May 25, 2015

Study: Nebraska needs more kids in families & foster families

Tracey Feild, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Tracey Feild, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A new report shows Nebraska has made improvements, but still has too many children living in institutions and group care situations, not families.

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds 16% of children in the foster care system in Nebraska were placed outside of families, compared to the national average of 14%.

Tracey Field, director of the foundation’s child welfare strategy group, says over-reliance on group placement is becoming the norm.

“While 16% isn’t terrible, we are certain that they could do better,” Feild says. “The best states have 5% of kids in group facilities or institutions, so there’s a long way to go to get to the highest performance and get to the best environment for kids’ living situations who must be removed from their families.”

Research in the “Every Kid Needs a Family” report shows youth in group placements were more than twice as likely to be arrested compared with similar youth in foster families.

Feild says children, especially teenagers, need a strong moral compass to help develop into productive adults, something they can get in a family setting.

“When kids grow up and age out of institutions, they don’t do as well,” Feild says. “They don’t have the same educational attainment, they don’t have the same employment abilities and they aren’t able as well to develop families of their own.”

In addition to the toll on a child’s cognitive and social development, the report finds group placements cost the state seven to ten times what it costs to place a child in family or foster care. The organization offers several suggestions, Feild says, to start turning the numbers around.

“Let’s try and provide services in the home, in their birth families, to give the families and to give the kids help in dealing with the conflicts that often emerge in their teenage years,” Feild says. “Second, is to better support our foster parents and our kinship caregivers.”

A third area would be to require more and better justification when a child comes into the foster care system before the child is put in an institution. She says that should be a temporary solution, at the most, not long-term.

Nebraska student at International Science & Engineering Fair

This is a big week for former Allen Consolidated School student Coleman Kneifl. He graduated from high school last week and on Sunday he flew to Pittsburg to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Kneifl earned his spot in the fair by winning local and state competitions. His project involves reducing the growth of Goss’s Wilt bacterium in corn.

Kneifl says, “Right now there is no proven cure for farmers that works every time and has a good return on investment. So what I looked at is how the microorganisms in a cattle manure sample affect the growth of this Goss’s Wilt bacterium to see if maybe that could be an avenue of prevention down the road. In a lab setting these manure microbes did reduce the Goss’s Wilt. Maybe this would be something to look at in a field later on.”

Kneifl presented his project to judges yesterday and will find out the results either tonight or tomorrow.

The competition is stiff. Approximately 1,700 students from more than 75 countries are taking part in this fair. There is $4-million in awards and scholarships up for grabs with the top prize at 75-thousand dollars. There are also representatives from companies that may be interested in purchasing some of the projects that are on display.

Kneifl plans to study agronomy in college this fall.

Wayne State College gets new president from SDSU

Marysz Rames

Marysz Rames

The new president of Wayne State College will be Marysz Rames, who’s served at South Dakota State University for 29 years, including 15 years as Vice President of Student Affairs.

During her time at SDSU, Rames spent about nine months as interim president.

Rames says, “I decided at that point, I’d like the opportunity to continue to serve in a presidential role and be able to provide leadership at that level to an institution.”

Rames says her time at Dakota State, a smaller university, helped her make the decision to head to Wayne.

“What I find, when you’re a president at a smaller institution,” she says, “you get an opportunity to work more directly with students and faculty and staff and continuing to fulfill the mission of the institution.”

She says that she will miss the leadership at SDSU, but she is excited to get started at Wayne State. Her first day as president will be July 13th.

“My goal is to get there and have an opportunity to meet with the different constituent groups both on campus and externally to talk about the strengths of the institution and the challenges folks see us facing,” she says, “and based on that feedback, talk about where we go from here.”

The current Wayne State president, Curt Frye, is retiring from the position at the end of June.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


UNK’s marching band heads for gig in Norway this week

UNK logoThirty-seven members of the University of Nebraska at Kearney marching band will be heading 4,500 miles away this week to perform in a Norwegian town’s National Day parade event.

Duane Bierman, director of the UNK Pride of the Plains marching band, says they’ll leave Wednesday for Sandefjord, Norway. Bierman explains how it all came about:

“One of my friends from graduate school is a Norwegian band director,” Bierman says. “I went to visit him in 2012 to work with his bands for a few days. At the end of my time there, the band director and the parent organization of that band asked if I’d be interested in bringing our entire marching band over sometime, so we’ve been planning it ever since.”

According to Bierman, the trip would not have been possible if not for the generous support of university administrators and staff.

“We understand and they understand the importance of travel like this, immersion into different cultures, the benefit to our students, both educationally, culturally and just as human beings, being a world citizen,” Bierman says. “We’ve been granted assistance monetarily for these students from our department and from the college and from the chancellor.”

The National Day parade is something like the 4th of July celebration in America, he says. In addition to performing in the parades, the UNK delegation will also get to do some exploring to learn a little bit about the European country’s heritage.

“We’re able to visit a world heritage site on the coast where there’s a Viking burial site,” Bierman says. “We’re able to visit a very old, 11th or 12th century wooden stave church, and the parent organization from the Norwegian band has set up all of these activities for us. That makes it more of a whole-package cultural trip for us.”

The band is scheduled to return on May 19th. UNK’s band takes an overseas trip every four years with visits to France and Italy being among the most recent ventures.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Job-hunting new grads should “scrub” social media accounts first

Social Media IconsThousands of young Nebraskans are about to graduate from college and they’ll be flooding the internet with their resumes over the next few weeks as they begin job hunts.

Susan McBroom, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, says before you type the first letter on your resume, check Instagram and all other online accounts to make sure there’s nothing in text or photos that could affect your future employment.

“Large and small companies do frequently check social media of job applicants before they conduct the interview,” McBroom says. “This would mean any pictures of parties or any pictures that might have a bad reflection on that individual. They really need to micromanage their MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

Other tips include: limit your resume to two pages, be sure objectives are clearly stated and note volunteer and internship experience. Apply for at least five jobs a week, McBroom says, and use multiple websites.

“USA Jobs, or the federal websites, be sure if you do apply for a federal job to review the application process with the resume because there’s a specific format to follow,” McBroom says. “You’ve also got Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed is the biggest website for a variety of jobs that people can look through.”

McBroom says applying for jobs can quickly become a fulltime job in itself.

“Between 2014 and 2015, there’s going to be 1.8 million people graduating with bachelor’s degrees and 821,000 with master’s degrees and so on, so the competition is out there,” McBroom says. “If you’ve got a good resume and a good work history, you need to be aggressive and apply, call the employer a week later.”

Even if the ad says “No calls,” she says to call anyway, just to be sure your resume was received and reviewed and answer any questions they may have.

Some careers and professions have a particularly bright future, McBroom says. Those include: all health and medical jobs, behavioral health jobs, mental health for the military and substance abuse.

“The biggest growth careers are in health care, obviously” McBroom says. “Projected growth is going to be about 10.8% so, anything in the health field such as nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical assistants, is going to be a green and growing job.”

In the years since the recession, she says the job outlook has improved and salaries are increasing. A recent study found high school graduates had a median income of $651 per week, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned a median income of $1,108 per week, and those with a doctorate earned a median income of $1,623 per week.