Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative

Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative

Under the leadership of Chief Justice Michael Heavican, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative is a multidisciplinary network of local teams that work to improve systems processes. It creates a forum for local child welfare and juvenile justice stakeholders to collaborate with each other in their efforts to improve issues in their communities' juvenile court systems as well as communicate with other teams and stakeholders across the state to identify systemic barriers and work on solutions.

Federally funded by the Nebraska Court Improvement Project, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative is comprised of over 25 local teams across Nebraska, each led by a lead judge. The local teams are guided by the Resource Guidelines published by the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), which sets out best practice standards for the juvenile court processes.

Each team selects its own projects and goals based on the needs of its community and court system. The Court Improvement Project staff, under the guidance of Project Chair, Judge Larry Gendler, provides technical assistance to the local groups, data collection and reporting, develop resources for the local teams, and work on a statewide basis to address concerns within the juvenile court system. The Initiative also holds events, such as annual regional conferences, lecture series, webinars and trainings open to the public, court staff training, and a statewide Children's Summit every three years.

Click here for more information about the Through the Eyes of the Child teams.


CHIEF JUSTICE | Michael Heavican

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican is the leader of the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative. The Chief Justice will protect the vision of the Initiative and provide direction to its members to ensure that the goals and objectives continue to be pursued.

PROJECT CHAIR | Larry Gendler

Project Chair Larry Gendler is a judge with juvenile court jurisdiction appointed by the Chief Justice. The project chair acts as primary advisor to the Chief Justice, and is the face of the Initiative to the public and other entities. The project chair is a consultant for local lead judges and teams and is the primary liaison with other organizations.


Each local team is led by a Lead Judge. The Lead Judge leads local progress and works with the project chair and other judges for support and consultation. A principle tenet of the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative is that Nebraska's judges must take an active leadership role in improving the court process in child protection cases. Judges have great ability to improve the lives of foster children through systems change and procedural improvements within their courts.

  • Team 1 – Judge Curtis Maschmann
  • Team 2.1 – Judge Larry Gendler
  • Team 2.2 – Judge Bob O’Neal
  • Team 2.3 – Judge Bob O’Neal
  • Team 3 – Judge Toni Thorson
  • Team 4 – Judge Chad Brown
  • Team 5.1 – Judges Linda Senff and Judge C. Jo Petersen
  • Team 5.2 – Judge Frank Skorupa
  • Team 5.3 – Judge Stephen Twiss
  • Team 6.1 – Judge Kenneth Vampola
  • Team 6.2 – Judge Kurt Rager
  • Team 7 – Judge Ross Stoffer
  • Team 8.1 – Judge James Orr
  • Team 8.2 – Judge Kale Burdick
  • Team 8.3 – Judge Tami Schendt
  • Team 9.1 – Judge Arthur Wetzel
  • Team 9.2 – Judge Gerald Jorgensen
  • Team 10W – Judge Timothy Hoeft
  • Team 10C – Judge Michael Mead
  • Team 10E – Judge Michael Burns
  • Team 11.1 – Judge Jeffrey Wightman
  • Team 11.2 – Judge Edward Steenburg
  • Team 11.3 – Judge Anne Paine
  • Team 11.4 – Judge Kent Turnbull
  • Team 12.1 – Judge Russell Harford
  • Team 12.2 – Judge Randin Roland
  • Team 12.3 – Judge James Worden
  • Team Winnebago – Judge Patrick Runge
  • Team Omaha Tribe

Each local team has designated a team coordinator. The team coordinator manages the team by arranging meetings, preparing meeting agendas, and monitoring progress of team projects. The team coordinator maintains active communication with team members and works with state staff.