Our History

Agency Origin and Name Changes

Christian Workers Association 1875
Omaha City Mission 1875 – 1892
Associated Charities 1892 – 1929
Family Welfare Association & Children’s Bureau 1930 – 1945
Family Service of Omaha 1946 – 1966
Family & Child Service of Omaha 1967 – 1972
Family Service of Omaha-Council Bluffs 1973 – 1978
Family Service 1979 – 2003
Heartland Family Service 2004 – Present

Many of these nine name changes reflect the direction of service changes and additions that have occurred throughout more than a century of Heartland Family Service history. For a brief description of specific services, refer to the attached Synopsis of Services, provided with corresponding dates.

 

Synopsis of Services Provided

1800s

1875 The agency was founded by representatives from eight different Omaha churches to minimize duplication and deliver services effectively. Located at 1421 Douglas Street, “friendly visitors” provided visitation to the sick and poor, relief to the destitute, and conducted nonsectarian meetings in impoverished areas. The original purpose was to provide missions work in addition to charity and relief, name given to the new organization, the “Christian Workers Association,” was changed to the “Omaha City Mission.”

1891 Establishment of a wood yard for work relief. An industrial school was established for girls to teach sewing and proper work attitudes. This was probably the forerunner of the Sewing Room adopted as a WPA program in 1935.

1892  Low-cost medical care and supplies to the needy were provided through a medical dispensary staffed by 30 physicians. Established a rescue home for boys at 25th & Caldwell Streets. Agency director Reverend Alva W. Clark felt that “handouts” alone were not a long-lasting solution to poverty, and after attending a social work conference in Denver in 1892, he vigorously advocated that “work should be the basis of relief” in order to build self-help skills and thereby enable people to rise out of poverty. The “Provident Laundry and Training School” was opened to give work to widows and married women who had drunken and deserted husbands. A “Soup House” was formed. The agency’s name was changed to “Associated Charities.” 

1894  Established the “Free Employment Bureau.”

1900s

1909 Established the South Omaha branch, the Industrial Department, and a vacant lot gardening program. Reactivated the Legal Department. Formal training was designed for the “friendly visitors” volunteers. The Park Wild Home for stranded women and industrial training was established, and served as the forerunner of Omaha’s Social Settlement, Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.

1910 Established the “Visiting Housekeepers” program.

1911 The National Association of Societies for Organizing Charities was founded, linking together existing societies throughout the nation. (The Association was the forerunner of Family Service Association of America, then Family Service America and now the Alliance for Children and Families.) Douglas County commissioners authorized county aid only after investigation by our staff.

1912 Became a member of the National Association of Societies for Organizing Charities (now the Alliance for Families and Children).

1915 Seven departments were formalized:  Material Relief; Rehabilitation; Legal Aid; Medical Aid; Employment; Clearing House; and Remedial Loans.

1917 The Confidential Clearing House was established and endorsed by the Omaha Commercial Club, culminating more than 25 years of our efforts to establish it. The clearinghouse created a central exchange to coordinate names of beneficiaries of area relief agencies, to prevent overlapping of services and to reduce the incidence of fraud.

1924 Became member of the Community Chest and Council of Social Agencies (now United Way of the Midlands), which assumed financial responsibility for the agency, allowing staff to focus on staff training and service delivery. The Confidential Clearing House program became a separate organization sponsored by the Chest, marking a major change in the agency’s role as coordinator of Omaha’s charities and a return to the role of a private family welfare agency. Mrs. George Doane, the executive secretary, modernized agency standards by 1) recommending a more ample budget, 2) employing additional trained workers, 3) adopting a policy of more intensive and less extensive casework, to be carried out by “friendly visitors,” 4) reorganization of the south office, and 5) hiring a case supervisor for the central office.

Staff training increased in importance until the advent of World War II, when acute unemployment forced the agency to throw all of its available resources into alleviating the effects of the Depression. However, from this time on, the agency made an intensive effort to improve the efficiency of its personnel to by establishing in-service training programs and encouraging its caseworkers to continue their formal professional education. 

The emphasis of the National Association of Organizing Charities (now the Alliance for Families and Children) shifted away from investigation of the “worthy poor” to investigation of the client and his problem as a basis of helping him. This emphasis had already been implemented in the departments formalized by our agency in 1915.

1926 The Executive Committee of the Board decided to limit cases to those that could be handled with more intensive and permanent relief, as opposed to giving minimum aid to more families. Sarah H. James was hired as the agency’s first case supervisor and the first professionally trained staff person. Her hiring was significant, changing forever the role of the modern social case worker. Catholic Charities of Omaha was organized, and a formal agreement was made to gradually transfer new cases of Catholic families to that agency, if that family should so choose. The staff was formally trained in referral guidelines to the newly established Catholic Charities. The South Office was reorganized—one worker was replaced with three staff.

1927 The first conference of the National Association of Organizing Charities (Alliance for Children and Families) was held. Marriage counseling and family life education were discussed and “a fundamental program for the enrichment of family life in its deepest and broadest sense” was suggested. Mrs. Edith Dumont Smith was sent to the Family Welfare Association Institute in New York City for a six-week training. She was the first worker benefiting from a new policy of financing professional training for workers. Smith later was promoted to executive secretary (director) of the agency.

1928 Established the “Volunteer Motor Car Drivers Program,” with enough women automobile owners responding to take care of all needed transportation.

1929 A collaboration was formed between Family Service and the Omaha Junior League to provide casework services at the Junior League Day Nursery. The agency added a children’s bureau and expanded casework services to up to 16 additional child care centers during WWII.

1930 During the Great Depression of the 1930s, our agency carried the brunt of Omaha’s unemployment relief, until public welfare was organized sufficiently to take it over. Many of the techniques used in public works programs were developed in the agency’s early history, including work relief to bolster the recipient’s morale and skills and industrial programs to build the agency’s financial reserves. The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) conducted a survey of Omaha agencies to determine the need for a Children’s Bureau. As a result, our agency established the Bureau at the encouragement of prevailing local opinion, and changed its name to “Family Welfare Association and Children’s Bureau.”

