Gov. Dave Heineman’s office today announced that the governor has appointed the 18 members of the Nebraska Children’s Commission, approved by the legislature this past session. LB 821 created the commission as part of a series of steps taken by the legislature to address problems in the state child welfare system. The commission will help guide the state to make improvements in the system that takes in neglected and abused children removed from their home.
As outlined by law, the voting members of the commission will include:
CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services: Kerry Winterer.
Director of the Division of Children and Family Services within the Department of Health and Human Services: Thomas Pristow.
The commission will include the following voting members appointed by Gov. Heineman:
Director of a child advocacy center: Gene Klein of Omaha, Executive Director of Project Harmony.
Administrator of a behavioral health region: Beth Baxter of Kearney, Region 3 Behavioral Health Administrator.
Community representatives from the southeastern service area: Patrick Ethridge of Beatrice, Editor/ Interim Publisher of the Beatrice Daily Sun.
Community representatives from the northern service area: Dale Shotkoski of Fremont, City Administrator.
Community representatives from the central service area: John Northrop of Hastings, a local business owner.
Community representatives from the western service area: Becky Sorensen of Mitchell, a recently retired social worker and counselor.
Community representatives from the eastern service area: David Newell of Omaha, Executive Director of Nebraska Families Collaborative.
Prosecuting attorney who practices in juvenile court: Martin Klein of Grand Island, Deputy Hall County Attorney.
Guardian ad litem: Attorney Norman Langemach of Lincoln.
Biological parent currently or previously involved in the child welfare system: Candy Kennedy Goergen of Upland, Executive Director of Nebraska Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.
Foster parent: Lisa Lechowicz of Omaha, foster parent of two and business owner.
Court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer: Nancy Forney of Scottsbluff, a 6-year CASA volunteer.
Member of the state or local Foster Care Review Board: Susan Staab of Lincoln, a member of the State Foster Care Review Board.
Child welfare service agency that directly provides child welfare services: Karen Authier of Omaha, Executive Director of Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
Young adult previously in foster care: Janteice Holston of Wahoo, a Certified Nursing Assistant who spent 17 years in foster care.
Representative of a child advocacy organization: Mary Jo Pankoke of Lincoln, Executive Director of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.
Additionally, as outlined by law, the commission will include the following 6 non-voting ex-officio members:
Chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee: State Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln.
Chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee: State Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha.
Chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee: State Senator Lavon Heidemann of Elk Creek.
Lancaster Juvenile Court Judge Linda Porter of Lincoln.
Dr. Vicky Weisz of Lincoln, with the Nebraska Court Improvement Project.
State Probation Administrator Ellen Brokofsky of Lincoln.