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Emerging Adults: Child Welfare

The 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report includes an in-depth look at the first steps young people take along their transition away from childhood – emerging adulthood. This is a time of profound growth and development coupled with frequent life changes. The decisions made during these years lead to lifelong decisions impacted the next generation of Nebraska’s workforce and families. Our series investigating our commentary thus far has introduced some of the characteristics of emerging adults and provided an overview of this population in Nebraska as well as a look at the healtheducation, and economic stability of these young Nebraskans. Today our series continues with emerging adults and our child welfare system.

In 2015, 86 Nebraska youth were in out-of-home care on their 19th birthday, thereby “aging out” of the child welfare system. Permanent family support is an important factor in development; however, for many Nebraska adolescents who age out of the system each year, they transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood without the support and guidance of a family. Without connections to community or family supports, these young people are unlikely to reach their full potential. Foster youth who “age out” of the system have a greater likelihood of:
• not finishing college,
• not having a high school diploma,
• not having health insurance,
• experiencing homelessness,
• not being employed,
• being arrested,
• having one or more pregnancies, and
• receiving food stamps.

In order to increase supports to these adults who reach their 19th birthday while in out-of-home care, Nebraska has put into place programs that will help system involved youth successfully transition out of the system into emerging adulthood and adulthood. These programs include:

Connected Youth Initiative (CYI):

The CYI is a community-based grant with the purpose of assisting emerging adults with former involvement in the child welfare or juvenile justice system in accessing needed resources including:
• Coordinated services and resources
• Financial literacy and asset building programming
• Basic need services and supports
• Input from youth

Bridge to Independence (b2i):

The b2i program provides stable support for emerging adults as they exit foster care and transition to independent living. The program is led by the young person with an Independence Coordinator available to help advise and work through options. B2i is available to all who have aged out of the foster care system up to age 21 as long as they are in school, employed, or participating in an employment program. Resources include:
• A dedicated Independence Coordinator
• Health Care Coverage through Medicaid or the ACA
• Monthly support payments

Through the supports offered through these programs, we can alleviate some of the adverse results of reaching the age of majority while in out-of-home care and help young people with fewer familial supports navigate the tumultuous road to independence and full adulthood.

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On the Backs of Children: Medicaid

Voices for Children believes that successful stewardship of our state is not just about looking at where we are today, but thinking about where we want to be tomorrow. Cutting funding to programs that have been extremely beneficial to children is concerning to us. In the first of a series of posts, we will examine the devastating impact that federal cuts to Medicaid will have for Nebraska children.

Consistent and preventative health care gives children the best start to grow up to be healthy and productive adults. Since its implementation over 50 years ago, Medicaid has ensured children in low-income families receive proper health care, including preventative treatments. Children who are covered under Medicaid see improved health outcomes as adults, are more likely to finish high school and graduate from college, and are more likely to be financial stable.

The recently proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would fundamentally change the structure of the Medicaid program, which currently ensures that over 160,000 Nebraska children– nearly a third of all children– are on track to become healthy and productive adults. Cost estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate Medicaid funding will fall as much as $880 billion in the next decade, a decrease of 25%. As it currently operates, Medicaid is designed to be flexible and respond to economic or demographic changes, providing more funding to a state if their eligible population grows to ensure that those who are eligible receive funding. It also helps states respond more quickly to a crisis as we have seen with the opioid epidemic or the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan.

74 million low-income Americans currently receive health insurance through Medicaid, and approximately half of those recipients are children. Children’s health insurance coverage has made historic gains in recent years, and is now at an all-time-low in Nebraska, with 94.8% of all children covered last year. In addition to keeping our youngest Nebraskans healthy, Medicaid is extremely cost-effective when compared to private insurance, and per-beneficiary costs have grown more slowly over the years.

The AHCA would implement a per capita cap on Medicaid spending where each state would get a pre-determined amount of funding for Medicaid, making the program much less flexible. This will mean that states with be faced with a tough decision: find extra state funds to fund Medicaid or make significant changes to eligibility and coverage. Considering the budget deficit Nebraska currently faces, it is likely that many current Medicaid recipients would lose coverage. The passage of the AHCA and its provisions concerning Medicaid would take vital health care coverage away from Nebraska’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

We believe that children’s health insurance coverage must be a priority, and that Congress should not reform health care on the backs of children. If you share our concerns, we urge you to contact your US Senators and Representative.

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Left Behind By Justice: Children of Incarcerated Parents in Nebraska

Voices for Children in Nebraska’s recent report, Left Behind by Justice: Children of Incarcerated Parents in Nebraska, highlights the devastating and long-term impact parental incarceration has on children and families. The report considers the existing body of research on parental incarceration and includes findings from a number of “community conversations” held in Nebraska with formerly incarcerated parents and their loved ones to better understand the ripple effects of our justice system.

