Every day this week, we will provide a in-depth look into the needs of youth in foster care.
At the age of 18, Janteice was struggling to support herself, attend school, and work full-time when her case closed without warning. Janteice is now completely on her own and unable to qualify for the Former Ward program because her caseworker did not inform her of the program prior to her aging out. Two years after her case was dismissed, Janteice reports, “…I still struggle. I still lack support, I work two jobs to survive, and I’m still without health insurance.”
According to Janteice, youth need to be able to focus on studying, creating healthy relationships, and developing their own sense of self – exactly what 19-year-olds should be focused on – rather than “…where they’re going to live tomorrow, what they’re going to eat, or how to pay the electric bill.” Like Janteice, youth may miss out on crucial services simply because the professionals on their case are either not aware of or neglect to inform youth of available resources.
Should Nebraska take advantage of the flexible structure of extended foster care services allowed under the Fostering Connections Act, youth would be able to apply before or after aging out. Even youth who initially decline services but later realize they need the support would be able to “opt in” to the program.
Janteice, along with three other young adults who aged out of foster care, testified at the hearing for LB 1150 on February 2nd and shared their perspectives on the need for additional support and resources for this population. From their stories, it is clear that Nebraska must make a commitment to doing a better job of guiding 19-year-olds through what may be the most important transition of their lives.