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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

First Lady to Headline Child Welfare Innovation Event

Media Contacts:  

Luke Robson, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1967

Brenda Weyers, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, 402-476-9401



Hack-a-thon aims to build unique technology platform for Nebraska’s foster youth


LINCOLN – On Monday, First Lady Susanne Shore will feature as a special guest for the Build the Future: Nebraska Hack-a-thon. The Hack-a-thon, held on October 30-31, brings together a group of youth in care, case workers, tech developers, and other system and community partners for the purpose of creating a new, unique technology platform for Nebraska’s foster youth.


A hack-a-thon is a competitive programming event designed to bring together a team to develop a new piece of software.  The 24-hour hack-a-thon, held at Metro Community College’s new Center for Advanced and Emerging Technology in Omaha, will start working toward developing a unique technology platform for foster youth in Nebraska, designed by the youth themselves. It will be a mobile technology platform that empowers young people to build their own support system by creating a sustained connection to peers, experts, and other adults to provide support as they navigate and transition out of foster care or other systems. Through this platform, youth gain access to content and coaching to help them overcome challenges like advocating to stay in the same school despite placement changes, renting an apartment, or reconnecting with biological family. The Think of Us platform is a strategy of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Connected Youth Initiative, aimed at connecting youth to supports and services within their community.


Another goal of the finished platform will be to provide real-time, evidence-based data to influence processes and improve child welfare practices in our state. With the help of those involved in the hack-a-thon, the platform aims to increase case worker efficiency, increase compliance rates, provide additional reporting tools, provide business intelligence about workers, give youth access to additional resources, and create better outcomes for youth in Nebraska. Sara Riffel, an associate vice president at Nebraska Children, thinks helping young people build stronger support systems will be a huge benefit, but she’s equally excited by the data the platform will generate, perhaps uncovering gaps in services that aren’t readily apparent. "The important thing with the platform is that for the first time, we can use real data in real time," she says.


As the guest speaker at the opening breakfast for the Build the Future: Nebraska Hack-a-thon, First Lady Susanne Shore will address how older youth work is an important priority of the statewide Bring Up Nebraska prevention initiative. Bring Up Nebraska exists to shine a light on the prevention work happening in local communities, with Nebraska Children and its partners assisting those efforts through advocacy, data, and funding.


About Think of Us


The ultimate goal of Think of Us is for foster youth to successfully transition into a prosperous adulthood. We see this process as a communal endeavor that connects employment, education, and abilities. We envision a future where communities are designed to maximize the development and wellness of maturing youth, so that they can transition into healthy, stable, and thriving adults. Our work to date has taught us that it is possible to develop a collective impact, not only providing the tools, but also streamlining the systems that help young people utilize the resources at their disposal. We work with foster care agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations to support them as they coach youth through their transition. Learn more at


About Nebraska Children and Families Foundation


Nebraska Children and Families Foundation invests in children from birth to young adulthood with initiatives that are focused on preventing negative outcomes. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults. By working with our community partners to understand the risks facing children at every stage of their development, we can identify the most effective avenues to create positive change, and help Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens reach their full potential. Learn more at