1931 An Intake Bureau was established and carried the entire burden of unemployment for the Omaha area for one year, freeing up permanent staff to provide more intensive treatment. A North District Office was opened at 2807 North 24th Street, with three caseworkers and a supervisor, Mrs. Edith Dumont Smith. 

1932 The agency’s Children’s Bureau became a separate agency known as the Children’s Aid Society, and later as the Child Welfare Association. A formal agreement defined the relationship of the child to the caseworker as the determining factor in transferring cases from one agency to another. The Joint Emergency Service was created to administer unemployment relief supplied from county, federal and agency funds. This program laid the groundwork for and was the chief participant in the establishment of the Douglas County Relief Administration. 

1935 Due to relief work assumed by government organizations, a return to the original role of a private service agency was evidenced. Federal funds had been made available in 1933 to expand the Sewing Room program. In 1935, to address a huge unemployment problem, the U.S. Works Progress Administration assumed responsibilities for the Sewing Room, providing work and training for many unemployed women. Mrs. Edith Dumont Smith was promoted to executive secretary.

1936 The agency moved to the seventh floor of the Omaha Loan and Building Association Building. Cash relief was adopted as a general policy, to be used at the discretion of the executive secretary. When the WPA withdrew funding for its Visiting Homemaking Service, our agency collaborated with the Visiting Nurse Association, the Douglas County Assistance Bureau and Catholic Charities to provide cash and office space to continue the service.

 1937 Played an important role in the establishment of the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Nebraska through casework supervision and consultative services. An extensive study by the Personnel Committee resulted in a comprehensive body of personnel policies. A Traveler’s Aid Bureau was established as a separate department, to determine whether its services warranted its existence.

1939 When the closing of the UNO School of Social Work was seriously considered, our entire board of trustees drew up resolutions opposing the action. 

1940 County relief practices were so poor that relief clients picketed the Court House. We appealed to the Council of Social Agencies for action, and with major support from our agency, they presented 10 recommendations to the County Commissioners. In the next few years, improvements followed and most of the recommendations were implemented.

1941 Monthly psychiatric consultations for counseling staff were initiated and conducted by staff of the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis. As a result of the innovative program, the University of Nebraska further developed its graduate program in Social Work by arranging practicum placements at Family Service for graduate students to gain supervised therapeutic experience. This master’s degree internship program has continued to the present.

1943 Partially funded the Visiting Nurse Association and the Visiting Homemaker Service Program. The need for Traveler’s Aid was so great that we opened an office at the Union Station. An agreement with the American Red Cross eliminated much duplication of effort between the two agencies.

1944 Initiated a work/study program for agency staff with the University of Nebraska Graduate School of Social Work. Two scholarships were offered for one-year terms, in exchange for working for the agency for one year. Staff taught a course on “Psychiatric Information,” offered in the university catalog as an accredited course by 1947.

1945 World War II ended. The name of the agency was changed from Family Welfare Association to Family Service of Omaha. New programs began to emphasize “service” in place of “relief.” Advocacy efforts on behalf of relief recipients continued and often led to disagreement and conflicts with Douglas County. Assumed full responsibility for administering the Junior League’s Day Care Center upon request from Junior League and Community Chest (now United Way of the Midlands). This center was limited to children of working mothers. Casework admissions were conducted for up to 16 area day care centers during the war. 

1946 The agency name was changed to “Family Service of Omaha.” The agency operated two day care centers that were developed under the auspices of the public schools and financed with federal funds. The Junior League provided financial assistance for the centers through receipts of its “Jumble Shop for Child Care” thrift store. 

A difference of opinion arose concerning “line budgeting” after agency allocations were made by the Community Chest. A strong objection developed between Family Service and the Community Chest at both local and national levels. At some point after 1948, an agreement was reached that while the Community Chest could question budget items before the allocation, agencies would operate their budgets independently after the allocation was made. 

1947 Introduction of charging fees to clients who could afford to pay, thus broadening services to those who were not destitute. Received awards from the National Association of Organizing Charities (Family Service America/Alliance for Families & Children) for two consecutive years for excellence in casework service. 

1948 Family Service participated in the International Congress on Mental Health held in London. Case histories regarding the effects of war on children were shared with the Congress through one of the preparatory commissions. Four departments operated under separate funds: Family Services, Traveler’s Aid, Visiting Homemaker’s Service and Day Care Centers: the Junior League Day Nursery and the Central Grade School Day Nursery. 

1952 Initiated the screening of intake services for Legal Aid. Introduced and accelerated casework programs in family and marriage counseling, child care, adoption, temporary foster care and travelers’ aid. The 1960s and 1970s were decades that witnessed revolutionary changes in methods employed in delivering services and the types of services themselves.

1965 Project ENABLE was initiated to assist families in breaking the cycle of poverty through such efforts as the establishment of a dental clinic in East Omaha, construction of over 2 miles of sidewalks in impoverished areas, creation of the first public playground in East Omaha and the formation of such groups as MAW–Mothers for Adequate Welfare.

1966 Kellom Girls Center was established by the Hilltop-Pleasantview Public Homes neighborhood organization. This was the first girls’ center ever established in Omaha.

1967 Homemaker Service was introduced to the community. The name of the agency was changed to “Family & Child Service of Omaha.”

1968   The Community Development Program was founded. Originating as a request from the Omaha Housing Authority, the multi service center concept was developed.

1970   The Logan Fontenelle and Hilltop-Pleasantview MultiService Centers were established to assist residents of those low-income areas.

1972   Family Service of Council Bluffs and Family Service of Omaha merged to become “Family Service of Omaha-Council Bluffs.” Counselors from the Omaha office were placed in Council Bluffs. Throughout Family Service’s history, social casework played a prominent role in the agency’s efforts to serve the community. Today the Family Counseling Unit of Family Service offers professional services at six different locations throughout the Metropolitan Omaha Area and continues to provide consultation and direct services to the two operating child care centers.

1973 The administration of the Kellom Girls Club transferred from the YWCA to Family Service. The club was located at 2322(?) Charles Street, in the basement of an Omaha Housing Authority building.

1974 First Positive Parenting Group was held. A Community Development Program was implemented at the Council Bluffs office and the Council Bluffs Advisory Committee was formed.

