Twelve rural Nebraska attorneys recently completed the University of Nebraska College of Law’s Children’s Justice Attorney Education Fellowship program.
The program provides participants with extensive education on state and federal child welfare and juvenile justice laws, along with insight into the subjects necessary to become strong advocates, including trauma and child development, substance use, domestic violence, complex family dynamics and specialized Indian Child Welfare Act training.
Over the course of eight months, participants attended in-person workshops and trainings and developed relationships with other juvenile justice attorneys and professionals.
The attorneys who participated, listed alphabetically by hometown with the counties they represent, are:
Broken Bow: Kayla Haberstick (Blaine and Custer); Madeline Smith (Custer, Sherman and Valley)
Crete: Jena Mahin (Clay, Fillmore, Lancaster and Saline)
Crofton: Jamie Miller (Cedar, Knox and Pierce)
Gering: Gretchen Castaneda (Scotts Bluff)
Kearney: Nathan Arehart (Buffalo); Josiah Davis (Brown, Buffalo and Hall)
Madison: Matthew Soltys (Madison)
St. Paul: Katheryn Harouff (Buffalo, Custer, Greeley, Hall, Hamilton, Howard, Merrick, Valley and Sherman)
Sioux City: Lauren Whitt (Dakota and Dixon)
Thurston: Teri Lamplot (Burt, Dakota and Thurston)
Wahoo: Joanna Uden (Butler, Dodge and Saunders)
In addition to the education-based workshops, participants worked with other child welfare and juvenile justice experts to evaluate cases as they learned to integrate social and psychological factors into the legal issues arising in their cases. Attorneys also participated in a relationship-based exercise known as reflective practice. This exercise assists in mitigating the effects of emotionally intrusive work by helping individuals examine their current and past actions, emotions, experiences and responses to evaluate their performance and learn to improve.
“The attorneys that have participated in this program have an enhanced knowledge of the underlying family dynamics and circumstances that can affect children and families,” said Michelle Paxton, the program’s director. “Increasing the number of highly trained advocates to support Nebraska’s most vulnerable populations has always been one of our top priorities.”
According to data reported by participants, completion of the program has led each of them to spend a greater number of hours working on juvenile court cases.
“This is significant because CJAE-trained attorneys now work in 44 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, and all of those counties have fewer than 50 attorneys,” Paxton said.
Applications for the 2024 cohort open Jan. 16. The program is open to those licensed to practice law in Nebraska and who practice in rural Nebraska (excluding Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy counties). Learn more.