A functioning child welfare system gets help to children and families who need it – but never makes a family’s situation worse with intervention.
At Nebraska Appleseed, we’re working to reform our state’s broken child welfare system. That means collaborating with government, lawmakers and communities on better policies and practices – and sometimes taking legal action to protect the rights of children.
Our children in the foster system are entitled to caring, safe homes; education; medical and mental health care; substance abuse treatment; and thoughtful case management.
Current Child Welfare Projects & Initiatives:
Nebraska’s child welfare system is at a crossroads following several ineffective reform initiatives attempted by the state. The Comprehensive Reform Project allows Appleseed to pursue targeted litigation, policy advocacy, and administrative or regulatory advocacy on systemic issues focused on comprehensive child welfare reform.
Annie E. Casey Presentations
The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act
The Nebraska Strengthening Families Act (NSFA), introduced as LB 746 in January 2016 by Senator Kathy Campbell, was passed and was signed into law by Governor Ricketts in April 2016. The NSFA implements the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (2014) and promotes opportunities for children and youth in foster care to engage in age and developmentally appropriate activities, encourages youth to be more involved in their case planning, ensures youth receive vital documents before “aging out” of foster care, and strengthens efforts around permanency. For more information, check out the resources below.
“Letting Kids Be Kids: Nebraska’s Implementation of the Strengthening Families Act” – Report outlining the recommendations from a broad group of Nebraska stakeholders on how Nebraska can fully implement the SFA to achieve its intended goals, including the input of over 300 Nebraska young people and other stakeholders through two facilitated stakeholder meetings, as well as surveys and focus groups.
Normalcy Guide for Court Stakeholders – Overview of the federal SFA, with rationale for each provision, considerations for court stakeholders and a list of questions to ask from the bench. This guide was developed by the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) and is not specific to state law.
Legislative Bill 746, the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act (2016) – Nebraska bill updating state statute to codify and comply with the federal SFA and implementing youth and stakeholder recommendations that reinforce and, in some cases, exceed federal requirements around normalcy, APPLA, youth participation in case planning and pre-discharge documents.
LB 746 Fact Sheet – Fact sheet outlining the provisions of LB 746
Nebraska Strengthening Families Act Youth Fact Sheet – Fact sheet outlining the provisions of the NSFA for young people
NSFA Court Stakeholders One-Pager – A one-page resource on the court requirements of the Nebraska Strengthening Families Act for court stakeholders
Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act
The Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act, introduced as LB 216 in January 2013 by Senator Amanda McGill, was passed in June 2013, giving young adults aging out of Nebraska’s foster care system the opportunity to overcome barriers and reach a bright future. The Act extends voluntary services and support for these young people, including Medicaid coverage, housing support, and age-appropriate case management services, to the age of 21 as allowed under the federal Fostering Connections Act. Eligible young people who were adopted or entered into a guardianship at age 16+ can also receive extended adoption or guardianship subsidies. For more details, check out our fact sheet or some of our other materials below.
Bridge to Independence Fact Sheet – This youth-friendly fact sheet provides an easy-to-read overview of the program and features a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on the second page.
Young Adult Bridge to Independence Fact Sheet – This fact sheet provides an overview of the act and specifics about eligibility requirements, service provision, and oversight mechanisms. The fact sheet also contains an implementation timeline showing when certain provisions of the act will take effect.
Timeline of Service Provision – This document follows the path of a young person aging out of foster care and entering the Bridge to Independence program to provide a more detailed look at how young people will move through the program.
LB 216 Fact Sheet – The original fact sheet that was prepared for the LB 216 public hearing in February of 2013.
A Successful Ascent to Adulthood – An illustration showing the potential impact of LB 216.
LB 216 Action Guide – A guide for constituents containing a brief overview of LB 216, talking points about the bill, tips for calling or writing senators (along with a sample call script), and other ideas for ways to raise awareness and get the word out (including suggestions for writing a letter to the editor and an action alert template).