 1975 Family Service and the Junior League of Omaha co-sponsored the Parent Assistance Line. The Papillion MultiService Center and the Sarpy County Advisory Committee were formed. Family Service provided a community development worker to aid in the large-scale layoffs when area meat packing plants closed (1975, Wilson; 1979, Armour). 

1977 The Bellevue MultiService Center was established and the Bellevue Subcommittee was formed. 

Family Service entered into a contract with InterNorth, Inc., to provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This was one of the first-ever EAP contracts offered in the metro Omaha area.

1978 The Junior League transferred financial and administrative responsibility for the Parent Assistance Line (PAL) to Family Service. The Junior League continued to place volunteers with PAL.

1979 Family Service began workshops and training for professionals through Families In New Environments (FINE), a family divorce workshop. The name was later changed to “Building Two Homes From One.” 

Family Service was recipient of a special citation of the nationally competitive Margaret E. Rich Award for exemplary activity in family advocacy. The award was presented at the Family Service Association of America (FSAA) Biennial Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Bellevue Multi-Service Center moved from the Galvin Road location to the old Bellevue Public Library at 1912 Hancock. Family Service Kellom Girls Club moved to 1601 North 22 Street. The Sarpy County Domestic Abuse Program (DAP) was initiated through a grant from Nebraska Department of Public Welfare, and a 24-hour crisis line was offered to the public. The name of the agency was shortened to “Family Service” to indicate the increasing metro area it served. 

1980 Family Service entered into a co-sponsorship agreement with River Bluffs Mental Health Center (Mercy Mental Health Center) to share the responsibilities of the Families In New Environments workshops. The Sarpy County Volunteer Bureau was established at the Multi-Service Center at Papillion.

1981 The Family Life Education (FLE) Unit was formed in response to the need to offer various workshops, seminars and classes to the community. Under the umbrella of this unit are Positive Parenting Groups (PPG), Coping Groups, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP), Families In New Environments (FINE) and the Parent Assistance Line (PAL). Family Service “Strength to Families Benefit” was organized and established as an annual fund-raising event. Kellom Girls Club was renovated and the second floor opened for service. An ACTION grant was awarded to Family Service to administer the Sarpy County Volunteer Bureau.

The Council Bluffs Counseling Office and Little People Day Care/Preschool was located with Community Development to form the Council Bluffs Multi-Service Center. The Iowa Department of Substance Abuse funded the outpatient treatment services through the newly created Chemical Dependency Unit in Pottawattamie and Mills counties–Council Bluffs and Glenwood, Iowa. 

1982   The Kellom Girls Club name was changed to Family Service Kellom Girls Center. Family Service Sarpy County Volunteer Bureau was transferred to United Way of the Midlands Volunteer Bureau. The Family Service Development Department was formulated in recognition of the increasingly sophisticated fundraising climate pervading the social services community. Family Service implemented local sponsorship of the Menninger Foundation’s Family Therapy Training Program. This two-year program is an extension service of the Marriage & Family Program at the Topeka Menninger Foundation. It gives local community practitioners the opportunity to complete this prestigious and important training in Family Therapy at the Family Service Administrative Office.

The first Great American Family Awards Program (now Salute to Families Awards) was held, both in the Omaha metro area and in the nation. The development of this event reflected the agency’s intentional promotion of strong families as public role models to help restore the declining image of family life. The Dorothy Harris family, Metro Omaha’s first Great American Family, was honored at the White House. Dorothy was a foster and adoptive parent of children with severe emotional disturbances. The family lived in Carter Lake. 

1983 “Friends of the Family” was established as a membership organization to assist Family Service. New classes on “Stepfamilies and Stepparenting” were offered in response to the dramatic increase of stepfamily concerns being presented in counseling sessions. The agency’s first computer system was purchased and used to assist Family Service with mailing lists, budgeting and word processing. The Parent Assistance Line (PAL) separated from Family Service to serve the entire State of Nebraska with a toll-free number. 

1984   The Multi-Service Center at Papillion moved into new quarters with additional space to expand services. The Domestic Abuse Program introduced the “Safe Home” concept, where victims of domestic abuse were able to stay in the homes of specifically recruited and trained providers for up to three days.

Family Service received its first accreditation by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Children and Families (COA). Reaccreditation, which is required every four years, attests that an organization continues to meet the highest national standards. It provides assurance that the organization is performing services the community needs, conducting its operations safely and effectively managing its funds wisely. The review process involves an in-depth, detailed examination of the organization’s operations including personnel, safety, fiscal and program management. 

1985   A special one-year Teen Parent Achievement Program was contracted with the Nebraska Department of Social Services to address the growing problem of teen pregnancy and to educate young parents about their roles. A second metro Omaha Great American Family was honored at the White House. Gladys Dickey of Omaha was single parent with four boys. The Family Counseling Unit initiated a brief therapy program to train counselors in new and innovative techniques to effectively shorten therapy for clients. New guidelines were developed for Family Service advisory committees, and a new Family Service North Omaha Advisory Committee was developed to more closely follow these guidelines.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was developed for Family Service employees on an exchange basis with two community agencies–Social Settlement and Lutheran Family Service. Domestic Abuse Program (DAP) added a Batterers’ Support Group to help abusers control their anger and violent behaviors.

1986   The Family Service Kellom Girls Center name was changed to Family Service Ruth K. Solomon Girls Center to honor a dedicated board member and an enthusiastic, long-time supporter of the girls center, Ruth K. Solomon. Families In New Environments (FINE), a family divorce workshop, was changed when Mercy Mental Health Center relinquished co-sponsorship. It was revamped to a seven-week format as an exclusive Family Service program called, “Building Two Homes From One (BTHFO).” A Compulsive Gamblers Treatment Program was added to the Chemical Dependency Program in Council Bluffs. Intensive In-Home Treatment was added to professional counseling services. The program is designed to help families at-risk of having children institutionalized or placed outside the home.

1987 An Adolescent Chemical Dependency Program for outpatient counseling was added July 1, 1987. Family Service Landon Court Child Care Center/Preschool was closed due to inadequate funding for low-income clients identified through child care casework. A Solo Parenting course was added to Family Life Education Unit. The Ruth K. Solomon Scholarship Fund was established through Mrs. Solomon’s bequest to the Solomon Girls Center. A youth violence task force was organized to examine the potential of gang violence in North Omaha. The task force identified 21 separate gangs in the entire metro area, most in north and east Omaha. As a result, parenting classes were established at our North Omaha office.

