Closs rescuer, foster care worker honored

March 22, 2019
Kristin Kasinskas, left, husband, Peter, and Jeanne Nutter and her dog Henry head back to their homes after speaking with the media in Gordon. Kristin Kasinskas called 911 on Thursday to report that Jayme Closs, 13, had been found after Nutter, who was out walking her dog, encountered her and brought her to Kasinskas' house. Closs had been missing since her parents were killed in October.

The woman who found missing 13-year-old Jayme Closs outside her Douglas County cabin and an Eau Claire treatment foster care worker were two of six child welfare professionals from around Wisconsin who were presented with a 2019 Caring for Kids award Friday by state Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson in a ceremony at the state Capitol in Madison.

Jeanne Nutter of Strum, an academic adviser with the University of Wisconsin’s School of Social Work, was recognized for her lifelong career bettering the children and families across the state, and for her actions in bringing Jayme, the rural Barron girl held captive for 88 days this winter, to safety. Nutter’s leadership, compassion and training helped in getting Jayme safely back to her family, according to DCF.

Nutter was nominated by a former intern, who pointed out that “Jayme couldn’t (have) come across a better person to help her to safety in a trauma informed manner. She has been a social worker role model for many social workers over the years.”

Emma Lutzke, a worker in the Treatment Foster Care Program for the Lutheran Social Services office in Eau Claire, was nominated for her ability to develop trusting relationships with clients and community partners, allowing for positive interactions and increased ability to obtain needed resources. Lutzke’s nomination speaks to those strengths.

“Emma shares with children the importance of establishing safety, including feeling safe and how to develop the power to keep themselves safe — in action, interactions, communication and thoughts,” a colleague wrote. “She has developed a special way of connecting with children, building rapport and building trust with children who have experienced so much trauma.”

Award selection criteria included years of service and experience, adapting to new initiatives, advocacy, leadership and a record of ensuring the well-being of children and families.

“Child welfare professionals are devoted to helping people overcome difficult situations and cope with the trauma they have experienced,” Amundson said in a news release. “They are the unsung heroes within our communities, and I am proud to honor such amazing and compassionate individuals — many of whom dedicated their entire professional lives to the children and families of Wisconsin.”