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January 2014: Developing Program Sustainability for Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations Serving Missing and Exploited Children

This month’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Program (MECP) newsletter focuses on faith-based and nonprofit organizations. Working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP), we highlight CFBNP’s recently published resource guide that details how such organizations build capacity, cultivate partnerships, and secure funding. The guide serves as the foundation for MECP’s three-part webinar series, which will feature CFBNP resource guide coauthors, who offer their first-hand knowledge on the development of long-term sustainability through organizational program strategy. Our feature article, by Sonia Lucero, Case Manager and Director of Operations at Nevada Child Seekers, describes how her nonprofit organization uses partnerships in its work on missing and exploited children’s issues and offers advice to others based on her years of personal experience.


Faith and Communities in Action: A Resource Guide for Increasing Partnership Opportunities to Prevent Crime and Violence

The Department of Justice’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships aims to strengthen partnerships with faith- and community-based organizations throughout the country and expand their participation in Justice initiatives.

Last year CFBNP published a resource guide titled Faith and Communities in Action: A Resource Guide for Increasing Partnership Opportunities to Prevent Crime and Violence.” The guide details how organizations can build capacity, improve partnerships, and effectively apply for and manage grants to prevent crime and support neighborhoods. CFBNP has recently partnered with MECP to host a webinar series for faith based and community organizations in developing sustainable programs to support their goals in supporting missing and exploited children initiatives and preventing crime and violence in their communities. Each webinar in the series will feature the authors of the guide discussing overall strategies and individual best practices for improving partnerships, building organizational capacity, and effectively applying for and managing grants.

To learn more about the webinar series and register for events, visit MECP’s Webinar Page.


3rd Wednesday at 2 p.m. Webinar Series: A Partnership Approach to Program Sustainability

MECP invites you to view part one of a three-part webinar series presented by the coauthors of the CFBNP resource guide. The first webinar in the series, entitled “A Partnership Approach to Program Sustainability,” presented by Jonathan Cloud, examined the guiding principles for developing partnerships and discussed how successful partnerships build sustainability. He described the phases in building or restructuring partnerships and offered examples for developing a partnership sustainability plan.

To view the powerpoint and recording of this webinar, please visit MECP’s Webinar Page.

In response your questions on building a collective partnerships to protect children and combat violence, Jonathan Cloud suggests that participants review DOJ’s “Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence” for more information on the national initiative to protect children and recommended action items for preventing and reducing children’s exposure to violence. Jonathan also recommends “A Guide to Data Collaboration in Communities”, which provides excellent step-by-step information on building a collective partnership- the core of which is the data piece for sustainability.


To register for upcoming webinars in this series, select the titles below:

Building Capacity Within Your Organization: Oscar Grant will discuss methods for assessing organizational capacity, developing strategic plans, and determining how to structure your organization.

February 19, 2014, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EST

Making Dollars and Sense: Mike Zagury will discuss the foundations for successfully applying for grant funding, the steps required to design an effective and fundable grant budget, and principles for measuring performance for a sustainable program.

March 19, 2014, 2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. EST

More information on February and March webinars will be sent to participants in the upcoming months.


Organizational Networking as a Nonprofit

Provided by: Sonia Lucero, Case Manager and Director of Operations, Nevada Child Seekers

Nevada Child Seekers (NCS) was created in 1985 by business and community leaders who sought to address the plight of missing children in Clark County, NV. Since its inception, NCS has provided child search assistance to law enforcement and families.  And for the past 18 years, NCS has provided prevention education for children and parents.

According to the Nevada Missing Children’s Clearinghouse, Nevada Office of the Attorney General, about 8,000 children are reported missing each year in Nevada alone. NCS is actively addressing this issue through its work on prevention, identification, and location efforts on behalf of missing and exploited children. Ten years ago, NCS expanded its service area to include families and law enforcement throughout the state; and is currently the only nonprofit missing children’s organization operating in Nevada.

As we now know, immediate action is crucial when dealing with a child abduction or missing child case; however, reports show that there is typically a two-hour delay in making the initial missing child report.[i] Such findings suggest the need for increased community partnerships and further education and outreach. NCS is proud to have trained and prepared its staff and volunteers to respond immediately as soon as a missing child report has been received.

Throughout the year, Nevada Child Seekers fosters new partnerships with other missing child case management and education programs, strengthens existing relationships, and implements new ways of conducting outreach to the community. The result is heightened community awareness of the issue of missing children.

In order for Nevada Child Seekers—or any nonprofit organization—to fulfill its goals, the organization must build partnerships and then actively maintain them to maximize resources and leverage funding. As a small organization with a large mission, NCS reaches out to potential partners who share our focus on the needs of the families and communities we serve. Over the years, it has become very clear that coordination of both services and resources is key for a small organization like NCS to succeed.

