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Alternative Response program seeks to connect families with support services

A new state program seeks to provide an alternative approach for dealing with issues of abuse and neglect.

The Alternative Response program began this month in five Nebraska counties, including Dodge, Sarpy, and Lancaster.

Jerrilyn Crenshaw, Services Delivery Administrator for the Department of Children and Family Services, says the goal is to intervene and provide services early in cases of less serious child abuse and neglect, such as poverty-related and behavioral health issues.

"Instead of doing an investigation, it includes the same kind of thing where we do a safety assessment and risk assessments, but also partnering with the family and the parents or caregivers up front and saying this is what was reported, how might we be able to assist your family. Do you have any unmet needs, what are the concerns, how can we be solution-oriented."

Crenshaw says there’s a need for both the traditional and alternative response programs in cases of abuse and neglect. Right now, the department is seeking flexible funding sources to help address families’ transportation, food, shelter, and other needs.

She estimates about 90 families a month will be eligible for the alternative response program.