Lutheran Family Services 5/3/16 Law Day 05/04/16 10:52:34 AM
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Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska’s longtime director, Ruth Henrichs keeps many balls in the air as she juggles their many services.
Lutheran Family Services:
We Are There ‘To Assist and Provide Order to Society’
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska is a faith-based, not-for-profit, multi-service human care organization. Impacting over 43,000 individuals annually, LFS’s services are diverse and available to everyone without regard to race, religion, color, or any other discriminatory basis.
Lutheran Family Services has served the people of Nebraska for 124 years. What started as an organization serving orphans has evolved into a wide range of services for children and families.
Today, the Omaha Bar Association will honor the organization with their highest non-lawyer recognition, the Public Service Award.
One of the criteria for the award is: “The recipient has focused on providing service to the community for purposes other than pecuniary profits.”
That suits them to a tee, President and CEO Ruth Henrichs heartily agreed.
“Our core competencies are Children Services, Behavioral Health and Community Services. We work with many other agencies to deliver those services. It’s all about providing safety, hope and well being for all people,” she said. “Omaha is a great community. There are many great examples of everyone working together.”
That “service to the community” is so far-reaching it is difficult to even begin to list the ways they impact our lives.
LFS, with about 360 staffers statewide in 18 office locations spanning from North Platte and Lexington in the west to Council Bluffs in the east, works with myriad agencies all focused on people being safe.
Services include adoption services, something LFS’s board vice-chair knows something about. Stu Dornan, a principal at the law firm of Dornan, Lustgarten & Troia, has served since 2010, now in his seventh and last year on the board.
Dornan and his wife Dari, also an attorney, have adopted five of their nine children from Romania or Russia. The agency they worked with has since been absorbed by LFS. But their experiences sparked an interest in LFS.
“I got involved because the people they serve often don’t have a voice or the facilities to frame social policy or social justice issues,” Dornan said. “I knew they deserved my time because of their commitment to the poor, the friendless and the needy. Their commitment is just extraordinary.”
“Their impact in behavioral health is great. Recently they have been on the cutting edge of integrated health care. With ‘one-stop shopping,’ they are able to refer someone for both physical and mental health.
“And they assist law enforcement. For instance, our RSafe® program, which works with both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse.”
Fa’iz Rab, LFS director of public relations, related a story of the kinds of services they provide:
“Last year, an attorney referred a client to our supervisor of Rsafe®. The client, a father, had sexually abused his child. The victimized child was being seen by another professional who didn’t have specialized training in providing therapy for a child traumatized by sexual abuse, so our team worked to enroll the whole family in a therapy program.
“We worked with the father (the offender) until the sentence came through, without impacting the legal outcome. Our work with the offender led to reparation so that the victim is now a survivor and the family is better equipped to deal with the trauma.
Stu and Dari Dornan at an LFS event. Stu has been on the board of directors for seven years.
“The client is now discharged with an active positive success plan. This would not have occurred had it not been for a proactive attorney looking out for the best interests of all those involved, and electing to contact our RSafe® program.”
Another important focus of LFS’s Community Services is immigration services for refugees. In addition to helping them get settled, they offer interpreting and employment services. They work with veterans, including refugees with special visas – those who served as interpreters for the military overseas. “Omaha had been very welcoming to them,” Henrichs said.
The LFS website says, “Community Services programs provide high-quality direct support services for refugees, immigrants, asylees and victims of international human trafficking. LFS caseworkers are knowledgeable and skilled in case management, advocacy, cultural orientation, education, immigration legal services, employment and job readiness training.”
Furthermore, in another nod to the ties between LFS and attorneys, the website states: “LFS is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) as a qualified immigration legal service provider. All practicing immigration specialists have received extensive education and training in immigration law and have obtained BIA accreditation. An immigration attorney is also available for individuals in removal or deportation proceedings who need representation in immigration court.
“LFS offers affordable, quality immigration legal assistance to refugees, immigrants and asylees.”
Another area of service is their diversion program for juveniles and young adults, a positive alternative than can divert them from further court system involvement.
And they work alongside law enforcement to provide an emergency crisis response.
“We go in and do triage,” Henrichs said. “It is often when children are removed from the home.”
Dornan said they work closely with Project Harmony. LFS Children Services comprises three divisions: Prevention and Early Intervention, Permanency and Well-Being, and Children’s Behavioral Health.
LFS provides substance abuse programs as well.
“Behind addictions are stories of pain and suffering,” Henrichs said. “It takes all of us working together to make a difference. We all have a part to play.”
LFS meets another of the award’s criteria: The recipient has demonstrated long-term commitment to the enhancement of the public’s knowledge of the law.
Henrichs also said people don’t realize how much pro bono work attorneys provide their clients. They even share office space in one western Nebraska location.
“We work with the legal profession, and we do a lot of community speaking and workshops to educate the public about things such as foster care, the laws concerning drugs and alcohol, abuse situations. We educate our clients and the public. Healthy families make healthy communities. Education is very much a part of our faith-based mission.”
Whatever the need, Dornan said, “We are there to assist and to provide order to society. We work with law enforcement in many ways. We work to allow God’s love to work through them.”
Funded in part by donations, LFS will be participating in Omaha Gives! on May 25. “The donor commitment in Omaha has been stellar,” Henrichs said.
Henrichs said, “Part of the wonderfulness of this award is others recognizing our efforts. I can hardly put into words what it means to us.
“Sometimes people think they and their efforts are insignificant. But put it all together, and it is a significant contribution.”