2022 Court Improvement Project Children’s Summit

September 23, 2022

The Court Improvement Project (CIP) hosted approximately 500 attendees at the 2022 Children’s Summit in Kearney, Nebraska. Chief Justice Michael Heavican and Court Administrator Corey Steel welcomed attendees to the two-day conference Wednesday morning, September 13.

The theme of this year’s triennial Summit was “Keeping It R.E.A.L. – Relate, Engage, Affirm, Listen” and focused on authentic engagement of children and families who are involved in the Nebraska court system.

The Summit consisted of keynote speakers Josh Shipp and Hasan Davis, along with over 50 concurrent sessions over the two-day conference.

CIP presented three awards during Wednesday’s luncheon. Judge Chad Brown received the Michael Offner Memorial Award for Judicial Leadership for his work in Douglas County on domestic violence issues and the “Safe and Together” initiative. The Resilience Award was presented to Andrea Miller, who was unable to attend. Miller was involved with the court system and lost custody of her children, but the family has been reunited by overcoming obstacles and challenges to rebuild her life. Bri McLarty, Dodge County Deputy County Attorney, received the Distinguished Service Award for her work and commitment to children and families to strive for the best possible outcomes. The Through the Eyes of the Child Team Award for Excellence was awarded to Team 1 (Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Pawnee, Richardson, Saline, Thayer) led by Judge Linda Bauer and Julie Wragge, Coordinator. Judge Bauer’s team has impacted the community through donations of duffel bags stocked with items for children who are removed from homes in an emergency. The team also held a pillow drive, providing children comfort, before COVID-19 interrupted that initiative.

CIP Director Deb VanDyke-Ries summed up the Children’s Summit, “The Court Improvement Project is proud to convene juvenile court stakeholders from across the state to learn about innovative services and programs, network with colleagues, and discuss how the Through the Eyes of the Child teams can improve the court experience for children, youth and families.”

On Monday evening, before the conference, the CIP team hosted the Judges’ and Team Coordinators’ meetings with other attendees, including the Chief Justice, Court Administrator Corey Steel, Director of Department of Health and Human Services Stephanie Beasley, Probation Administrator Deb Minardi, Nebraska Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Matthew Blomstedt, and Children’s Bureau Program Specialist Debi Hatfield.