Letter to the Editor

Lutheran Family Services served county well

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dear Editor,

As a partner of Red Willow County, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS) has served under the direction of Red Willow County for the Pretrial Juvenile Diversion program. This important program helps to keep an average of 80 youth per year from entering into the juvenile justice system.

A recent article, “County taking over juvenile pretrial diversion program,” published in the McCook Gazette on May 08, 2018, highlighted this program but incorporated some inaccuracies that LFS feels are important to address and correct. These are as follows:

As a funding recipient of Red Willow County, LFS does not oversee the contract. LFS’ responsibility is to Red Willow County, and as the lead, Red Willow bears the main oversight of the contract and is responsible for the grant requirements as outlined by the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (Crime Commission).

LFS employee, Christine Berry, manages the diversion program and has done so successfully for the past 10 years. As a long-time resident of McCook, Ms. Berry represents LFS and its administration at county board meetings.

The demands of the program have generally gone unchanged for over 10 years; as such, even if LFS could, as a grantee/sub-contractor, impose more demands, none have been made by LFS.

During an April 2, 2018 teleconference meeting between Red Willow County, the Crime Commission, and LFS, the Crime Commission attempted to afford Red Willow as much flexibility as it could to meet the requirements for the documentation of grant activities.

LFS would welcome input for program improvement and increased grant funding. LFS would gladly partner with County Commissioner Earl McNutt to adjust the program, should Red Willow suggest that, and vie for further funding to support this important work. Because LFS is committed to and appreciative of our long-standing partnership with Red Willow County through the leadership of County Commissioner McNutt, we would gladly follow Mr. McNutt’s leadership as he is the lead decision maker on the grant.

LFS would also welcome the opportunity to partner with Red Willow County to create even more positive impact in McCook. The funding partnership through the Crime Commission, as it is currently structured, only allows LFS to partner on diversion programs. Any further programmatic work would need to be supported through other financial means. At the time of this writing, LFS is unaware of other programs Red Willow County can fund.

LFS values its partnership with Red Willow County in McCook and was disheartened by the news of this change in direction. Public-private partnerships bring about far more positive and impactful programs than either the non-profit or government sectors can do alone. LFS stands ready to continue our partnership with Red Willow County should this change of course prove to be less impactful than this long-standing partnership has already demonstrated.

In the end, LFS wants to ensure youth in Red Willow County and beyond, whose lives have been positively changed via the diversion program and have successfully avoided entering the juvenile justice system, continue to have access to these quality services, regardless of LFS’ role. LFS looks forward to hearing about the wonderful things Red Willow County and the other counties are doing to change the lives of our most precious resource – our children and youth. LFS will do whatever we can to make the transition for the youth and families a success, should Red Willow County like LFS’ assistance.

Todd L. Reckling

Vice President of Program

Lutheran Family

Services of Nebraska

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