An additional office at #2 Northcrest Drive was established in Council Bluffs for the professional counseling, Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Gambling Treatment programs. Little People Day Care/Preschool remained at 2801 Fifth Avenue in Council Bluffs, renovated the facility and added a new toddler program. Family Service administered EAPs to 29 businesses in the metro area.

1988 Family Service Little People Day Care/Preschool was moved to 807 Avenue G in Council Bluffs. An infant program and a before- and after-school care program were added. The name was changed to Family Service Child Care. A strong visual image for the agency was created through logo design, print and audiovisual materials, and through facility improvement. The Family Service board of directors and staff completed a strategic planning process. A new Landon Court Senior Center was opened on the main floor of the Administrative Office at 2240 Landon Court in cooperation with the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging.

The Domestic Abuse Program expanded services into Cass County, Nebraska, through a grant from the Nebraska Crime Commission. The Cass County office was located at 456 Avenue A, Plattsmouth, Nebraska. The Ruth K. Solomon Girls Center held its first Scholarship Awards Luncheon to encourage post-high school education and training of its graduating members. The fund was supplemented by community donations in later years to offer more than one $1,000 scholarship annually.

1989 The “Young Moms Program,” a one-year pilot program, was conducted to address teen pregnancy and prevention. A “Before and After School Project” was added to Child Care Services, to provide resources and consultation to child care providers. The program sponsored an annual state conference on school-age child care. 

A Corporate Service Program was coordinated to pull together the various agency programs serving the business community. These programs include Employee Assistance Programs, Family Care Choices (Care Connection), Worksite Education and Human Resource Consultation. Related services include Child Care Services, Addiction Services, Professional Counseling, Family Life Education and the Domestic Abuse Program. A fundraising campaign was added to the agency’s “Friends of the Family” membership effort.

1989 The first “Work and Family Corporate Breakfast” was hosted by Family Service and Mutual of Omaha, to present to local human resource professionals the most current information on the work/family issues their employees were facing. A “Parent Power” program was initiated by the Community Development Program to help motivate and empower parents to become a more positive influence on their children and the community in general. Family Service began sponsoring the Nebraska Child Care Food Program, which offered to child care providers consultation, training and reimbursement to insure that nutritious meals and snacks were provided to children.

The Family Service Communication Department received a special award from Family Service America for the “Raising Good Kids in Bad Times” public service campaign, conducted through local CBS television station KM3TV. The Family Service Solomon Girls Center received funding for expanded summer programming     through the United Way Task Force on gang activity. The Family Service Papillion Office moved to 1246 Golden Gate Drive.

Intense Domestic Abuse staff efforts resulted in the passage of LB 330 legislation, which give police officers more latitude to arrest in domestic violence incidents, and allows easier process of women who apply for protection orders. In addition, staff advocated for and won court-mandated referrals to support groups for both men and women involved in abuse.

1990  An additional office was opened in Council Bluffs in the Kiel Building, 501 South Main, Suite 2E. Addiction Services developed a substance abuse prevention program called “Families Like Mine,” for children ages 5-12 years, who come from chemically dependent families. Professional Counseling Services implemented a specialized program for families of at-risk teens — YouthNet provides family and individual counseling and activities to children ages 11-16 years, in an effort to help young people stay in school and out of gangs. The Domestic Abuse Program instituted educational classes to victims and offenders as part of the service. 

The Logan Fontenelle MultiService Center celebrated its 20th anniversary with Virgil Carr, the developer of the original program and then-current president of United Way of Chicago. The Hilltop Pleasantview MultiService Center site was closed. Services were transferred to Logan Fontenelle MultiService Center.

A Long-Range Plan was developed to recruit board members with specific skills and resources, to identify emerging needs and to develop plans and resources to meet the needs.

1991 The Domestic Abuse Program implemented Family Violence Support Groups for children and adolescents. The program received Honorable Mention from the Family Service H. Barksdale Brown Volunteerism Award. The award is made to member agencies ” . . . whose exemplary initiatives in volunteer involvement and community participation demonstrably increase its effectiveness and stature as a voluntary family service agency.”

A two-year public awareness campaign named “Family Works!” began. It was sponsored nationally by Family Service America and Heinz Inc., and broadcast locally with joint projects between our agency and the area CBS affiliate, KM3TV. An outgrowth of the campaign was a long-running weekly midday news interview on parent/family issues with executive director Peter Tulipana. The Great American Family Recognition Program was renamed the “Family Service Salute to Families Recognition Program” to strengthen its local identification. It became a special project of the board of directors, and later of the Family Service Friends.

The future of the Solomon Girls Center became uncertain due to the possibility that United Way of the Midlands could discontinue funding the program. The Solomon Advisory Committee called a news conference to build support for continued UWM funding, which was granted that fall. The Family Care Choices Program, which provides dependent care information and referral, was opened to the public. It operated a database of nearly 2,000 child care providers for parents to draw possible candidates for their child’s care. The USDA WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Nutrition Program was added to Comprehensive Emergency Services at the MultiService Center at Bellevue.

Professional Counseling Services added three new women’s groups — a “Women’s Therapy Group”; “Regeneration,” an advanced group for recovering adult children of dysfunctional families; and “Changing the Dance,” a group for women who wish to make relationship changes.

“Project HALO” (Healthy Alternatives for Little Ones), a preschool drug prevention program for preschoolers, was developed by Addiction Services. Child care staff converted the program into a curriculum. A cooperative venture with Head Start Child Care Centers and the Northwest Omaha Kiwanis resulted in a contract to offer the pilot program at a Head Start site. The Addiction Services program conducted a research project on gambling among Midwestern youth, and presented the findings to the National Conference on Gambling and Risk-taking.

1992 The first “Mystery Gala” fund-raiser was held at Physicians Mutual Company — a sell-out success with over 450 guests. The event signaled a new era of fundraising for the board of directors and the agency, beginning a series of major annual fundraising events . The Planning Committee of the board of directors conducted and extensive review of each of the agency’s programs and presented a comprehensive report to the board. A Geriatric Counseling program was implemented to help seniors receive the specialized assistance they need. The Gambling Services program offered the first compulsive gambling conference in the region. The Nebraska Department of Labor presented an award to Family Service for exemplary efforts in work and family advocacy for the Corporate Breakfast, a collaborative effort with First Data Resources and the College of Saint Mary.

