August, 2014 

Welcome to the summer edition of the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association (NJJA) newsletter. NJJA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving services to youth in the juvenile justice system by fostering collaboration, leadership, and education among juvenile justice system professionals.  


Feature Articles
5 Things to Consider Regarding Reentry and Employment 

By Sam Aspnes 


I tell most people my first job was working the concession stand of a movie theater. In reality, my first job was being a part of my parents' labor force. Despite many laws outlawing forced child labor, my parents flaunted the law and made me mow the lawn, clean the house, and (gasp) dig rocks out of the yard. Of course I realize now that work has helped me in many ways - although I would never admit that to my parents.


Employment breeds a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. It connects a person to their community. And honest work precludes adults and youth from having to make money in more "creative" ways.


For youth transitioning out of YRTCs or other out-of-home placements, finding and keeping a job is important for a successful transition back into the community. I talked with Mark Mason of Nebraska VR (vocational rehabilitation) and Jim Bennett, Program Specialist for Reentry at the Office of Probation Administration, about things to think about when helping youth get back to work. Here are the top 5:


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Hope After Juvenile Detention? You Bet. 



Olympia, WA - For kids wondering if they can ever recover from the mistakes of youth, they need look no further than the story of Starcia Ague. Despite a horrific childhood and a serious juvenile criminal history, Starcia now works for the President of the United States. 


Starcia grew up in Washington State with a meth-dealer dad and a mom who kicked her out of the house at 11 years old...  


Starcia Documentary


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My Weekend at Camp
By Amy West, Nebraska Appleseed

"So, what did you do this weekend?"


Usually, I don't have a great answer for this popular Monday morning question. "Hmmm...I played with my cats, read a little, did some yard work, went for a run, maybe went out to dinner." Yup, that pretty much summarizes a typical weekend in my life.


A few weeks ago, however, my answer was a little different: "I had an amazing, incredibly heartwarming, life-altering experience!" What might that experience be, you ask? I went to camp.


Camp Catch-Up, through the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF), is a one-of-a-kind, annual camp that brings together siblings separated by foster care or adoption for three days of pure, unbridled childhood fun. Free of cost to the youth, Camp Catch-Up reunites siblings ages 8-19 who may not have seen each other for weeks, months, or even years and gives them a chance to "catch up."


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This blog post was originally published in the  Nebraska Appleseed Blog in July 2012 and is reproduced here with permission from the author. 
How It All Went Down: 
2014 Conference Recap 
By Monica Miles-Steffens

On behalf of the NJJA Board, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who came together for the 2014 Annual NJJA Conference!  We can soundly say that this year's conference was bigger and better than ever, and we owe it all to the hardworking men and women who attend this conference year after year.  It was great to hear from one attendee who said, "Sometimes people leave conferences and they feel drained, but people left this conference ready to implement ideas that they heard and excited about their work."


There were some new additions to the conference this year including... 

NJJA Announcements
Burns Proves Spirit of Youth



Lincoln, NE - The Nebraska Coalition of Juvenile Justice honored Thomas Burns with the 2014 Spirit of Youth Award. Burns was recognized for using his experiences in the Juvenile Justice system to give back to youth involved in the system and to strive towards personal goals.


Burns became involved in the Juvenile Justice system as a teen due to involvement with drugs. He recalls his time in intensive treatment programs, drug court, and probation without bitterness...


A Fond Farewell

NJJA has made tremendous strides over the past few years. Much of our organization's growth is due to the leadership and dedication of our executive director, Monica Miles-Steffens. It is with much appreciation and a touch of sadness that the NJJA board has accepted Monica's resignation. She recently accepted a position with the Nebraska State Probation Administration as the Director of Placement.


Monica has been with NJJA for over 12 years. She became NJJA's very first executive director in 2012. Under Monica's leadership NJJA has expanded its outreach and education across the state, has helped our annual conference grow from a couple hundred people to over 400 in 2014, and helped NJJA gain 501(c)(3) status.

Monica has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of young people through education, collaboration, and leadership at the highest levels of Juvenile Justice. For these reasons and many more, we are sad to see Monica move on but are very happy for her as she continues her professional journey.


Monica will continue to stay affiliated with NJJA and will remain with us as we look to transition a new executive director into this position. 




NJJA Board of Directors


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