Helping children who face seemingly insurmountable odds is the important work of CEDARS. Founded in 1947 by the Reverend Charles and Alberta Danner, CEDARS continues their vision today to create a place where children can “experience a real childhood and begin planning for the future.”
That simple act of kindness more than 60 years ago has resulted in thousands of children building new family lives. The Danners’ passion still lives on through CEDARS work today as they offer young people safe shelter — and the skills to adapt to a quickly changing world.
Today’s reality is harsh, and the challenges disturbing. All homes today are not safe for every child. Poverty, drug use, mental illness, criminal activity, and neglect place children at extreme risk.
CEDARS continues to respond, giving hope to youth in need and direction to families struggling to stay together.
It is the mission of CEDARS to help children who have been abused, neglected, and homeless achieve safety, stability, and enduring family relationships.
President Jim Blue says that CEDARS has relationships with children for periods ranging from a few days to several years. It always begins with the crucial first day and is always focused on the next sundown.
“We obviously can’t have children sleeping outside in Lincoln Nebraska. They need to have a trustworthy organization to be there. And that’s what CEDARS is.”
Children come to the attention of CEDARS in a variety of ways: social service agencies, probation officers, law enforcement and others who realize that for one of a variety of reasons the parents are not taking care of their children.
“We have about 300 kids that stay with us every night who have no other safe place to spend the night” said Blue. “They are in our emergency shelter, in our residential care environment and our apartments and largely in our foster homes. About 255 of those 300 kids are in foster families.”
The children helped by CEDARS come from all over southeast Nebraska. Once their immediate safety and security are established the organization goes to work on their future.
“We work hard to try to help the child reunite with their biological parents. And if that is not practical then adoption is a real option.”
CEDARS has also been able to branch into preventative services such as going into homes to educate parents and child care programs in elementary schools. Many times their contact with a child begins after a call to the state’s child abuse hotline.
“A caseworker would likely refer that child out to a community based organization like CEDARS to take care of that child” said Blue. “They may come and live with us or maybe if the neglect is not severe then the caseworker may ask for one of our staff to go into the home to try to help that family fix their situation.”
CEDARS is a unique, non-profit business. It’s ready to cooperate with authorities at a moment’s notice but also helps save the need to establish and maintain child welfare facilities. State reimbursement pays for about 60% of the cost but donations have to cover the rest. In the past year CEDARS helped 2,671 children and received about 40 new referrals each week. You can help with financial donations or by volunteering to serve as a foster or adoptive family. Full information on CEDARS, its programs, and ways to become involved, can be found at their website: www.CEDARS-kids.org