Due to the demolition of the Logan Fontenelle Public Homes, the Solomon Girls Center moved from the Logan Fontenelle Public Homes area to its new site at 6720 North 30th Street, in the former Minne Lusa Theater building. The Council Bluffs office at the Keil Building was closed, due to funding cuts from United Way of the Midlands. Counseling services were transferred to our Iowa’s general services location at #2 Northcrest Drive in Council Bluffs.

In 1992, Family Service provided assistance to over 39,000 people in the metro area — nearly 10 percent of the metro population. The nine major program areas were professional counseling, child care services, neighborhood services, family life education, addiction services, domestic abuse, corporate services, a senior center and the Solomon Girls Center. The programs operated from 11 locations in five counties including Douglas, Sarpy and Cass counties in Nebraska; and Pottawattamie and Mills counties in Iowa. The budget for the agency was $2,845,505. 

1993 The Senior Center began offering “The Supper Club” twice weekly to senior citizens. Family Service assumed the administration of the 16-year-old Center for Children child care at the Center’s request. The Center moved from its location in the First Christian Church at 66th & Dodge to a newly remodeled space at 142 So. 77th Street. The Logan Fontenelle MultiService Center was relocated and reorganized, due to the demolition of the public housing area that it served for 25 years. The new location at 6714 North 30th Street (in the same building as Solomon Girls Center) featured joint efforts with Omaha Public Schools and the Head Start Family and Child Development Corporation, reflecting the collaborative format of our past and paving the way for the collaborative ventures that will characterize human services of the future. 

The Corporate Services programs provided services to 89 small businesses and large corporations including Mutual of Omaha, Woodmen of the World, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Council Bluffs Public Schools and ConAgra Frozen Foods. Services included employee assistance programs, worksite education seminars, Family Care Choices, and consultations for management and child care challenges. “Family Service Friends,” a new agency volunteer guild, was organized to provide coordinated volunteer assistance for events, programs, services and fund development. 

1994 The Bellevue MultiService Center was honored by Nebraska’s first lady Diane Nelson through her “Good Beginnings” program, for outstanding achievement in supporting the development of young children. Board and leadership staff completed the first strategic planning process to guide the agency as service delivery moved from traditional methods to a managed care model.

In an effort to more effectively serve families by enhancing the entire profession of child care, the agency refined its Child Care Services to focus on the providers of that service. Both remaining child care centers were closed, ending a 49-year history of child care center management. We opened the Family & Child Care Resource Center in our North Omaha office for both parents and child care providers, in an effort to help adults be better “first teachers” of children.

The Family Service “Safe Haven” concealed shelter for victims of domestic abuse was opened in Sarpy County, amid the trial of O.J. Simpson, later acquitted of brutally murdering his wife and a visiting friend. The national media coverage focused attention on this problem, forever raising the issue of domestic abuse in the public conscience, and assisting Family Service in its effort to sustain support for the Safe Haven.

The Community Based Evaluation program was developed from a request by the juvenile justice system to provide comprehensive evaluation to judges of youthful status offenders. This innovative program paved the way for judges to incorporate family, school and community influence in changing a young person’s attitudes and behavior at an early stage, before he or she becomes further entangled in the legal system.

1995 A $3,000,000 capital campaign was launched, eventually surpassing the goal to raise $3.3 million. Over the next several years, the campaign funded several important improvements for the agency:  

      • The purchase and renovation of a new central headquarters and counseling center at 2101 So. 42nd Street
      • The construction of a new five-bedroom, 20-bed “Safe Haven” concealed transitional shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
      • A safer parking area for our North Office, renovations and a playground for our Solomon Girls Center and Headstart preschool children, and more visible building façade
      • The development of a wide area network (WAN) to link five of our satellite offices to our central office computer network, and the purchase of human service database software for computerization of clinical records, outcomes and statistical information.
      • Improvements to make all locations accessible to all people, regardless of physical limitations

Family Service joined ServNet in order to prepare the agency, as well as the community, for managed care and welfare reform. ServNet is a partnership with human services organizations throughout metro Omaha to ensure collaboration and integration of services. The agency was restructured into a geographic approach; grouping teams and services into districts serving Southwest Iowa, Sarpy & Cass counties, North Omaha and Metro Omaha. The agency earned renewed accreditation of the Council on Accreditation of Services to Families & Children, Inc.  In addition to this repeating, four-year renewal of accreditation, management started a program of total quality management to insure excellence throughout internal as well as external procedures.

1996 A Public Policy Committee was formed to help educate the board of directors on legislative issues that affect the family and to develop plans and resources to advocate for issues that help strengthen the family.The Tracker program was added to provide young adult mentors to guide a troubled youth and supervise his or her compliance with a probation or parole agreement. 

1997 The Care Connection program contracted to provide child care referral services to more than 11,000 employees of the companies of the Greater Omaha Dependent Care Association (GODCA). The Family Connections program was established as collaboration among Family Service, Child Saving Institute, Catholic Charities, Methodist Richard Young and the Salvation Army. This program of intensive family preservation services assists families in making necessary changes to reduce the likelihood of abuse/neglect and out-of-home placement. A second, similar program, Real Life Connections, was developed for women who are incarcerated in the Douglas County Correctional Center. Services include mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and educational programs to help the women succeed when they are released. Our domestic abuse program staff coordinated the development of the Sarpy County Coordinating Council for Domestic Violence, to train all related agencies and offices to react to victims with an integrated response. 

Project Harmony was established to provide assessments of children (primarily sexual abuse cases) with one investigation, as opposed to multiple individuals interviewing and potentially re-traumatizing the young victims. Family Service provides aftercare case management and referral. Other agencies that collaborated with us to develop this program include Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, Omaha Police Department and Children’s Hospital.

The Family Service Friends volunteer guild created the “Family Service Student League,” a nine-month educational curriculum for ninth graders designed to help them learn about volunteerism and the local human service profession. The program is a fundraiser, created to honor families who have actively supported the social service community and want to pass that legacy onto their children.

