With 2014 just around the bend, we are closer than ever to local implementation of a program that has had child welfare advocates buzzing for years. This program, recently titled Bridge to Independence by members of Project Everlast, will voluntarily extend services and support to age 21 for youth aging out of foster care. This program was created by the passage of LB 216 during the 2013 Legislative session.
Most recently, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) held a hearing on December 5th to allow public comment on their draft rules and regulations for the program, which serve as the framework for implementation.
Nebraska Appleseed, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, and other partners have been centrally involved in providing detailed feedback to DHHS on these regulations and have been meeting for months as part of a workgroup through the Young Adult Voluntary Services and Support Advisory Committee, which sits under the Nebraska Children’s Commission. This level of collaboration has been truly impressive, and we greatly appreciate the openness with which DHHS has come to the table.
Regulation hearings are quite different – and perhaps a bit less exciting – than legislative hearings, but the strong turnout of child welfare advocates demonstrated just how invested the community has become in ensuring the success of this groundbreaking program. Appleseed Child Welfare Program Director Sarah Helvey testified to express both appreciation for DHHS’s collaborative approach and concern over a few specific pieces of the draft regulations. In particular, we believe all young adults in the program should have access to critical health care coverage (and specifically, that LB 216 requires DHHS to provide Medicaid to all young adults in the program) as well as important services that can assist them in becoming productive, healthy, and engaged members of our community.
For details, read Sarah’s testimony.
The next step along this process is for the draft regulations to be finalized by DHHS so they are in effect when the program begins in 2014.
Along with our many partners, we at Nebraska Appleseed are greatly invested in ensuring the success of Bridge to Independence and will continue advocating for a plan of implementation that puts young Nebraskans in the best position for success.
Bridge to Independence is expected to begin in the first part of 2014. Stay tuned to our blog for updates!