Bridging the Gap Report – This report was prepared as a part of LR 537, an interim study from 2012 that gathered data and developed recommendations on the needs of youth aging out of foster care. Data on outcomes for these youth were collected from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and gathered through statewide focus groups with 108 youth and surveys of both young people (one for those under 18 and one for those over 18) and system stakeholders.
LB 216: Growing Healthy, Productive Adults – A fact sheet discussing brain development and how the Young Adult Voluntary Services and Support Act will positively impact youth who have experienced trauma and are aging out of foster care.
Talking Points and Postcards – Basic talking points about the bill were created for both young people and adults to use in reaching out to senators and filling out supportive postcards, which were collected from young people and adults and distributed to state senators prior to floor debate by the full legislature.
Youth Involvement – Young people with experience in foster care were involved in advocacy efforts every step along the way. Over 100 young people across the state offered input into program design options by participating in focus groups and filling out surveys. Youth came to the capitol on several occasions to show support for the bill, and members of Project Everlast spoke at every hearing and press conference. Project Everlast also took on the capitol to host a luncheon with senators and advocate for the bill during floor debate.
LB 216: Important Things to Know – This document was created to address some potential concerns about LB 216. It was intended to be distributed to a more broad audience.
LB 216: Addressing Concerns – This is a more detailed version of the “Important Things to Know” document and was intended to be used with a more targeted audience.
Sen. Amanda McGill
Sarah Helvey, Child Welfare Program Director with Nebraska Appleseed
Mary Fraser Meints, Executive Director of Youth Emergency Services
Amanda, Project Everlast member
Mickey, Project Everlast member
Amy West, Child Welfare Program Policy Coordinator with Nebraska Appleseed
Kristina, Project Everlast member
Amanda, Project Everlast member
Mickey, Project Everlast member
Jan. 31, 2013 – LB 216 Public Hearing and Press Conference
- AP: Lawmaker asks state to support wards until 21
- OWH: Bill to expand services for youths transitioning out of foster care gets a hearing
- LJS: Bill aimed at hundreds of kids facing the dilemma of aging out of foster care
- KLKN: Foster care assistance age may increase
- Neb. Radio Network: Services to foster youth would be extended under bill
April 4, 2013 – First round of floor debate coverage
- KOLN: Extending Resources For Those “Aging Out” of Foster Care
- Neb. Radio Network: Two youth say lawmakers can help the transition from state ward to adult
- Neb. Radio Network: Youth aging out of foster care system would receive help under bill
- LJS: Bill to extend benefits for former state wards advances
- OWH: Easing life for children aging out of foster care
- York News Times column: Fostering the good life
- KVNO News: Legislature focuses on foster care age out children
- Feb. 12, 2013 – Omaha World-Herald Guest op ed by Sarah Helvey with Nebraska Appleseed: Midlands Voices: Transition programs vital for foster youth
- Feb. 27, 2013 – KETV Chronicle Report: Services and Support to 21
- April 2, 2013 – KLKN Feature: Woman homeless after aging out of foster care supports others
- April 3, 2013 – Neb. Radio Network Report: Proposed increase in foster care rates moves forward
- April 4, 2013 – Omaha World-Herald Guest op ed by Project Everlast member Akeeme: Midlands Voices: Many Nebraska foster kids have unhappy 19th birthdays
- April 4, 2013 – Kearney Hub Letter to the Editor: Foster kids aging out of system
- April 5, 2013 – 1011 Now Article: Bill addresses “aging out” of foster care, woman shares story
- May 2, 2013 – NewsNetNebraska Article: Proposed bill would help youths aging out of foster care
- May 17, 2013 – LJS feature on Project Everlast member Kristina: Bridge to independence for former foster children
- May 26, 2013 – NP Telegraph Article: Supporting foster kids at risk
- May 30, 2013 – NET News Report: Bill Looks To Extend Foster Care Services For Nebraska Youth To Curb Homelessness And Incarceration
- May 30, 2013 – KIOS Radio Report: Helping Foster Kids Transition Out of the System
- June 2, 2013 – Beatrice Daily Sun Article: Neb. session yields expansion of child services
See our B2I page for more information on applying.
