Ashley is a walking example of how extending foster care services could positively impact youth in care. Ashley aged out of Missouri’s foster care system when she was 21, so she can talk explicitly about “…the difference between aging out at 19 and aging out at 21.” Ashley was able to receive all the support she needed while she attended college, and she now works as a Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation to help Omaha’s foster youth through the same transition she made only a few years earlier.
In her position, Ashley witnesses firsthand the sobering reality of what can happen when youth are ill prepared for adulthood. The experiences of Oscar and Janteice are reflective of the 460 youth who aged out of care in 2009 – 2010 and did not receive support from Nebraska’s Former Ward program. Even those like Nadia who are lucky enough to receive Former Ward assistance have few options for housing or case management services. What Nebraska is currently doing to help these youth is not enough. Missouri has joined over a dozen other states in providing extended foster care services; we hope that Nebraska will soon be added to this growing list.
Ashley, 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.