I was very excited and honored to participate in the first ever meeting of the Program and Services Advisory Council at Project Harmony! If you are not familiar with Project Harmony, it is a child advocacy center located here in Omaha, Nebraska. Established in 1996 it is one of 7 child advocacy centers in Nebraska and serving Douglas, Sarpy, Dodge, Washington and 16 counties in Southwest Iowa.

In 2020, Project Harmony was able to provide response services to 3,460 children who made an outcry of abuse or neglect (compared to 4,312 in 2019). An additional 1,129 children participated in preventative mental health services through the Connections program (compared to 1,782 in 2019). In total, the agency served 1,449 fewer children in 2020 compared to 2019, and the reduction was not due to less child abuse or trauma, but because of the limitations imposed by COVID-19.

Project Harmony’s mission is “to protect and support children, collaborate with professionals and engage the community to end child abuse and neglect.” Project Harmony provides many services to children including immediate support to those who are victims or suspected victims of abuse and neglect. They take a multidisciplinary approach to protecting children, allowing collaborative work between law enforcement, social services and medical professionals.

The purpose of this new council is to engage community members who can share their knowledge and expertise about how Project Harmony can enhance, add, or change their current array of services. Through this, they seek to better meet the needs of the children and families they protect while supporting the mission and vision of the organization. As part of the process, council members are educated about the current programs and services offered at Project Harmony. At our meeting this week, we learned more about the core response services including forensic interviews, family advocacy, medical exams, mental health, the Triage Center, multi-disciplinary teams, and missing youth services. Additionally, we discussed ways that responsive services staff who are truly on the “front line” and regularly exposed to secondary trauma can be supported in self-care and wellness promotion.

I am thrilled to be serving on this council! I hope to lend my expertise as a pediatrician and community advocate to assist Project Harmony in determining how they can most effectively carry out their mission of protecting and supporting children. Additionally, collaboration with this team offers a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the prevalence and impact of child abuse in our region and to see up close how the efforts of this organization can impact outcomes for these kids. Promotion of health and wellness for Omaha area children is at the core of the Saxena Family Foundation’s mission. Participation in this council furthers the Shikhar and Kristin Saxena Foundation’s mission by keeping us up to date on the most recent research, data, and community services available while offering support and assistance to Project Harmony.

We are truly fortunate to have such a fine-tuned collaborative team coming to the aid of some of the most vulnerable children in our community. I am grateful for the opportunity to assist Project Harmony in their efforts to further improve their services and look forward to working with them to enhance the effectiveness of the important and life-changing work they do for Omaha area kids!