has been helping us to collect and analyze data about the progress families are making. Changes in standardized assessments scores and progress toward family goals show remarkable improvements. Significant improvements in children’s behaviors and the relationships between parents and their children are very exciting. We recently received an opportunity through Nebraska Children’s Home Society to present this exciting research at the ‘Wicked Problems: Grand Challenges of Child Welfare’ conference in Washington D.C. The conference is organized by Children’s Home Society of America and University of North Carolina School of Social Work at Chapel Hill. I was so proud to be able to share about the A Step Further curriculum with Right Turn Board Member and Nebraska Children’s Home Society CEO, Karen Authier.

Being amongst the remarkable buildings and monuments of Washington D.C. and the history of our country, I reflected on the reason I was there – to continue the dedicated work of the people of Right Turn in improving the lives of children and their families. Beginning with Jessyca and Linda and all of the late nights researching, writing, and talking on the phone, to the Right Turn staff working one on one with parents and children, and the continued work to improve and improve based on what we are learning. The mom in me kept hearing Dr. Seuss ‘Oh the places you’ll go!’. I am excited for where we are headed.

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