Child Welfare

A functioning child welfare system gets help to children and families who need it – but never makes a family’s situation worse with intervention.

At Nebraska Appleseed, we’re working to reform our state’s broken child welfare system. That means collaborating with government, lawmakers and communities on better policies and practices – and sometimes taking legal action to protect the rights of children.

Our children in the foster system are entitled to caring, safe homes; education; medical and mental health care; substance abuse treatment; and thoughtful case management.


Current Child Welfare Projects & Initiatives:

Systemic Reform

NE_Appleseed_Icons_SystemicReform-128Nebraska’s child welfare system is at a crossroads following several ineffective reform initiatives attempted by the state. The Comprehensive Reform Project allows Appleseed to pursue targeted litigation, policy advocacy, and administrative or regulatory advocacy on systemic issues focused on comprehensive child welfare reform.

Publications | Current Legislation | On Our Blog


Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act

NE_Appleseed_Icons_AgingOut-128The Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act, introduced as LB 216 in January 2013 by Senator Amanda McGill, was passed in June 2013, giving young adults aging out of Nebraska’s foster care system the opportunity to overcome barriers and reach a bright future.  The Act extends voluntary services and support for these young people, including Medicaid coverage, housing support, and age-appropriate case management services, to the age of 21 as allowed under the federal Fostering Connections Act.  Eligible young people who were adopted or entered into a guardianship at age 16+ can also receive extended adoption or guardianship subsidies.  For more details, check out our fact sheet or some of our other materials below.

This Prezi video shows the history of the passage of LB 216 in Nebraska.  Click here to view the Prezi at your own pace without the voiceover.

Current Bridge to Independence Materials

Bridge to Independence Fact Sheet - This youth-friendly fact sheet provides an easy-to-read overview of the program and features a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on the second page.

Young Adult Bridge to Independence Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides an overview of the act and specifics about eligibility requirements, service provision, and oversight mechanisms.  The fact sheet also contains an implementation timeline showing when certain provisions of the act will take effect.

Timeline of Service Provision - This document follows the path of a young person aging out of foster care and entering the Bridge to Independence program to provide a more detailed look at how young people will move through the program.

Building the Case for LB 216

LB 216 Fact Sheet – The original fact sheet that was prepared for the LB 216 public hearing in February of 2013.

A Successful Ascent to Adulthood - An illustration showing the potential impact of LB 216.

LB 216 Action Guide – A guide for constituents containing a brief overview of LB 216, talking points about the bill, tips for calling or writing senators (along with a sample call script), and other ideas for ways to raise awareness and get the word out (including suggestions for writing a letter to the editor and an action alert template).

Bridging the Gap Report - This report was prepared as a part of LR 537, an interim study from 2012 that gathered data and developed recommendations on the needs of youth aging out of foster care.  Data on outcomes for these youth were collected from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and gathered through statewide focus groups with 108 youth and surveys of both young people (one for those under 18 and one for those over 18) and system stakeholders.

LB 216: Growing Healthy, Productive Adults - A fact sheet discussing brain development and how the Young Adult Voluntary Services and Support Act will positively impact youth who have experienced trauma and are aging out of foster care.

Talking Points and Postcards – Basic talking points about the bill were created for both young people and adults to use in reaching out to senators and filling out supportive postcards, which were collected from young people and adults and distributed to state senators prior to floor debate by the full legislature.

Youth Involvement – Young people with experience in foster care were involved in advocacy efforts every step along the way.  Over 100 young people across the state offered input into program design options by participating in focus groups and filling out surveys.  Youth came to the capitol on several occasions to show support for the bill, and members of Project Everlast spoke at every hearing and press conference.  Project Everlast also took on the capitol to host a luncheon with senators and advocate for the bill during floor debate.

LB 216: Important Things to Know – This document was created to address some potential concerns about LB 216.  It was intended to be distributed to a more broad audience.

LB 216: Addressing Concerns – This is a more detailed version of the “Important Things to Know” document and was intended to be used with a more targeted audience.

LB 216 Press Conference Speeches - Video

Sen. Amanda McGill

Sarah Helvey, Child Welfare Program Director with Nebraska Appleseed

Mary Fraser Meints, Executive Director of Youth Emergency Services

Amanda, Project Everlast member

Mickey, Project Everlast member

LB 216 Hearing Testimony - Video

Amy West, Child Welfare Program Policy Coordinator with Nebraska Appleseed

Kristina, Project Everlast member

Amanda, Project Everlast member

Mickey, Project Everlast member

LB 216 Press Communication

Press Release announcing the introduction of LB 216

News Coverage:

Jan. 31, 2013 – LB 216 Public Hearing and Press Conference

April 4, 2013 – First round of floor debate coverage

Other Coverage

See the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Success Beyond 18 page for more!


