About the Nebraska Court Improvement Project

About the Nebraska Court Improvement Project

In 1993, Congress passed the State Court Improvement Program (CIP) as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) which funded, among other things, States to conduct assessments of their judicial processes in juvenile cases and develop and implement a plan for system improvement.  The Nebraska Supreme Court contracted with UNL-Center on Children, Families and the Law (CCFL) to manage the Nebraska Court Improvement Project.  In 1995, the Nebraska CIP released an Assessment (with a Re-Assessment Report released in 2005).

In September 2005, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hendry directed that the Nebraska CIP initiate a statewide implementation of best court practices based on the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) Resource Guidelines through a statewide summit. The 2006 Nebraska Children's Summit Improving the Court System for Abuse/Neglect and Foster Care Children was held in Nebraska City, and was attended by over 200 stakeholders in the abuse/neglect court system.  By the end, team members had selected a new name for the project: Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative.

The Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative (TTEOC) was kicked off in 2006 with the creation of 25 multidisciplinary, judge-led teams that would work to identify local system issues and develop strategic plans to improve court processing in abuse and neglect cases in their communities.  Teams met regularly to address the issues identified in their plans.  Common issues included children's attendance at court hearings, availability of substance abuse services, adequacy of parenting time, use of mediation/facilitation, quality of court reports, among other things.  TTEOC staff provided technical assistance to local teams while work on policy changes on a statewide level related to barriers identified locally (projects include Parenting Time Guidelines, mediation protocols, a Caregiver Information Form, a Youth Court Questionnaire, standardized court order language).

In 2012, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative was expanded to include a Juvenile Justice Court Improvement Project (JJCIP) through funding from the Office of Probation as part of LB 561.  The goals of the JJCIP are to assist implementing the juvenile justice reforms of LB 561 and improve the juvenile justice court and legal system, which includes improving legal representation, increasing family engagement and utilization of restorative justice processes, improving the timeliness and quality of court hearings and improving court data.

 Download our 2019 Impact Report

 


 

Staff

PROJECT DIRECTOR - Deb VanDyke-Ries, MSW

PROJECT DIRECTOR - Deb VanDyke-Ries, MSW
PROJECT DIRECTOR - Deb VanDyke-Ries, MSW

Deb VanDyke-Ries joins the Court Improvement team as the Project Director. Deb brings more than 10 years’ experience working in juvenile court as Director and Volunteer Coordinator at CASA for Lancaster County as well as Interim Director for the Nebraska CASA Association. During her tenure at CASA, Deb was a member of the Lancaster County Through the Eyes of the Child team, 1184 team, National Adoption Day Committee and the Nebraska Supreme Commission on Children in the Court - Education sub-committee. As a CASA volunteer, Deb provided advocacy for nine children in four separate juvenile court cases.

Deb received a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska, minoring in Political Science. The University of Kansas is where she received her Master’s Degree in Social Work. Deb has been an adjunct professor of social work at Nebraska Wesleyan University and supervised numerous students from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska Wesleyan University and Southeast Community College. Most recently she was a member of the SCC Advisory Board for Health and Human Services.

Deb and her husband, Paul, are the very proud parents of three children. As adoptive parents, they received the Angels in Adoption Award from Senator Chuck Hagel in 2008. When Deb is not attending kid’s activities, she enjoys reading, spending time outside gardening, camping, music and playing with dogs, Casey and Coco, and cat, Twist.    

CONTACT DEB VANDYKE-RIES

PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mandi Juricek, JD

PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mandi Juricek, JD
PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mandi Juricek, JD

Mandi joins the Court Improvement Project as a Project Specialist. She grew up in Yutan, NE and received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Criminal Justice from Saginaw Valley State University. While pursuing her degree she volunteered in juvenile group homes as a mentor and tutor. After graduation Mandi moved back to Omaha and worked with juveniles as a Tracker. She also worked as a Correction’s Officer in Kansas and Nebraska. She worked in both adult and juvenile facilities.

Mandi went back to school at Creighton University School of Law in 2012 to pursue her law degree. She graduated in 2015 with her Juris Doctor. While in law school she worked as the Law Librarian at Douglas County Corrections working with inmates to understand their legal proceedings. After law school she was a Case Coordinator with Project Harmony facilitating 1184 treatment teams. These teams focused on current child welfare cases, juvenile justice cases and crossover youth. Mandi is admitted to practice law in Nebraska.

Mandi and her husband, Ryan, enjoy golfing, traveling, playing with dogs Miley, Cash, Penny, and cat Flynn Rider. Mandi spends her free time kick boxing, reading, watching movies, and connecting with family and friends.

CONTACT MANDI JURICEK 

PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mary Pat Coe, JD

PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mary Pat Coe, JD
PROJECT SPECIALIST - Mary Pat Coe, JD

Mary Pat Coe, J.D., graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 1993.  Before coming to the Court Improvement Project Mary Pat practiced in the area of juvenile law for more than 18 years, representing parents and other family members in neglect and abuse proceedings and youth in delinquency matters.  She also served as a guardian ad litem for both parents and children in dependency proceedings. She is a founding member of the Guardian ad Litem Project, Inc.  

CONTACT MARY PAT COE

DESIGN & COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR - Traci Webber

DESIGN & COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR - Traci Webber
DESIGN & COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR - Traci Webber

Traci Webber earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism/Mass Communications from Louisiana State University, minoring in History. Traci brings a number of years of graphic design and creative direction experience to the Court Improvement Project as the Design and Communications Coordinator. Traci’s professional background includes a number of years in the newspaper industry primarily in design, art direction, copy writing and editing. 

Traci and her wife, Isabel enjoy spending time with their four daughters. Traci’s favorite past times are travel, reading, music and cooking.

CONTACT TRACI WEBBER

PROJECT COORDINATOR - Stephanie Volkmer

PROJECT COORDINATOR - Stephanie Volkmer
PROJECT COORDINATOR - Stephanie Volkmer

Stephanie Volkmer joins the Court Improvement Project as the Project Coordinator. Stephanie brings over seven years’ experience in public service administration at the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to the team. Stephanie is currently enrolled at Doane University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration.

Stephanie and her husband Ryan have two children. When not attending one of their many activities, Stephanie serves as the President of the Parent Teacher Organization at Pershing Elementary, and enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling. 

CONTACT STEPHANIE VOLKMER