It is estimated that 41,000 Nebraska children, or nine percent of our total child population, have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their childhood. Incarceration of a family member is one of a number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which are stressful events or circumstances that activate a significant, oftentimes persistent triggering of the body’s stress response system when a child does not have adequate, supportive adult relationships. This psychological and physiological response can produce lifelong outcomes if left unchecked by caring relationships and environments, known as protective factors.

Unfortunately, neighborhoods that have suffered large losses of residents to incarceration are often also heavily under-resourced to offer such protective factors. Studies also show that communities with disproportionately high rates of incarceration, many of which are predominately black communities, are also often burdened by concentrated poverty, unemployment, and poor health.

During the community conversations held with formerly incarcerated parents and their families, Voices for Children found that overwhelmingly, families identified financial strain as a principal challenge of familial incarceration. “When they lock a parent up, somebody’s got to pick up the slack,” a formerly incarcerated father stated. When a parent is incarcerated, families are faced with tough decisions: new caretaking arrangements, moving to more affordable housing or to a city that was closer to the placement facility, or taking on a second or third job. “[My father] going to prison put a bunch of people in poverty—it put a strain on my grandparents because they had to raise us. It put a strain on us because we no longer had a dad,” another participant said.

Through the community conversations, Voices for Children policy associate Julia Tse gathered important perspectives on the many implications of parental incarceration, including the disproportionate effects on children and families of color, the challenge to meet basic needs, strained family relationships, and the cycle of intergenerational interaction with the justice system. Tse says, “Left Behind by Justice offers multi-pronged recommendations for family-focused justice reform, including strengthening family relationships during incarceration, supporting successful re-entry, and minimizing the effect on families and communities. The conversations with former inmates and their loved ones confirm our belief that more needs to be done on the state level to ensure all Nebraska’s children are adequately supported. By enhancing each of these important component of child well-being, our systems can effectively ease some of the burden borne by the children of incarcerated parents in Nebraska.”

Read the full report here.

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URGENT: Millions of Children Stand to Lose Healthcare in Largest Cost Shift to States in History

Children need health care to grow up to be happy, healthy adults. The American Health Care Act, introduced in the House of Representatives last night, includes alarming provisions that would end Medicaid as we know it, a program that nearly one-third of all Nebraska children rely on for their health care, and result in the rationing of health care for kids through cuts to enrollment, services, provider rates, or some combination of all three.

The bill also will make it harder for children who age out of our foster care system to secure and maintain health insurance until age 26, leaving these vulnerable young adults further behind.

While there were many campaign promises to reform the Affordable Care Act, taking away health care from children, people with disabilities, and seniors in nursing homes as the House bill does was never part of the discussion. Perhaps that is because Congress knows that the public’s appetite for this change is low—2/3 of the public want to see Medicaid remain the way it is rather than adopt the changes contained in the current House proposal.

Call your Congressman today! Let them know that you oppose The American Health Care Act and to keep their hands off Medicaid.

District 1: Representative Jeff Fortenberry (402) 438-1598

District 2: Representative Don Bacon (402) 938-0300

District 3: Representative Adrian Smith (308) 384-3900

Senator Fischer: (402) 441-4600

Senator Sasse: (402) 476-1400

Unsure who your Representative is? Click here to find out.

As a country and a state, we have made tremendous strides in ensuring our youngest citizens have access to the health care they need to get and stay well. The American Health Care Act undermines this work and unnecessarily risks the health and wellness of millions of children in the process. For the sake of Nebraska children and millions of other children across the country, we simply cannot allow this bill to pass.

Call your Congressman today! Tell them they cannot reform healthcare on the backs of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

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Emerging Adults: Economic Stability

The 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report includes an in-depth look at the first steps young people take along their transition away from childhood – emerging adulthood. This is a time of profound growth and development coupled with frequent life changes. The decisions made during these years lead to lifelong decisions impacted the next generation of Nebraska’s workforce and families. Our series investigating our commentary thus far has introduced some of the characteristics of emerging adults and provided an overview of this population in Nebraska as well as a look at the health and education of these young Nebraskans. Today we continue with a look at emerging adults and economic stability.

Of special interest in this area of emerging adulthood is Nebraska’s population of “Dreamers.” In 2012, the Obama administration instituted a new immigration policy that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to be eligible for a work permit and deferred action from deportation. These children and young adults are known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients or Dreamers. DACA recipients were brought to the U.S. as minors and did not have the financial, physical, or emotional independence to consent to this decision. For many of the over 5,000 Dreamers in our state, Nebraska is the only home they have ever known, and their families are already active members of the community and our economy.

The opportunity to find success and productivity in adulthood is something that we support for all young Nebraskans. Children should not be held accountable for the actions of their parents over which they had no control. In the 2016 legislative session, the Nebraska Unicameral passed LB 947 which allows these young people to qualify for professional and commercials licenses. Without access to these licenses, many young Nebraskans who completed education and training were forced to relocate to another state or discontinue their career path. LB 947 removed this barrier to success, allowing Nebraska’s Dreamers to continue the pathway toward a successful career and lifelong opportunity.