Social service organizations—in the public and private sector—encounter a plethora of challenges that ultimately determine the longevity and the success of an organization. And as society changes, so do the needs of its citizens. Today, the industry is grappling with an overall decrease in the availability of resources while at the same time the demand for services has been increasing. Unfortunately, public administrators across disciplines and fields of service have been feeling the financial crunch of hard economic times for several years now, and some have had to make the painful decision to eliminate services to secure the longevity of their organizations. In that climate, building collaborative efforts and multiple funding sources becomes even more vital.

The key to identifying potential community partnerships lies not only in evaluating the mission of a particular agency or organization, but also in examining the history, current projects, and long-term impact of its services on the population served. It is not enough to look up an organization’s Website, peruse an information packet, or conduct a survey of the services it provides. Instead, analysis of the organization must be continuous—services must be delivered as promised and staff must be reliable in their following through.

NCS works with families that are in unbelievably difficult situations. Having a child go missing is sad, overwhelming, and gut wrenching. Referring these families to counseling both during and after location of the child is vital. As the family’s case manager, I personally take the time to visit with service providers—to determine the vision, goals, and objectives of services. Here are some of the questions I ask when evaluating potential partners in the community:

  • Location of services: Are services offered in a location that is convenient for the family?
  • Provision of services: Are services focused on one objective, or are providers trying to accomplish too many goals at once, and thus diluting efficacy?
  • Staff educational background and longevity: Both are indicators of the quality of an organization’s overall structure and its capacity to succeed in the future.
  • Participation in public trainings: Is the organization involved in community partnership meetings? Does the organization show leadership and participation in social justice movements, such as human trafficking, internet safety, bullying, and victim rights?

Once a partnership has been established, the biggest—and most important—battle is maintaining ongoing communication and thereby fostering the relationship. Regular progress evaluations help to ensure that all parties follow through on their commitments and are accountable to one another. I have found it particularly helpful to follow up with the families to find out first hand their experiences with the referring agency. We need to hold our service providers—whether a faith-based organization or a government agency—to the same standards and accountability as we hold our business relationships. “Customer satisfaction” with service outcomes is an outlook all of us need to cultivate.

NCS has a strong collaborative partnership with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, called METRO,  which has evolved over time. In fact, most of our families are referred to us by the METRO missing persons unit. This partnership has had to make adjustments over the years to better meet the needs of our families. We have an established memorandum of understanding that details the expectations of both parties as well as the outcomes we anticipate through our collaboration.

Nevada Child Seekers continues to expand its services to the community—to bring the missing children of Nevada home safely to their families, to provide support services to the families who are searching for a missing child, to advocate on behalf of the young people who have run away and are suffering exploitation, and to offer the best and most effective abduction prevention education programs on the market. Collaboration makes it possible. The reality is that this work takes a whole community, and, at times, an entire nation. Let’s work together to bring our missing children home.”


Upcoming Events

AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program Changes. Effective January 2014, the highly successful AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program will no longer deliver training on a regional basis, and will shift instead to a dynamic new training delivery system. The new system calls for all course programs listed here to be hosted by local, regional, State, and tribal law enforcement training academies or by agencies and organizations interested in hosting training. Through these partnerships, training academies and agencies can either host one or more training programs, or can select the “build-a-course” option. The caliber of AMBER Alert training programs and instructors continues to be guaranteed.

The AMBER Alert mission remains the same: to safely recover missing, endangered, and abducted children through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement, media, transportation, and other partners using training and technology to enhance response capacities and capabilities and increase public participation in the process. The AMBER Alert Program encourages you to collaborate with your law enforcement, public safety, and nonprofit partners to identify your training needs and complete the online technical assistance request form to bring one of our comprehensive training programs to your community.

National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) invites fifth grade students to participate in the National Missing Children’s Day poster contest. This annual contest gives teachers, law enforcement, and other child advocates an opportunity to discuss the issue of missing and exploited children with children, parents, and guardians and to promote child safety.

OJJDP will invite the national winner to Washington, DC, to participate in the National Missing Children’s Day commemoration in May 2014, at which time he or she will receive an award for the winning artwork. The submission deadline for the national competition has been extended to March 14th, 2014. Please contact your state manager to see how this affects your state deadline.For more information, please visit here.


MECP’s Training Center

Request Training and Technical Assistance From MECP. MECP offers training and technical assistance tailored to meet the specific needs of State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other juvenile justice practitioners. For information on how your agency or organization can receive training and technical assistance on missing and exploited children’s issues, please contact MECP at 1–888–347–5610 or [email protected]. To submit a request for training and technical assistance, please complete a training and technical assistance form.



[i]U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and McKenna, R., Brown, K.M., Keppel, R.D., Weis, J.G., and Skeen, M.E. 2006. Investigative Case Management for Missing Children Homicides: Report II. Olympia, WA: Washington State Attorney General’s Office and Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/archive/documents/homicide_missing.pdf).