Four years ago today, like many Omahans and Nebraskans, we were glued to our televisions, watching news reports of the shooting at Von Maur. We issued a brief statement to the press early the next day:
“Omaha,NE– The tragedy at Westroads Mall has again reminded us of the difficulties faced byNebraskachildren and the short comings of the state systems of foster care, juvenile justice, and behavioral health that serve them in time of trouble.
As the details of the events surrounding the life of Robert Hawkins come to light, we see the need for continued vigilance in the systems of care for our state’s children. We can not blame the foster care or juvenile justice systems. These circumstances do, however, point out the importance of the foster care and juvenile justice systems addressing the full array of mental health problems that children present. These systems are ill-equipped to provide children the services they need and do not provide those services consistently. We hope that in the wake of this tragedy, members of our community come together to address the short-comings of our mental health system in a meaningful and sustained way, in the hope of making certain every child is provided with a community of support through troubled times.”
Today, we think about the families of the victims and the impact this tragic event had on their lives. We also reflect back on those events four short years ago and wonder, what has changed for Nebraska’s kids? Do we do a better job of serving them in times of trouble? Have we as a community addressed the short-comings of the system in a meaningful and sustained way?