Medicaid to 26
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) which was signed into law by President Obama in 2010 makes sure that Americans are able to have affordable health insurance coverage. One part of the ACA focuses specifically on youth who were formerly in foster care. Many young adults who were in foster care at age 18, or aged out of foster care at 19, may be eligible to receive Medicaid coverage until they are 26.
See our Medicaid to 26 page for more information on how to apply.
Youth Transitioning from Foster Care to Adulthood
In partnership with young people and other stakeholders, Appleseed advocates for Nebraska to improve the foster care system for older youth and remove the barriers they face in becoming successful adults. We educate key decision makers and professionals working in the field about best practices, provide trainings and opportunities for youth to advocate for improvements to the system, and work to ensure current requirements around transition planning are being followed.
Policy Brief on Transition Planning – This Policy Brief covers the history of law around transition planning, clearly describes Nebraska’s current law, and addresses best practices in developing a written transition proposal. Several useful resources are included in the appendix and listed below.
Transition Proposal Checklist* PDF | Microsoft Word – This resource, created by Nebraska Appleseed, helps guide the process of developing a written transition proposal. It offers checklists of the many needs to be considered in the seven areas of transition planning required by Nebraska state law: education, employment, health, financial assistance, housing, relationship development, and adult services.
Youth Inventory* PDF | Microsoft Word – Created by Nebraska Appleseed, this one-page checklist lists the many important documents and other vital needs that should be met before a young person ages out or a case is closed to independent living.
Transition Toolkit – This transition proposal template was created by FosterClub, a national network for young people in foster care, and adapted by Nebraska Appleseed to follow the flow of Nebraska’s state law on transition planning. It can be utilized as a template for caseworkers or other advocates to use when writing a transition proposal. It should be noted that this Toolkit is not all-encompassing; in fact, it does not offer a section on adult services, which is required by state law.
Permanency Pact – Created by FosterClub and shortened by Nebraska Appleseed for ease of use, this resource serves as a supportive adult’s “pledge” to act as a lifelong support for a young person in foster care. Clearly defining the specific supports an adult is committed to offering helps clarify relationships and develop mutual expectations.
Attorney Survey Results – In April of 2012, Nebraska Appleseed conducted a survey of local practicing child welfare attorneys regarding their experiences with transition planning and the implementation of LB 177 (which, among other things, puts into place requirements about the transition planning process). Unfortunately, those who responded expressed concerns with Nebraska’s current adherence to this statute, and the vast majority indicated that transition planning requirements were either not being followed or not effectively and comprehensively addressing youths’ needs.
* These documents may be printed, copied, adapted, edited, and distributed freely so long as not used for commercial purposes.
Nebraska Older Youth Stakeholders help launch national Success Beyond 18 campaign – Press Release
Children’s Behavioral Health
Nebraska Appleseed is working to address gaps in the behavioral health system for children. We advocate for broad-based systemic reform and, when necessary, pursue class-action litigation to enforce the rights of affected children.
Legal Resource Center
The goal of the Foster Care Reform Legal Resource Center is to engage child welfare attorneys in Appleseed’s reform efforts by helping them enforce constitutional and statutory rights and connect the legal and policy issues they see daily with system-level change in Nebraska’s foster care system.
The Legal Resource Center can assist juvenile court practitioners with the following:
- Legal research on constitutional or statutory issues implicating targeted systemic issues in the system
- Information on child welfare reform that is occurring across the state and nationally, including case law and legislative developments
- Co-counseling, intervention, and development of amicus briefs in selected cases involving systemic policy issues
- Nebraska child welfare listserv featuring regular updates and the opportunity to dialogue with other juvenile lawyers across the state on issues faced in your practice
- Resources including sample pleadings and briefs
- Collaborative trainings
Alternative Response (AR) is a type of non-court involved child welfare case in which DHHS takes a more collaborative and family-focused approach to helping families stay together. Nebraska is receiving federal funds to test out this approach throughout the state.
Know Your Rights (PDF) – A parent’s guide to non-court child welfare cases, including:
- A description of non-court involved cases
- What parent’s rights are in non-court involved cases
- How parents can advocate for the services their family needs in non-court involved cases