 1998 The Steve & Cheryl Wild Children’s Emergency Shelter was opened for Douglas County children birth to age 18 who are victims of parental abuse or neglect. The Nebraska Association of Family-Based Services honored our agency as “Family–Based Agency of the Year.” This award acknowledged our effort to move our services out of our offices and into clients’ homes, neighborhoods, shelters and even into jail, where individuals and families need them most. 

Juvenile Service added a Detention Response Program, which provides a social worker to make assessments and recommendations for juveniles who are being held in detention, thus expediting the case and placing the youth in a less restrictive situation more appropriate to his or her case. The United Way of the Midlands provided funding to expand our Geriatric Counseling Program, and to offer it to people in senior centers other than our own.

1999 The Homeless Link Program started in Council Bluffs, to provide case management and housing to homeless or near homeless in Pottawattamie County. Residents of Fremont requested that Family Service administer the Jefferson House Children’s Emergency Shelter for Dodge County children birth to age 18 who are victims of parental abuse or neglect. Efforts to educate legislators on the effects of divorce on children resulted in the passage of LB777, which allows judges to rule that divorcing parents of minor children attend a parenting class on divorce. Relocated our Council Bluffs, South Omaha and West Omaha offices into sites that are better suited for the specific services offered at those locations. Launched a website:  www.familyserviceomaha.org  (Current address is www.heartlandfamilyservice.org )

Established a new collaboration with the Latina Women’s Resource Center to ensure that Latina women could access bilingual services, particularly around domestic violence issues. A pre-adjudicated Tracker program was added for Douglas County juveniles who are facing the courts, so they can remain in school while they wait for their court date.

Seven hundred twenty-one (721) volunteers contributed 17, 309 hours of professional and support services to Family Service programs in 1999. These hours equal a dollar value of $308, 797. Family Service depends on the assistance of these caring people to extend the reach of its services. 

 

 

2000s

 

2000 Heartland Family Service celebrated its 125th anniversary, and the agency began a $2 million endowment drive to secure its financial future. At that time, the agency operated eight major program areas from 16 locations in Eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. The budget for 2000 was $7,970,636, and the staff included 176 full- and part-time regular employees. The agency earned renewed accreditation of the Council on Accreditation of Services to Families & Children, Inc.

The “Transitions” transitional living apartments were opened to offer homes and wrap-around services to homeless people, to help them move to being homeowners. Centralized intake procedures were implemented by Professional Counseling for more efficient appointment-setting and to provide a “safety net” for those clients who may need services in addition to counseling, ie.; chemical dependency, domestic abuse, etc. Substance abuse and mental health services were added in our North Omaha office, through a contract with Region VI. Juvenile justice services were implemented in nine counties in Southwest Iowa. A new program called FAST, Families And Schools Together, established a formal collaboration among Family Service and several Omaha public schools. The program offers parenting education to high-risk parents in an effort to help children stay in school.

2001 A new “Family Legacy Society” was created to endow the agency to prepare for the future needs of children and families. Family Service was honored by the Omaha Public Schools with its 2001 “Family Friendly Award” for our Families And Schools Together (FAST) program, our YouthNet Family Counseling, and our 125th anniversary parent education campaign of “tips brochures” for school parents.

2002 The Council Bluffs Office moved into a donated building named the Family Service H. Lee Gendler Center, ad-ministering all the agency programs in Southwest Iowa, including a second Youth Substance Abuse program. The Salute to Families program was replicated in Southwest Iowa. The North Office was fully renovated and added mental health and substance abuse services.

 2003 Our Therapeutic School opened in Council Bluffs, serving students with emotional or psychological disabilities who cannot remain in a regular school. Our HALO program—Healthy Alternatives for Little Ones—earned the national Robert Rice Innovative Program Award from the Alliance for Children and Families. The Families And Schools Together program and School and Family Enrichment program both expanded services in schools, providing family-strengthening activities and mental health services to elementary and middle school students and their families.

2004 The agency name was formally changed to “Heartland Family Service” by the board of directors on Feb. 26, 2004. The reason for the change was to more effectively differentiate the organization from similarly named human service programs and agencies in the metro area, and to incorporate the broad geographic area we serve. The slogan, “Hope for Families,” illustrates the heart of our mission—to strengthen individuals and families through education, counseling and support services. 

An innovative collaboration served the members of the Solomon Girls Center through a partnership with Marian High School and the Lozier Foundation, so that the girls could utilize the space and volunteers of Marian for their summer program. The West Office moved to 11212 Davenport Street, to obtain more space to offer parenting classes and group therapy. The Youth Substance Abuse Program expanded to a third location and is now offered at Central, West and Council Bluffs offices.

2005 The Harlan Therapeutic School opened in August and increased our capacity to serve K-12 grade children in Southwest Iowa with serious academic, emotional, behavioral and cognitive disorders. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce named Heartland Family Service as the first-ever Not-For-Profit Organization of the Year at its Omaha 25 Excellence in Business Awards Luncheon May 17, 2005. This annual luncheon is Omaha’s premier event for honoring business excellence and contributions to the positive growth of our business community. 

2006 The Assertive Community Treatment Program (ACT) was established in Council Bluffs to provide comprehensive, community-based treatment to persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses. • The Healthy Alternatives for Little Ones (HALO) program was expanded to serve child care providers in Southwest Iowa, including those who care for children of bilingual families. • The Moms Off Meth (MOMs) Support Group was established in Omaha in addition to the Council Bluffs location. • The KidSquad Program was established through a local collaboration among several human service agencies to provide consultation, training and support to child care providers who have preschool-age children with behavior problems. • As part of our Best Practices research, we have adopted the Matrix Model of outpatient treatment for our Addictions Programs. • Through our Connecting Families to Better Futures Capital Campaign, we successfully raised funds to replace the HVAC system at our Central Office, to purchase and build a single office for our Sarpy programs and to complete major upgrades to the North and Council Bluffs offices. • A collaboration was formed with four other Council Bluffs human service agencies to raise funds and establish a human service campus in Council Bluffs. 

