Ground was broke Jan. 10 on the corner of Wounded Man Ave. and Visiting Eagle St. on the Santee Reservation for the new Family Resource Center. Organizer and social worker Misty Frazier said they been working towards that moment for three years.
“It feels relieving,” she said. “We have had roadblocks and unexpected things come up, so it is nice to be at a point of progression.”
Professor Jason Griffiths and his master students from the University of Nebraska College of Architecture were in charge of designing the project.
The new Family Resource Center is described by Griffiths as “unremarkable” on the outside, meaning the building is not the most eye-catching facility, but it’s the interior that is of most importance.
According to Frazier, the Family Center will provide many services to families and children. There will be space for classes and supervised visitations as well as examination rooms.
“We hope that an unassuming building would help mitigate fear and anxiety wherever possible,” said Griffiths.
Frazier agreed that it was important to have a place on the reservation that felt safe and private, especially for the children.
Currently, families have to drive to Norfolk or Sioux City to get the various treatments that will be available soon in Santee.
“It is important to have a place here where therapy and forensics is available and staff is trained to limit secondary trauma,” Frazier said.
The Family Resource Center will have plenty of space for supervised visitations for parents and children from abuse cases.
“Right now, the only place for supervised visits is a conference room, which is also used for many other things so it isn’t always available.” Frazier explained.
She also pointed out that Phase 2 of this project will introduce an outdoor play area she hopes will also be used for visitations.
“We are excited to have plenty of room to encourage positive parent interaction,” she said.
According to Frazier, the facility will also host parent and foster parent classes.
The Family Resource Center will be the first step in working toward a Child Advocacy Center. Examination rooms would be used to conduct forensic interviews. Frazier is also looking into art therapy.
All of the qualities that make this facility a great contribution to the community, also require a lot of privacy and confidentiality in order to be successful.
“Privacy is difficult,” said Frazier. “Everyone knows everyone's business just like any small town.”
According to her, privacy is a large part of feeling safe. Adults and children are more prone to talking when they know the information will stay confidential. Children feel more safe in an examination room when there are no apparent windows.
Providing privacy isn’t the only challenge Frazier has run into during the three-year project. Even finding a location perfect for the Family Resource Center was a struggle. She learned a lot about the construction process.
“The building also had to be close to the clinic,” she explained.
The clinic will collaborate with the center to perform examinations.
With a Family Resource Center that is intended to also become a Child Advocacy Center, Frazier said integrating the right staff is very important and needs the right credentials and training, which can be hard to obtain.
“There are close to 1,000 shadowing hours that need to be done,” Frazier explained.
Some people go to the training and can’t get enough hours to complete the shadowing portion. She also said she wishes to employ Native American interviewers and staff, in hopes the interview outcomes improve.
Frazier said the biggest learning moment through this process was how many partnerships it takes to get something like this done.
There are several partnerships between Frazier, the council, UNL Architecture department, contractors and entities funding the project. Funding and construction was no easy task.
“There were times I felt like giving up,” she said.
Frazier submitted grant proposals as there wasn’t funding coming from the tribe.
“The budget was strapped at the time,” she explained.
Frazier secured funding while Griffiths found donations of brick by Glen-Gery Brick and International Masonry Institute, windows from Acadia, CLT wall cost deductions from Structurlam and in-kind donations of services from engineers Shaffer & Stevens.
After funding was found, Frazier then had the task of finding architects and contractors.
“It was hard finding someone to take on a project in rural Nebraska that wasn’t already booked into late 2019,” she said.
With everything falling into place, Frazier can breathe a sigh of relief.
“It is nice and exciting to be at this point,” she said.
The ground breaking on Jan. 10 was a small gathering of 4 tribal members and partners from Omaha.
“The project wouldn’t have been possible without them,” Frazier said.