Reduce adversity, strengthen families: Jodie Austin to lead Omaha-area team

Community support and involvement are crucial elements necessary to meet the needs of children and families in Omaha and throughout Nebraska.

Those words from Jodie Austin, who joins Saint Francis Ministries as the regional vice president in the Omaha, Nebraska, area, come from the heart of a leader who has worked in child welfare for more than 20 years.

Her vision – to work herself out of a job – is a bold one.

“When we reduce adversity, support the development of responsive relationships and help families strengthen core skills, we essentially eliminate the need for child protection,” Austin said.

Child welfare work, she added, requires strong public-private partnerships.

“Quality of relationships between agencies and strengthening cross-sector partnerships are essential elements for success,” Austin said. “I believe the best way to achieve our goals is to work together while never forgetting our collective objective.”

Austin, a native Nebraskan, looks forward to her new role at Saint Francis, where she’ll lead the teams serving children and families in the Douglas and Sarpy county areas. A licensed clinical social worker, she is passionate about child welfare, women’s issues and building supportive, strong families.

Austin is inspired by changes that have occurred in child welfare in the last decade, particularly by the focus on keeping children with their families and offering support, education and interventions.

“Children really do belong with their families,” she said, adding that in her early years of child welfare work, it was heartbreaking to see the delays and challenges that occurred in trying to get children home.

“It has become my mission – we have to do better,” Austin said. “Over the years, I’ve gained exposure nationally and in Nebraska to best practices in supporting children and parents in creating safe and stable environments.”

Austin said she’s excited to make a difference in her community and to be partnering with Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services as it continues to improve services for children and families.

She’s inspired to see the commitment in Nebraska to taking care of those in need and who are often the most vulnerable. Systems must change and adapt to best serve the needs of the population being served, she said.

“I’m very optimistic that the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) will help us focus even more on family preservation,” Austin said. That act, considered one of the most significant pieces of child welfare legislation in decades, focuses on using evidence-based practices to serve children and families as soon as they come in contact with the system and before children are removed from the home.

Austin previously worked for KVC Health Systems, most recently as executive vice president for the KVC Institute for Health Systems Innovation. She is married to Brian, and they have two children, Emily, 11, and Brody, 10. When she’s not on the sports field, coaching or at gymnastics with her daughter, Austin said she can be found with a book or research paper in her hand.

Saint Francis Ministries was selected by Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services in June 2019 to provide case management services in the Eastern Service Area, comprised of Douglas and Sarpy counties. The organization currently provides kinship/foster care homes, adoption homes, family support programs, Intensive Family Preservation, Intensive Family Reunification and Family Centered Treatment services to youth in central and western Nebraska. Click here to learn more about the Eastern Service Area transition process.

Picture of Beth Cormack
Beth Cormack

Beth is the project manager for the Saint Francis Ministries Marketing and Communications team.

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