NEBRASKA NICE: Kearney police department, city council back local Family Advocacy Network

Local4 News at 10
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:14 PM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - If you haven’t heard of the Family Advocacy Network in Kearney, don’t worry - it’s kind of by design.

The nonprofit’s been a part of the Kearney community since 2001, and is now moving into a new location this spring. Organizers say it’s all thanks to the part of the community that has heard of them.

When tragedy strikes, typically you see first responders first - it’s built in the name. But what happens after that tragedy, whether it’s a house fire that claims the lives of loved ones or a drug bust that leaves kids alone in a home not knowing what’s next? That’s where nonprofits like the Family Advocacy Network, also known as FAN, in Kearney comes in, and where those victims go is about to get a major facelift.

Right now, FAN operates in a 2,500-square-foot facility on East 31st Street. It’s where they’ve been since 2001 when they first served 120-150 child victims per year with only two staff members.

“Having two interview rooms is inadequate,” said FAN Executive Director Jamie Vetter. “Having one observation room is inadequate. Our numbers just don’t support that.”

Now they’re serving more in the realm of 600-750 victims a year in the same facility.

”They are doing exceptional work in a facility that is not adequate right?” Kearney Police Chief Bryan Waugh said. “And they still do it. They do it with passion, they do it with professionalism, and they do it with care.”

Fortunately for the victims and the workers, FAN is on the move. They’re building a new $3.5 million facility on East 26th Street that has 9,400-square-feet. They even recently received a $100,000 investment from the city back on January 10 to help with the move. Kearney mayor Stan Clouse says it’s because of how much the city already works with FAN.

”They’re very tightly woven, and it’s an extension of the law enforcement because what you do with the victims, the innocent victims,” Clouse said. “How do you take care of some of the innocent victims in these situations?”

Chief Waugh has led KPD for four years now, and while he’s newer to the area he says the impact FAN has on the area is not.

”We’ll receive letters in the mail from victims who may have been four years old, and now they’re in college and sending a letter saying you know what, I remember investigator insert name here, and they really changed my life,” Chief Waugh said.

Right now, the new facility is mainly drywall, but Vetter says she’s hoping to have the new facility up and running by April or May of this year, and it’s all thanks to the support not only from the city, but the community as a whole.

”Knowing where we’ve come from and where we’re headed to is very humbling because we are a nonprofit,” Vetter said. “We are at the mercy of the community that supports us, and I’ve always said the CAC is only as strong as the community that supports them. It’s very humbling to know that we have that support and we have so many people that believe in the mission and the work that we do because you don’t always have that.”

Mayor Clouse said he’s hoping the $100,000 from the city is just the start of more funds coming in for FAN. While most nonprofits are very separate from city operations, Clouse says it couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to FAN.

”It’s really just an extension, if you will, of our police department,” Clouse said. “They provide a valuable service for our community and our police department, so we felt as an extension of our police department, if you will, that it was important to support them.”

”Without them, I fear that when investigating cases of this nature where we’re involving young people, young victims who have experienced horrible things in their lives, it’s so important to have a professional, well-trained person to assist law enforcement,” Chief Waugh added.

If you would like to give back or make any kind of donation to FAN, Vetter said you can contact them directly at their current office by calling (308)865-7492.