Nebraska is a state where we strive to take care of our young people and want them to have a real opportunity to live productive and healthy lives, supporting them as they transition into adulthood. A new report form the Annie E. Casey Foundation – Future Savings – discusses opportunities to uphold this commitment for our young people who are aging out of foster care. The Nebraska legislature is currently considering two proposals to further strengthen supports for young adults during this pivotal time of life.
To “age out” of foster care in Nebraska means to reach age 19 before finding a permanent placement such as reunification with biological family, legal guardianship, or adoption. Around 150 to 300 young people age out every year in Nebraska. The Future Savings report estimates that billions of dollars can be saved by making sure young people entering this stage have stable housing, aren’t criminal justice involved, are able to take control of planning their families, and can achieve their education goals.
The report’s policy recommendations include extending foster care permanency subsidies – financial assistance – and other supports to age 21. In addition, it estimates that taking action to prevent homelessness and create pathways for youth to obtain their high school diploma or GED, leads to over $2 billion in economic gains.
Through the Bridge to Independence (B2I) program, Nebraska checks many of the boxes recommended in the report, providing young adults with extended services and support to age 21, including a living stipend for stable housing, support for educational pursuits, guidance from an Independence Coordinator, and Medicaid coverage. However, additional opportunities exist to make sure our young people have the assistance they need for a successful transition into adulthood.
Nebraska lawmakers are considering two bills this session that would remove barriers to establishing a firm footing in adulthood.
- Sen. Kate Bolz’s LB 332 would help older youth with foster care experience better prepare for adulthood by implementing stakeholder recommendations to strengthen the Bridge to Independence Program. Recommendations include extending program eligibility to young people who were in guardianships that was disrupted.
- Sen. Anna Wishart’s LB 219 would clear a path for teens in foster care to learn how to drive and get their driver’s license. Young adults in Nebraska have long advocated for this support and legislation, so please lend your voice to help get this bill across the finish line this year! Contact the Judiciary Committee members today. Urge them to support LB 219. If your state senator serves on the Committee, remember to let them know you are their constituent when you call. Find your state senator.