2007 As part of our ongoing best practices research, we implemented the Sanctuary model of organizational culture. • Family Works was implemented—a residential treatment center for women with infants, to ensure that babies are born drug free and to help mothers in treatment maintain the natural bond with their infants. • We enhanced our preschool-age programs to address an increase in childhood mental health problems. • We expanded our capacity to serve Spanish-speaking clients with bilingual staff, translation of our HALO curriculum into Spanish, and our Child and Adult Food Program enrolled Hispanic child care providers in Southwest Iowa. 

2008 The $34 million Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus in Council Bluffs was dedicated, co-locating five human service agencies—the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club, Heartland Family Service, MICAH House and The Salvation Army. • Youth Links, a collaboration between Heartland Family Service and Boys Town, was established as a youth triage center, and a Victim Empathy Program was added to our Juvenile Services. • Homeless Services were expanded with the addition of Heartland Homes in Council Bluffs and Heartland Housing Solutions in Omaha. • The new School Readiness Program, a collaboration with HFS and the YMCA, is a communitywide approach to help refugee parents prepare their preschool-age children for American kindergarten. • The Assessment, Support And Prevention program (ASAP), provided in response to calls from law enforcement personnel, offers immediate therapeutic response for mental illness and substance abuse crises in Sarpy County. • The Jefferson House was expanded and renovated thanks to the Keep our Kids at Home Capital Campaign, opening up areas for the children to have more privacy as well as increasing space for on-site services and parent visits.

2009 In response to the State of Nebraska’s move to privatize child welfare services, Heartland Family Service formed a new nonprofit corporation, the Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC), with four other service providers. NFC became one of five lead agencies in Nebraska’s child welfare reform. HFS provides child welfare services to NFC families through our Omaha Emergency Shelter, Home-Based Services, Youth Links and Tracker Services. Jefferson House Shelter and Group Home provides services to the Eastern Area. •  Family Works, the residential treatment facility for addicted mothers with children that was launched in Omaha in 2007, was replicated in Council Bluffs. • The Solomon Girls Center summer program was hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church, providing more space to increase membership as well as parishioner support to the north Omaha girls’ center. • Homeless programs continued to grow with the addition of Homeless Prevention and Rapid ReHousing programs in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties. • United Way funded a School Readiness collaboration with HFS and the YMCA to prepare preschool-age refugee children for American kindergarten.

2010 A new program, Ways to Work, was launched to help low-income parents with poor credit to obtain low-interest auto loans, which helps to rebuild their financial well-being. • Our Therapeutic School for children with serious academic, emotional, behavioral and cognitive disorders moved into the former Pusey Elementary School in Council Bluffs, increasing its enrollment from 60 to 75 K-12 students. • Mental health therapy expanded to serve more youth through our ASAP mental health crisis response program and our outreach to the Douglas County Youth Center. • Homeless services grew with the addition of Samaritan Housing for chronically homeless individuals with disabilities. • Staff helped organize and conduct the national 100,000 Homes Campaign to count the numbers and status of homeless persons in the Omaha/Council Bluffs metropolitan area. • Eight agency service categories were identified to address the following issues: Addictions, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Early Childhood Development, Juvenile Delinquency, Mental Health, Community Services & Centers and Poverty & Homelessness.

2011 Our Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program provides community-based care and treatment for individuals who are challenged by chronic mental illness. Last year, we developed an Integrated Health Home component to help clients manage their physical health along with their mental health. • Baby TALK is a new educational program for low-income families, designed to positively impact child development and nurture healthy parent/child relationships during the critical early years. This program further enhances our growing array of Early Childhood Development services for children birth to age 5. • Our Tracker Program accepted a contract to provide interim services in Iowa after Uta Halee Girls Village closed. We now have 26 “Trackers” who monitor the activities and responsibilities of youth on probation or parole to ensure that they comply with their court requirements.

2012 Heartland Family Service earned its eighth successful accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA), having been reviewed every four years since 1984. • Our Ways to Work program was honored with two awards for leadership and excellence in program performance by Ways to Work National. • The Tracker Program was awarded the contract to continue programming in Iowa. • Our partnership in area Prevention Coalitions grew with the addition of LiveWise and Tobacco Free Sarpy. Heartland Family Service provides facility and staff support to these community coalitions, to prevent the root causes of the issues they address. 

2013 Heartland Family Service was awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop and implement Better Together, a family-centered substance abuse treatment program for families involved with the child welfare system. • The Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded HFS a $625,000 grant to support the PMP Taking Action Against Substance Abuse coalition and their efforts to reduce youth substance use and abuse as the fiscal agent and coordinating entity. • Our Omaha Children’s Emergency Shelter closed in September. Thanks to substantial progress in decreasing the number of children needing emergency placement, we were able to redistribute resources to serve children and families where the needs are greatest. • The agency was a “Best of Omaha” winner in the Family Behavior Therapy category in Omaha Magazine’s annual awards. • The “Carnival of Love” Gala was voted the Best Event over 500 by readers of metroMAGAZINE.

2014 Heartland Family Service launched its new Integrated Health Home program, which offers holistic healthcare to those with mental health illnesses living in Pottawattamie, Harrison, or Mills counties in Iowa. • The agency broke ground on April 29 at the North Omaha Intergenerational Human Services Campus at 4318 Fort Street. When finished the campus will provide a bustling network of affordable senior housing, a community senior center, a residential crisis stabilization program for youth, a health clinic, and community gardens, as well as a substance abuse treatment facility for pregnant women and mothers of young children at the nearby Park Crest Apartments. • The agency began providing therapeutic services for K-12 students in the Council Bluffs-based Lewis Central Community School District in September as part of a comprehensive school-based mental health program, a new initiative from the Iowa West Foundation. • More than 200 volunteers from Pacific Life Foundation, Heartland Family Service, and the community came together to build a KaBOOM! playground on September 20 at the North Omaha Intergenerational Human Services Campus. Volunteers assembled and installed equipment, as well as moved nearly 50,000 square feet of mulch to complete the project in less than 7 hours. • The Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School moved in early October to its new building at 2912 Ninth Ave., the former site of St. Albert Elementary, in Council Bluffs. • The “Carnival of Love” Gala was voted Best Event over 500 by readers of metroMAGAZINE for the second consecutive year. • The Heartland Family Service Friends Guild received metroMAGAZINE’s inaugural Best Guild Award for its volunteer and fundraising efforts.

