Author: Becca Brune

Take Action: Urge Congress to Support Foster Youth

In the midst of a pandemic, our communities have been hit hard by COVID-19, particularly for young people with foster care experience. Many of them are struggling to stay housed, afford food, and are worried about their futures. In Nebraska, we are fortunate to have a program like Bridge to Independence (B2I), which supports young people who age out of… Read more →

We Count! How foster families can complete the census together

Nebraska is currently one of the top states in the nation for census self-response, and we need your help to keep that up, especially in counting communities that often go under-reported, including youth in foster care. Counting children in the 2020 census is so important – these statistics will be used to determine how billions of dollars will be allocated… Read more →

COVID-19 Resources for Older Youth in the Child Welfare System

COVID-19 Resources for Families and Older Youth in the Child Welfare System While there are many concerns to be addressed during this unprecedented time for families at risk of entering the child welfare system as well as those already system-involved, there are resources available for young people who have aged out of the foster care system in Nebraska.  The Children’s… Read more →

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… Read more →

Families of color experience negative outcomes per Nebraska’s Voices for Children report

Voices for Children Report highlights race equity lens in Nebraska’s child welfare system All children and families deserve an equal opportunity to a brighter future Our friends at Voices for Children in Nebraska recently released their report, Equity Before the Law: Race & Ethnicity in the Front End of Nebraska’s Child Welfare System. This report shows how the child welfare… Read more →

How two bills add up to countless opportunities for Nebraska children

The Nebraska Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony March 7 on two bills introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz that would make a profound difference for Nebraska children and families. LB 332: Closing gaps in support for young people entering adulthood The first child welfare bill discussed, LB 332, would allow more young adults to access the Bridge to… Read more →

Removing Barriers to Driving for Youth in Foster Care

Yesterday the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature heard testimony on a bill that would remove barriers that stand in the way of young people in foster care learning to drive and getting their driver’s license. Learning how to drive and obtaining a driver’s license are not only exciting achievements but also necessities for young people as the pursue their… Read more →

Tell Congress to say “NO” to federal foster/adoption discrimination

Every Nebraska child should have a safe and loving family. Our state’s foster and adoptive parents play this essential role every day to make sure children are cared about and provided for. But right now, Nebraska kids who are in need of these safe, loving homes are being threatened by discrimination that our state has already rejected. In an alarming… Read more →

State Senators introduce Nebraska child welfare reform package

Earlier this month we shared a blog about the state of child welfare in Nebraska when reports were released calling for reform after the investigations of the death, serious injury and sexual assault of children in foster care. Nebraska State Senators have continued to take a stand and call for reforms through the introduction of a number of important bills… Read more →

The state of Child Welfare in Nebraska

At Nebraska Appleseed we advocate for policies and practices that help prevent families from becoming involved with the foster care system. For the times when the support of the system may be needed – when children enter foster care – the state becomes their guardian and takes on the responsibility of ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Recently released reports from… Read more →

Foster Care Reform Update – The Foster Youth and Driving Act

In This Issue Policy Spotlight: The Foster Youth and Driving Act Court Opinions: In re Interest of Carmelo G., Jill B. and Travis B. v. State Legislative Actions: 2017 Child Welfare Interim Studies Policy Spotlight Advocates and lawmakers across the nation have been working to reduce the barriers faced by youth in foster care when learning how to drive, obtain… Read more →

Foster care, homelessness, and the LGBT community – how does it all connect?

Research has shown the connection between foster care and homelessness – one study found that of more than 800 youth who were homeless in 11 cities — including Omaha — half spent time in foster care. This report also found nearly 30 percent of the homeless youth had identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and 7 percent identified as transgender. Our previous Foster… Read more →

Foster Care Month is here!

