Eight sponsoring programs. Five hundred thirty-five attendees. Forty breakout sessions. Two whole days of focusing on young children at risk in Nebraska. The first time professionals from prevention to intervention have come together to discuss and learn about improving outcomes for our youngest children. The Nebraska Young Child Institute just successfully concluded its inaugural conference in Kearney.
With new programming and expansion of existing programming happening every month, it is an exciting time in Nebraska for early childhood. The Nebraska Young Child Institute (NYCI) was a celebration and highlight of these efforts and an opportunity to learn more about what is happening and what still needs to be accomplished. The NYCI was kicked off on Monday, June 27, by Judge Douglas Johnson of Douglas County Separate Juvenile Court as emcee with welcoming comments by First Lady Susanne Shore, Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Matt Blomstedt, and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services CEO Courtney Phillips. Dr. Brenda Jones-Harden, from the Institute for Child Study/Department of Human Development at the University of Maryland, gave the opening plenary talk about the impact of trauma on young children and a highlight of public health initiatives to address those issues, which included Child-Parent Psychotherapy.
Diverse Breakout Sessions Offered
Attendees—which included Early Development Network professionals, attorneys, judges, caseworkers, home visitors, early childhood educators and others—chose from a diverse selection of breakout sessions from six tracks: Impact of Trauma on the Developing Child, Young Child Development, Legal Representation, Maximizing the Juvenile Court System for Young Children, Evidence-Based Practices for At-Risk Young Children and Early Education. Most breakout presenters live and work in Nebraska and used their time to highlight their services or projects, or to address current needs in Nebraska. The highest attended breakout session was “The Impact of Trauma on Young Children” presented by Jennie Cole-Mossman of the Nebraska Resource Project for Vulnerable Young Children. Ms. Cole-Mossman was impressed by the engagement and thoughtfulness of the group and their ability to apply the content to their current cases.
Implementation of content is one of the goals of the NYCI. It’s not enough to learn about what is happening or what exists but to understand how it applies to the work that we do and how we can actually apply it to the work we do. Several breakout sessions—like "Learning the Habits of Reflective Practice," "How to Screen Young Child for Trauma" and "Improving Domestic Violence Case Outcomes for Children"—were intended to do just that.
The NYCI continued into Day 2 with a plenary talk by Dr. Sam Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute and a lunch policy panel hosted by Jen Goettemoeller, senior policy associate at First Five Nebraska, which included Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley, Jessie Rasmussen, president of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Dr. Rachel Wise, president of the State Board of Education, Tom Casady of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, and Doug Weinberg, director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services and Family Services.
On behalf of our partners, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of the inaugural Nebraska Young Child Institute and we look forward to our continued work together to improve the lives of Nebraska’s young children.
Co-Director, Nebraska Resource Project for Vulnerable Young Children