On February 19, LB 441, a bill to strengthen the Bridge to Independence program (B2I), was heard before the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska Legislature. All testifiers were in support of LB 441 and the improvements it would make to the largely successful B2I program that began in October of 2014 and now has nearly 100 young adults participants who aged out of foster care receiving services and support as they transition into adulthood.
LB 441, introduced by State Senator Kate Bolz, is important because it incorporates many of the lessons learned from the initial months of implementation of B2I. With input from the Bridge to Independence Advisory Committee and other stakeholders, this bill provides clarity on certain pieces of implementation, and makes technical changes to ensure the B2I program is what the Legislature originally intended it to be. Everyone testifying at the hearing agreed that LB 441 was not just helpful but also necessary in the lives of this group of young adults.
Kayla, a 19-year-old member of Project Everlast, shared her story of aging out of foster care and the positive impact that the B2I program has played in her life. Working with her Independence Coordinator she has been able to set goals for her future and have the needed support to care for herself and her daughter with the housing stipend and medical assistance. She reminded the senators how crucial the B2I program is.
“There are many youth that don’t have a biological family that will help,” Kayla said. “Some ‘age out’ and feel like they have no one. Those youth only know a world of new people and constant disruption in their lives. Youth need people to help, who are stable and consistent in their lives.”
The Foster Care Review Office, Voices for Children in Nebraska, the Nebraska State Education Association and Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey also testified in support of LB 441 so that the B2I program can continue to support young adults who age out of foster care in Nebraska.