Yesterday, the HHS Committee held a hearing on LB 1150, a bill, introduced by Senator McGill with input from Project Everlast youth members, that would extend foster care services on a voluntary basis up to age 21 in Nebraska.
For years, adolescents aging out of foster care have struggled with the transition into adulthood. Typical 19-year-olds are able to turn to their biological family for financial assistance or a place to call home while they save up money for school or housing. Unfortunately, those aging out of foster care are not provided the same luxury. At the young age of 19, the state ceases to be their legal guardian and is no longer responsible for their care. They are, essentially, on their own. Aftercare services currently in place are difficult to access, have numerous gaps in service delivery and strict eligibility requirements, and ultimately do not go far enough in providing the assistance and guidance necessary to help youth grow into successful, productive members of society.
The bottom line is that what Nebraska currently does to support youth who age out of foster care is not working for many young people. LB 1150 is an opportunity to close existing gaps and provide adolescents with crucial time to prepare for and transition to self-sufficiency. At yesterday’s hearing, numerous young adults shared their personal experiences with aging out of care and being suddenly launched into adulthood without adequate support.
Providing critical supports like housing assistance, Medicaid, and educational stipends can make the difference between a young person obtaining a college degree and a good job or becoming homeless and entering the adult public benefits system. LB 1150 is an opportunity for the state to support young people who age out of the foster care system and to invest in their success as an adult.