For over 28 years, Voices for Children in Nebraska has been the outspoken, independent voice for Nebraska’s kids. As we move closer to our annual Spotlight Gala on September 19, we’re taking a look inside our organization to show you how we create opportunities for children to reach their full potential. We’re excited to launch our three part series on our work; “It’s Who We Are, It’s What We Do, It’s Why It Matters”.
Getting to know who we are as an organization involves knowing how Voices for Children in Nebraska got started, as well knowing our current staff that works to create change for Nebraska’s kids.
Voices for Children in Nebraska was founded in 1987 by Kathy Bigsby Moore after she and her husband Craig saw firsthand the issues in the child welfare system while serving as foster parents. The needs of children were often going unmet due to breakdowns of the very systems that were in place to protect them.
Although all kids deserve the chance to grow into healthy adults, at the time, children in the foster care system were being left without basic needs that are essential to development: adequate nutrition, clothing, transportation, and access to health and behavioral services. Seeing the urgency at which systems serving children needed to be reformed, Kathy founded Voices for Children in Nebraska from her basement, as an independent, statewide, multi-issue, system advocacy organization.
Since then, we’ve grown and expanded our issue areas while we work to ensure that all of our state’s children can lead healthy, secure and fulfilling lives. Today, our main topic areas are education, health, economic stability, child welfare & juvenile justice.
In order to build these pathways to opportunities for children and families, we rely on the efforts of our committed and passionate staff for research, policy, and community engagement:
Carolyn D. Rooker, MSW
Before joining Voices for Children as Executive Director, Carolyn’s leadership experience included serving as the CEO of the Omaha Public Library Foundation, Community Relations/ Grant Coordinator for the Visiting Nurse Association for more than a decade and as Associate Director of Allocations at United Way. In 2008, she was a recipient of the 40 Under 40 award. Carolyn began her career doing front line social work for five years, Including serving in an emergency children’s homeless shelter, as a treatment foster care consultant and as a case manager for an adolescent day treatment program. Carolyn’s passion and enthusiasm for our state’s most vulnerable children and families is the cornerstone of her work. Carolyn holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Union College and a Master’s in Social Work, specializing in Administration, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is a graduate of the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute, Class IV. Carolyn was recently selected to be a fellow in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Leadership Institute.
Aubrey Mancuso, MSW
Policy Coordinator – Economic Stability & Health
As Policy Coordinator, Aubrey oversees policy and research efforts on family economic stability and health. Prior to joining Voices for Children, Aubrey worked with homeless adults with mental illness in New York, the City of New York’s Food Stamp Program and United States Senator Jeff Bingaman. She holds a Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University and a BA from Creighton University.
Juliet A. Summers, J.D.
Policy Coordinator- Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Juliet Summers is the Policy Coordinator for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. She is responsible for overseeing Voices for Children’s policy research, analysis, and advocacy efforts on behalf of children involved in Nebraska’s child welfare and juvenile court systems. Prior to joining Voices for Children, Juliet served as a public defender, representing children and families in the juvenile court of Douglas County. Before that, she taught 2nd grade on the Rosebud Indian Reservation through Teach for America. Juliet holds a law degree from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in political science from Duke University. She is a member of the Nebraska bar.
Policy Associate – Child Welfare
Julia Tse is the Child Welfare Policy Associate at Voices for Children. She is responsible for conducting data analysis and research on child welfare in the state and for monitoring policy changes to improve the system. She first joined Voices for Children through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps to research the issue areas of economic stability and health. Julia has worked with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago and conducted research on culture and migration. She is a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, where she received a B.A. in anthropology and East Asian studies.
Elizabeth is the Policy and Research Associate for Voices for Children, a position she acquired through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. In this capacity, she tracks relevant policy issues and conducts research in order to support Voices for Children’s mission. As a recent graduate of Concordia College, Elizabeth is excited to be putting her degree in Global Studies and Political Science to work at Voices for Children.
Chrissy Tonkinson, MPH
Chrissy Tonkinson is the Research Coordinator at Voices for Children in Nebraska. She is responsible for data collection, analysis, and compilation of the Kids Count in Nebraska annual report and development and support of any additional Voices for Children in Nebraska research projects. Chrissy holds a Master’s of Public Health Degree in Biostatistics from the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health. While working towards her master’s, she developed a strong passion for data analysis and research and its importance to advocacy and policy. Prior to joining Voices for Children, Chrissy worked as an advocate for young children and families under Early Head Start. She also has experience in teaching and making statistics accessible to a variety of populations.
Operations and Finance
Operations & Special Projects Coordinator
Maria Alban is the Operations and Special Projects Coordinator. She is responsible for coordinating the annual Voices for Children Spotlight Gala and Operations. Before joining Voices for Children, Maria worked in development at The Nebraska Masonic Home Foundation and as an Admissions Counselor and Group Tour Coordinator for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During her time working for non-profit organizations she gained a passion for being an advocate for children and families. Maria is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a B.S. in Communications.
Jennifer is the finance manager. She is responsible for financial activities, including grant management and human resources. Jennifer’s accounting experience includes working as the Finance Manager for Graffiti Tracker and the Utilization of Funds Officer for the LaVista Volunteer Firefighter Association. Prior to join Voices, Jennifer worked at Girls Inc as a program specialist, teaching S.T.E.M. to 9-12 year old girls.
Communications and Graphic Design
Sam is the Communications Coordinator at Voices for Children. A graduate of Creighton University, Sam majored in political science, where he developed an interest in data driven public policy. Previously, he worked as Communications Coordinator at the Center for People in Need, and organized support around expanding Medicaid for Nebraska Appleseed, in addition to various political campaign work. Sam’s experiences in these positions have given him knowledge of the unique problems facing low-income and vulnerable populations, as well as the skills to communicate solutions through traditional and digital media.