Five years of victories for the Bridge to Independence Program

In 2013, the Nebraska Legislature passed the Young Adult Voluntary Services and Supports Act to better support young adults who exited foster care in “transitioning to adulthood, becoming self-sufficient, and creating permanent relationships. This created Nebraska’s Bridge to Independence (b2i) program, which was structured through the input of many young advocates with former foster care experience. 

B2i participants eligibility requirements

  • Individual should be between the ages of 19 and 21
  • Formerly in Nebraska’s foster care system
  • Participating in school, work, or an activity to remove barriers to employment

In the program, young people receive a monthly stipend, Medicaid coverage, and young adult-directed case management services. 

With the support of Child Trends, the Nebraska Children’s Commission recently released the Nebraska Bridge to Independence Extended Foster Care Evaluation, which demonstrates the many victories of this program. 

 

Strengths

The evaluation found improved outcomes for young people in b2i who are more likely than their non-b2i peers to: 

  • Report having some post-secondary education experience 
  • Have safe, stable, and affordable housing
  • Be able to cover monthly expenses 
  • Have adults to turn to in a crisis or for a loan 

All participants interviewed also reported having a high-quality, positive relationship with their b2i caseworkers, the independence coordinators, and many felt appreciative of the monthly stipend allowing them to feel financially secure and focus their energy on education, parenting, and more. 

While the evaluation shows the important role that b2i plays in providing support during this challenging transition in a young person’s life, Child Trends also shared a number of recommendations to strengthen the program.

 

Recommendations

  • Preparing participants to exit b2i by: 
    • Requiring participants to open a savings account and draft a savings plan
    • Leveraging the Opportunity Passport matching-savings program and the savings mentioned above to purchase assets before exiting b2i
    • Providing trainings and information strategically and frequently
    • Tapering off the stipend amount in the months before exit
  • Preparing participants to enroll in b2i 

 

The Bridge to Independence program provides essential support for young people who are transitioning to adulthood after years in the foster care system. We are excited that this program continues to grow to best support Nebraska’s young people. 

To read the full report from Child Trends, click here

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