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Proof: The Family That Stays Together … Plays Together! 6/12/17  06/15/17 11:33:44 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Judge Douglas F. Johnson enjoys a fun night at the Omaha Children’s Museum with Brittani, her daughter and her Nebraska Families Collaborative Training Specialist, Casey Ripperger.        
Proof: The Family That Stays Together … Plays Together!
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

A success. That’s what Judge Douglas F. Johnson called this year’s Douglas County Juvenile Court’s “Summer Family Picnic,” which saw about 100 families in attendance. Now in its eighth year, the event began at Elmwood Park, moved to Boys Town, and this year was held at the Omaha Children’s Museum in downtown Omaha.
“It’s our way to congratulate them for keeping their families together,” Johnson said.
While children played games, and parents socialized, Judge Johnson manned the grill, cooking up hamburgers. Chips, cookies, and drinks were also served. Gift cards to Target and Bakers were given out, with the grand prize being a membership to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. The winner donated it to Brittani, who gave a short speech about how she had gone “through the system” and came out the other side.
The 24-year-old mother of three explained that as a child, she was in “the system,” more specifically foster care, but was fortunate enough to have grandparents who could raise her. A boyfriend “got her out of the system,” and was the first person to show her love. But he also brought her heartache and her life turmoil. When she was 19 years old, she was at work at a daycare, when the authorities showed up to tell her that her boyfriend had been arrested for drug offenses (He is serving 15 years.) and that her 5-month-old son was being taken away.
“At the time, I was pregnant with my daughter,” she said.
To make matters worse, the house she was living in was her boyfriend’s and she couldn’t afford the $800 rent. “Everything was in his name,” she added.
To get back her son, she had to do “a lot of things,” including taking classes on parenting, going to AA meetings, getting her own place, taking drug tests, making sure that she saw her son three times a week and more. “I didn’t have the drug problem, but I still had to do these things,” she said. “At first I was angry. It’s not fair. But I knew my child needed me. No one did it for me. I had to want it. To do it for myself.”
She said that she’s thankful for her caseworker, Casey, with whom she is still close, and her grandparents. “They did foster care for me; they raised us,” she said. “I missed my son’s first year. I don’t want to miss anything else. I never gave up. I learned my own strength. No one has your back like your own. I have a great job now, my own place, a car, a boyfriend. … I support three children. The best part of my day is dinnertime with my kids; when I can sit down with them. My main goal is to make my grandparents proud.”
The Juvenile Court Family Picnic was from 6 to 8:30 p.m. In addition to Judge Johnson, Nick Juliano of Boys Town and Kimberly Thomas of Douglas County Nebraska CASA were coordinating events.

Make-up and face-painting are huge lures for little girls.

Fun and games predominated during the jam-packed event.
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