2015 The agency reorganized its 50 programs into three focus areas, moving away from the eight categories. The new focus areas are: Child & Family, Counseling & Prevention, and Housing & Financial Stability. • In March, the Senior Center (which then changed to the Generations Center) and Youth Links programs relocated to the North Omaha Intergenerational Human Services Campus after the completion of renovations to the old St. Richard School. • In May, more than 200 volunteers from Pacific Life Foundation, Heartland Family Service, and the community came together to build a KaBOOM! Playground at the Therapeutic School in less than 7 hours. • The agency launches its new website in December, incorporating the new focus areas and branded colors. • The agency began celebrating its 140th year in late October. • Heartland Family Service was named the Non-Profit of the Year by the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce. The “Carnival of Love” was voted Best Theme by readers of metroMAGAZINE. • The agency implemented a new comprehensive electronic health record, myEvolv, a project that first started in 2010. • The new OnTrack of the Heartland program launched in late fall/early winter. The program provides recovery-oriented treatment for young people ages 15-25 who have recently begun to experience psychosis and who are residents of Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, and Washington counties in Nebraska. • The agency received the Guidelines & Principles Best Practices distinction from the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands. • Heartland Family Service opened the Child & Family Center, which is located in the Red Cross building on the Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus in Council Bluffs, in order to provide enhanced therapeutic treatment for children ages birth to 18 and their families in a safe and exclusively child-focused environment. • The Mental Health Crisis Response Teams program expanded to add the Crisis Mediation Team, which provides face-to-face risk assessments for at-risk youth with behavioral issues when contacted by law enforcement, Probation, the CARES Program, and/or the Diversion Program.

2016 In the spring, the Nebraska Family Works program relocated to its newly renovated building, site of the former Park Crest Apartments. • A grand opening/open house was held in early May for the entire North Omaha Intergenerational Human Services Campus, including the Heartland Family Service Generations Center, Youth Links, and Nebraska Family Works, as well as the Holy Name Housing Corporation administration offices and senior cottages and the Charles Drew Health Center. The $32 million collaborative effort first began in 2010. • The Nebraska Family Works program expanded to add the Nebraska Family Works Apartments program, which provides supportive housing designed to assist families in a sober living environment achieve independent housing.

2017 In the spring, Heartland Family Service launched its Heartland Bridges program, which provides short-term housing for people in transition to and from mental health or substance use treatment, support services, and/or permanent housing. • Heartland Family Service received three awards: The “Can Do Future Award” from Kids Can Community Center and Wells Fargo, the President’s Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award from Creighton University and the $10,000 BIG Connection Award from metroMAGAZINE, the latter of which included a multiple page spread on the agency and its programs and services in metroMAGAZINE • The Ruth K. Solomon Girls program transitioned from a year-round program to a Summer Enrichment Academy due to a decrease in funding. • The agency received an $8 million grant from an anonymous donor to bring homelessness to a “functional zero” in our area. • Our North Office closed November 23 and moved all its programs and services to our Center Mall location. • The agency expanded its space in the Center Mall Office to include office space for our Child & Family Well-Being programs and our Housing, Safety, & Financial Stability programs. • The agency launched three new housing programs: Heartland Housing Connections, which provides intensive case management services to help support individuals in sustaining long-term housing, Heartland Housing Navigation, which offers supportive services to connect individuals experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis to safe, affordable, and permanent housing options, and Heartland Housing Opportunities Expansion, which provides temporary financial assistance and housing relocation and stabilization services to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness. • The Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) closed in December after operating for over 25 years.

2018 The Family & Child Care Resource Center closed after 24 years of operation; the program was previously operated out of our North Office, and once that location closed, this program became less accessible to the community. • The agency added two new locations: the Peer Center in Council Bluffs, which provides support for anyone with a mental health diagnosis, and Sanctuary House in Sarpy County, NE, serving survivors of sex trafficking. • Heartland Family Service launched three new programs in our Counseling & Prevention focus area: InSHAPE, which aims to improve the physical health and quality of life for individuals experiencing serious and persistent mental illness; Intensive Psychiatric Rehab (IPR), which is designed to restore, improve, or maximize the level of functioning, independence, and quality of life for people experiencing a disabling mental illness; and the Peer Center, which is a drop-in center, run by peer support staff, and is designed to be a safe place for those living with a mental health diagnosis to build supports with others who may be living in a similar situation and experiencing similar barriers. • The agency closed its Career Clothing Closet at its Central Office and the Sarpy Donation Center at its Sarpy Office in September due to a cut in one of the agency’s primary funding sources, as well as a lack of program operational space. • In late September, Heartland Family Service spearheaded efforts to assist nearly 500 refugees and their families find safe, clean homes after their homes at the Yale Park Apartments were shut down; this was due to over 2,000 health code violations the City of Omaha discovered. • The agency received a grant through the Omaha Community Foundation for our Mindfulness Initiative, designed to create a more resilient, proactive workforce to provide clients the highest quality services available. • In October, the agency closed its our Youth Links residential program after 10 years of operation as part of our efforts to move toward providing community-based services. • The agency established two programs in its Housing, Safety, & Financial Stability focus area: Heartland Housing Sanctuary, which provides crisis stabilization to survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking, and Homeless Diversion, which assists households who are at immediate risk of homelessness and seeking emergency shelter to identify safe, alternate housing arrangements. • In late November, the agency was selected to a receive a $5 million grant from the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos Day 1 Families Fund to expand innovative solutions to end family homelessness in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area; Heartland Family Service was one of 24 nonprofits across the country receive the first of these grants, totaling $97.5 million.

2019 In January, Heartland Family Service formally opened the One Oak program, which is a therapeutic day school for at-risk children with behavioral or mental health challenges. • Also in January, the agency formally began accepting clients into our newly established Heartland Housing Sanctuary program. • Our Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program celebrated 40 years of operation. • The Ruth K. Solomon Girls program transitioned from a summer program to a community-driven model in May, which provides resiliency and mindfulness groups and services to other programs in the North Omaha community. • In June, our Generations Center became the Generations Community Center to expand its scope of work to involve residents of the North Omaha community in having a say in the services and activities that are provided. •