May is National Foster Care Month. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued the first Presidential proclamation that established May as National Foster Care Month. This month, Nebraska Appleseed will be publishing a series of blogs on the work we do, alongside young adult advocates, to improve Nebraska’s foster care system. Nebraska Appleseed works with government agencies, lawmakers, and communities on… Read more →

Nebraska Legislature considers child welfare reforms

Last week was a busy week! The Affordable Care Act was maintained by Congress, thanks to the advocacy of people all over the country. Debates also continued in the Nebraska Legislature on voting rights, mandatory minimums, human trafficking and much more. Something we don’t want you to miss, however, was the advancement of a number of important child welfare legislative… Read more →

TANF funding for poverty and child welfare

This month, the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program turned 20, which makes now a good time to look at how the program is working to help fight poverty for working families. TANF is the only federal program that provides cash assistance to low-income families with children, and recently, new information has been released by the Administration for… Read more →

Extended foster care helps smooth transition to adulthood

This summer, 12 young adults who were formerly in foster care, as a part of congressional internships though Foster Youth Internship Program, released policy recommendations on how to improve the foster care system. Twenty-two year old Kristopher Wannquist made recommendations surrounding extended foster care, a program that was established in Nebraska in 2014 called Bridge to Independence (B2I). As part… Read more →

The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act Becomes Law

Monday, Governor Ricketts signed into law LB 746, the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act (NSFA). This is a victory for Nebraska’s child welfare system, as the SFA promotes normalcy and permanency for youth growing up in foster care. The NSFA will allow kids to be kids by removing unnecessary barriers that prevent children in foster care from participating in developmentally appropriate… Read more →

New report highlights connection between foster care and homelessness

A report released this week by the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) found that more than half of youth who are homeless become homeless when they are kicked out of their homes by a parent or caregiver. These young people then turn to homeless shelters that are often full. Researches from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln studied… Read more →

LB 746: The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act

On January 21, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Nebraska Legislature held a hearing on LB 746, the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act (NSFA), a bill that allows “kids to be kids” by removing unnecessary barriers that prevent children in foster care from participating in developmentally appropriate activities like sports, sleepovers, and  extracurricular activities. All testifiers were in support… Read more →

Recent Education Reforms Protect Youth in Foster Care  

December has been a big month in the federal government for education policy reform to help support young people with foster care experience as well as other at-risk youth. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the introduction of the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act will bring positive changes and protections… Read more →

Letting Kids Be Kids: The Implementation of the Strengthening Families Act in Nebraska

Important work is underway in Nebraska and nationally to improve “normalcy” for children and youth in foster care. In September 2014, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (also known as the Strengthening Families Act or SFA). Last week, a group of Nebraska child welfare stakeholders released a report with recommendations on how… Read more →

Normalcy for Youth in Foster Care

For many, when we think of our childhood, we are fortunate to be filled with memories of spending time at camp, going on field trips, participating in sports, and having sleepovers with best friends. But for many youth in foster care, their childhood and adolescent years are filled with upheaval, challenges, and even trauma. Adding to the stigma that children… Read more →

Changes to the Bridge to Independence Act – What do they mean for you?

During the last Nebraska Legislative session, a bill focused on family finding for youth in foster care also made important changes to the Bridge to Independence (B2I) Act. B2I extends services and support to young adults who were formerly in foster care by providing health care and a monthly stipend for the young adults. B2I is currently helping 116 young… Read more →

Working together to protect Native children and families

Foster care can provide challenges to many families involved, but Native children and their families experience additional challenges when trying to maintain ties to their tribes and culture.   In 1978, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act after recognizing the disproportionate number of Native children who were being removed from their homes and placed in foster care. The federal… Read more →

May is National Foster Care Month. Former foster youth can get health coverage to age 26

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to acknowledge the children and youth who have been involved in foster care systems across the United States, and work to improve the child welfare system. In partnership with the Juvenile Law Center (JLC), we are using the month of May to promote an important opportunity under the Affordable Care Act for… Read more →

New child welfare funding primer released

Last week, the Nebraska Children’s Commission released a child welfare funding primer focused on Nebraska’s current use of state and federal funding for child welfare and the best ways to leverage those dollars to lead to better outcomes for children who touch the child welfare system. The Nebraska Child Welfare Financing Primer was authored by ChildFocus Inc., in partnership with… Read more →

Bureau of Indian Affairs updates Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines

