Springboard Prize Awardees

The Aviv Foundation is delighted to announce the four awardees of the inaugural Springboard Prize for Child Welfare!

The Children’s Justice Attorney Education Program (CJAE) plans to launch a fellowship program to provide extensive training, expert case consultation, and reflective practice to attorneys practicing in rural areas in Nebraska, with the goal of improving the availability and quality of legal representation for children and families in rural communities. Housed at the University of Nebraska’s Center on Children, Families, and the Law and College of Law, Michelle Paxton, Director of the Children’s Justice Clinic, will build and lead the program, which is inspired by her clinic’s efforts to provide law students with support to help them represent children as Guardians ad Litem.

Family Reunification, Equity, & Empowerment (FREE) intends to expand the support groups, resources, and personalized coaching it provides to formerly-incarcerated parents, grandparents, and other family members navigating the child welfare system. It also plans to grow its work with system-impacted families to advocate for changes to state laws that unfairly prevent parents and family members with conviction histories from being reunited with their children. FREE’s goal is to reduce the number of caring, capable birth parents or other family members with criminal records who are denied custody because of their past convictions. FREE, an initiative of Starting Over, was founded by Vonya Quarles, who built the organization based on her professional and personal experiences in the criminal justice and child welfare systems.

The Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition (NICWC) plans to develop a culturally-specific program to help tribal youth aging out of care access the available services and financial support to aid their transition into adulthood. (e.g., Chafee, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Bridge to Independence program) Led by Misty Frazier, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation, NICWC hopes to reduce barriers to independent living grants, with the long-term goal of strengthening the relationship between Nebraska Tribes and state agencies. Through existing relationships with tribal leaders in child welfare across the country, NICWC hopes to share its program and lessons learned beyond Nebraska.

Uptrust plans to create a new version of its mobile app to streamline court appointments and other administrative needs for families involved in the child welfare system. The app will provide a calendar of obligations, text messages to remind families of upcoming appointments, an opportunity to connect directly with their lawyers, and access to vital social services. Its goal is to reduce administrative burdens on parents in the child welfare system, so they can focus on what’s most important for themselves and their families. The organization scaled a similar technology solution in the criminal justice system, which has been used by over 250,000 public defender clients across 100+ counties, and has demonstrated a 50% reduction in missed hearings. The team is adding this child welfare feature in part based on their own varied experiences with the foster care system, both as parents and attorneys.

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How did we get here?

The Aviv Foundation launched the Springboard Prize for Child Welfare on January 12, 2021, reaching hundreds of leaders within and beyond the child welfare community to spread the word about this new grant opportunity. As a result, the applicant pool reflected a diverse array of approaches and communities.

We received 389 applications, representing 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An external Advisory Committee evaluated proposals on four criteria: innovation, impact, achievability, and connection to the child welfare system. Ultimately, the Aviv Foundation Board of Directors selected four awardees to receive $200,000 over two years, along with ongoing partnership with the Aviv Foundation.

Lastly, we learned a great deal from the leaders we met through the open call, and we plan to formally share  our reflections with the child welfare community in the months ahead.

Thank you for your support of and engagement with the Springboard Prize for Child Welfare, and most importantly, for all you are doing to improve the lives of children and families.