Youth Transitioning from Foster Care to Adulthood

NE_Appleseed_Icons_AgingOut-128In partnership with young people and other stakeholders, Appleseed advocates for Nebraska to improve the foster care system for older youth and remove the barriers they face in becoming successful adults.  We educate key decision makers and professionals working in the field about best practices, provide trainings and opportunities for youth to advocate for improvements to the system, and work to ensure current requirements around transition planning are being followed.

Transition Planning Resources

Policy Brief on Transition Planning – This Policy Brief covers the history of law around transition planning, clearly describes Nebraska’s current law, and addresses best practices in developing a written transition proposal. Several useful resources are included in the appendix and listed below.

Transition Proposal Checklist*  PDF | Microsoft Word - This resource, created by Nebraska Appleseed, helps guide the process of developing a written transition proposal. It offers checklists of the many needs to be considered in the seven areas of transition planning required by Nebraska state law: education, employment, health, financial assistance, housing, relationship development, and adult services.

Nationwide Transition Proposal Checklist*  PDF | Microsoft Word – This is a version of the checklist that has been altered for other states to use.  Nebraska-specific terminology has been removed.

Youth Inventory*  PDF | Microsoft Word - Created by Nebraska Appleseed, this one-page checklist lists the many important documents and other vital needs that should be met before a young person ages out or a case is closed to independent living.

Nationwide Youth Inventory*  PDF | Microsoft Word - This is a version of the Youth Inventory that has been altered for other states to use.  Nebraska-specific terminology has been removed.

Transition Toolkit – This transition proposal template was created by FosterClub, a national network for young people in foster care, and adapted by Nebraska Appleseed to follow the flow of Nebraska’s state law on transition planning. It can be utilized as a template for caseworkers or other advocates to use when writing a transition proposal. It should be noted that this Toolkit is not all-encompassing; in fact, it does not offer a section on adult services, which is required by state law.

Permanency Pact – Created by FosterClub and shortened by Nebraska Appleseed for ease of use, this resource serves as a supportive adult’s “pledge” to act as a lifelong support for a young person in foster care. Clearly defining the specific supports an adult is committed to offering helps clarify relationships and develop mutual expectations.

Attorney Survey Results – In April of 2012, Nebraska Appleseed conducted a survey of local practicing child welfare attorneys regarding their experiences with transition planning and the implementation of LB 177 (which, among other things, puts into place requirements about the transition planning process).  Unfortunately, those who responded expressed concerns with Nebraska’s current adherence to this statute, and the vast majority indicated that transition planning requirements were either not being followed or not effectively and comprehensively addressing youths’ needs.

* These documents may be printed, copied, adapted, edited, and distributed freely so long as not used for commercial purposes.

New Medicaid Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act

The ACA and You! - This youth-friendly fact sheet covers the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that, as of January 2014, provides Medicaid coverage to youth who age out of foster care.

Medicaid Coverage for Youth Aging Out - This fact sheet about the ACA was created for judges, attorneys, and other advocates working with older youth in foster care.  It provides an overview of the new Medicaid category, covers what professionals need to know now, and offers links to national resources for additional information.

Nebraska Older Youth Stakeholders help launch national Success Beyond 18 campaign – Press Release

Publications | Current Legislation | On Our Blog


Children’s Behavioral Health

NE_Appleseed_Icons_BehavioralHealth-128Nebraska Appleseed is working to address gaps in the behavioral health system for children. We advocate for broad-based systemic reform and, when necessary, pursue class-action litigation to enforce the rights of affected children.

Behavioral Health Litigation

Publications | Current Legislation | On Our Blog


Legal Resource Center

NE_Appleseed_Icons_LegalServices-128The goal of the Foster Care Reform Legal Resource Center is to engage child welfare attorneys in Appleseed’s reform efforts by helping them enforce constitutional and statutory rights and connect the legal and policy issues they see daily with system-level change in Nebraska’s foster care system.

The Legal Resource Center can assist juvenile court practitioners with the following:

  • Legal research on constitutional or statutory issues implicating targeted systemic issues in the system
  • Information on child welfare reform that is occurring across the state and nationally, including case law and legislative developments
  • Co-counseling, intervention, and development of amicus briefs in selected cases involving systemic policy issues
  • Nebraska child welfare listserv featuring regular updates and the opportunity to dialogue with other juvenile lawyers across the state on issues faced in your practice
  • Resources including sample pleadings and briefs
  • Collaborative trainings

Legal Resource Center


In the News

Lawmakers consider increase in state financial aid to families

Omaha World-Herald 03/06/2013

Legislative committee hears proposals that would benefit low-income families

Lincoln Journal-Star 03/05/2013

Transition programs vital for foster youth

Omaha World-Herald Op/Ed 02/12/2013