The last Sunday in March was no ordinary day.
That morning, I arrived bright and early at a 4-H camp in the middle of a forest. Only one thing could possibly have been worth pulling myself out of bed at 7:30 a.m. on the weekend and driving down I-80 in semi-blizzard conditions: Project Everlast’s very first Legislative Day.
Project Everlast, which is made up of nine youth-led councils across the state of Nebraska, provides voice and opportunities for young people with experience in foster care. Traveling from as far away as Scottsbluff, 12 of these young people gathered for a two-day outing focused on legislative advocacy. After a brief “Legislative 101” training, young people identified and discussed bills affecting youth in Nebraska. They then spent the rest of the evening in small groups developing presentations for a senator luncheon the next day. Representatives from Voices for Children, Preparation for Adult Living Services (PALS) program, and Nebraska Appleseed helped facilitate this process by answering questions and offering the occasional piece of advice.
On Monday afternoon, the young people shared their perspectives on four bills with a group of senators: LB 355, to change the age of majority (neutral stance), LB 385, to prohibit certain bases of discrimination for foster parents (supportive stance), LB 530, to increase reimbursements for foster parents (supportive stance), and LB 216, to voluntarily extend services and support for young people aging out of foster care (supportive stance).
Members of Project Everlast had the opportunity to put their newfound experience with legislation into action the following week when one of their priority bills, LB 216, came up for debate on General File. Young people joined Nebraska Appleseed at the capitol every day that week to talk to senators about the importance of this bill and to advocate for its advancement.
LB 216 advanced to Select File with a vote of 28-1, but the fight to pass this bill is not over. Take action to support LB 216. Call or write your state senator and tell them this bill gives young people transitioning from foster care a real opportunity to be productive, healthy, and engaged members of our community as adults.
Read Appleseed’s fact sheet on LB 216 to learn more about how these critical services would better meet the needs of young people in a more inclusive and age-appropriate way.