For the first time since 1979, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) updated its Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) guidelines. This is a strong step forward, making important improvements with ICWA compliance and in the lives of native children and families involved in foster care. The BIA is also working to implement many of these new guidelines as enforceable federal… Read more →

Today was a big day in the fight against human trafficking

Today was an important day in the fight against human trafficking in our Nebraska and federal governments. With 34 votes, the Nebraska Legislature advanced LB 294 on General File. The bill increases the penalties for human trafficking and protects victims who are minors from being charged in juvenile court. On the national level, after many months of debate, the U.S. Senate… Read more →

Kids in foster care not receiving required health screenings

A recent study completed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that not all children who are in foster care and enrolled in Medicaid are receiving health screenings that are required by federal law. Specifically, the report found that nearly one-third of children in foster care in Texas, California, Illinois, and New York, who are enrolled in… Read more →

Nebraska Takes Important Steps to Fight Human Trafficking

Last Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature held a hearing on LB 294, a bill introduced by Senator Jim Scheer. LB 294 would play an important role in strengthening Nebraska’s counter-human trafficking efforts when investigating cases, prosecuting traffickers and caring for survivors of sex and labor trafficking. Testifiers in support of LB 294 consistently recognized the seriousness of… Read more →

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

This morning, January 14, Governor Ricketts signed a proclamation establishing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Nebraska.  And in honor of Sunday’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a group of nearly fifty people braved the cold outside the State Capitol for a vigil to bring light to the issue of human trafficking, the second largest criminal industry in the world.… Read more →

Youth Homelessness at the Holidays

While the holiday season is a time to celebrate for many, some young adults may be spending their holidays homeless this year. And a large number of these young people may have been in our state’s foster care system. A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln through the Administration on Children, Youth and Families’ Family and the Youth… Read more →

Child Welfare and Sex Trafficking in Nebraska

A newly released Appleseed policy brief, “Child Welfare and Sex Trafficking in Nebraska,” outlines the issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (“CSEC”) and the risk factors that make children in foster care more vulnerable to the coercion of traffickers. Human trafficking is a growing worldwide crime that exists even in our Nebraska communities. The goal of this guide… Read more →

New federal law addresses trafficking for youth in foster care

In September, Congress passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980), one of the most significant pieces of domestic legislation passed by this Congress and a great child welfare victory. Nebraska’s U.S. Senators and Representatives all voted in support of this legislation (Rep. Adrian Smith was also a co-sponsor of H.R. 4980). This bipartisan success shows commitment… Read more →

The Bridge to Independence Program in Action

We could not be more excited that the Bridge to Independence (B2I) program has finally begun! B2I provides young adults who age out of foster care with extended services and support to age 21, including housing support, guidance from an Independence Coordinator and Medicaid coverage.  We’re thrilled for the B2I start because now young adults like Sarah will have the… Read more →

Medicaid to 26: Ensuring a Healthy Start to Adulthood After Foster Care

On October 24th, as a part of Legislative Resolution 533 (LR 533), introduced by Senator Sue Crawford, Nebraska Appleseed, young adults and partners gathered at the Capitol to discuss Nebraska’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s new provision for Medicaid coverage to age 26 for young adults who age out of foster care. The day started early with a press… Read more →

(Finally) Starting Soon: The Bridge to Independence Program!

With notice of the approval from the federal Department of Health and Human Services on August 19th, Nebraska’s Bridge to Independence program must begin within 60 days of this notice of approval.  However, we are excited to share that the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the Bridge to Independence program will begin early, on October… Read more →

Children fleeing violence in Central America may also be fleeing human trafficking

Our last blog on human trafficking discussed the vulnerabilities of minors, many of whom are part of the child welfare system, who are at risk of becoming a victim to one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world. Although human trafficking is a global issue, a common misconception is that the problem is only occurring abroad, far from the… Read more →

Human trafficking disproportionately affects youth in foster care

Our Child Welfare Team at Appleseed is beginning to dig deeper into the issue of human trafficking because of its prevalence in Nebraska and the connection to youth in foster care. While limitations on data collection on human trafficking make the estimated number of victims uncertain, there is no doubt of the realities of human trafficking in our local communities.… Read more →