Stay tuned as we continue to share highlights from the 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report commentary on Emerging Adults.

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Testimony on LB 211

Today, Voices for Children submitted a letter of support for LB 211, a bill that would change the minimum wage for persons compensated by way of gratuities. Read her full testimony below or go here for a printable version of Voices for Children’s testimony on LB 211.

February 27, 2017
Senator Joni Albrecht, Chairwoman – Business and Labor Committee Room 2102, State Capitol Lincoln NE, 68509
Re: Support for LB 211 – Change the minimum wage for persons compensated by way of gratuities

Dear Chairwoman Albrecht and Members of the Business and Labor Committee,

Nebraska is a state that values family and hard work. Voices for Children supports LB 211 because this bill is consistent with our state values. We believe that individuals working full-time should be able to meet all of their family’s basic needs independently because children can only thrive when their basic needs are met.

The policy of paying tipped workers a separate minimum wage was originally enacted in 1966 and at that time, the tipped minimum wage was 50% of the regular minimum wage, which is what LB 211 seeks to restore. When the federal minimum wage was raised in 1996, the tipped minimum wage was decoupled from full minimum wage and frozen at the level originally established in 1991, $2.13 per hour. A recent national report estimated that 40% of tipped workers have children.1In light of federal inaction on this issue since 1991, many states have taken the initiative on updating their tipped minimum wage—34 states and the District of Columbia currently have a higher tipped minimum wage than Nebraska’s current rate. In fact, 7 states even require that full minimum wage be paid to tipped employees.2

Our current tipped minimum wage overly relies on consumers, while protections for workers who do not earn the full minimum wage after tips are limited. Current rules rely on the employee to notify the employer if they have received less than minimum wage in a “workweek,” which is defined as any fixed and regularly occurring 168-hour period. The volatility of schedules for tipped workers creates challenges in determining if the requirement has been met. It also leaves the income of tipped workers highly unpredictable, making it difficult to plan or budget for any household.

It is a common misconception that the majority of food and beverage service workers are teenagers. On the contrary, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the national median age of those workers was 29.6 in 2016, and nearly 62% were age 25 or older.3
The reality of decoupling our tipped wage from full minimum wage is that family budgets for tipped workers can be tight—a recent report found higher poverty rates among tipped workers, and that tipped workers were more likely than other workers to rely on public assistance programs to supplement low wages, with 46% of tipped workers receiving some form of federal assistance, compared to 35% of non-tipped workers.4

We believe that LB 211 would be a step toward ensuring that more working Nebraska families can make ends meet and we encourage the committee to advance the bill.

Julia Tse, Policy Associate

1 Sylvia Allegretto and David Cooper, “Twenty-three years and still waiting for change,” Economic Policy Institute, July 2014.
2 U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees, January 2017, http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm.
3 “11b. Employed persons by detailed occupation and age,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016.
4 Allegretto and Cooper, “Twenty-three years and still waiting for change.”

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Emerging Adults: Education

The 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report includes an in-depth look at the first steps young people take along their transition away from childhood – emerging adulthood. This is a time of profound growth and development coupled with frequent life changes. The decisions made during these years lead to lifelong decisions impacted the next generation of Nebraska’s workforce and families. Our series investigating our commentary thus far has introduced some of the characteristics of emerging adults and provided an overview of this population in Nebraska as well as a look at the health of these young Nebraskans. Today we will take a look at emerging adults and education.


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In Case You Missed It: February 6-10

The legislative session is in full swing and we had a busy week, testifying in committee hearings on eight bills. In case you missed anything, a summary of our week at the Nebraska Capitol is below.

Child Welfare

We submitted a letter of support for LB 107, which would close a gap in Nebraska’s statutory rape law and protect all of Nebraska’s children when they are in vulnerable positions.

Policy Associate Julia Tse testified Wednesday in support of LB 108, a bill to create the foundation for child-focused policy and practice when a parent is arrested and incarcerated. LB 108 would encourage necessary stable and loving relationships between children and their parents/guardians.

The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on LB 456, a bill to strengthen the rights of parents with disabilities. We support this bill because children do best when they are part of a supportive and loving family and this bill reaffirms that the focal concern of our state remains with child well-being and safety.

Policy Coordinator Juliet Summers testified Tuesday in opposition to LB 595, a bill that would allow teachers to use physical force or restraint against students. We oppose LB 595 because it is at odds with best practices for improving classroom culture and keeping students engaged, and is likely to disproportionately affect students with disabilities and students of color.

Economic Stability

We submitted a letter of support for LB 260, a bill to increase healthy food access across Nebraska. Food insecurity is detrimental to a child’s health, behavioral functioning, and academic performance. We support LB 260 as a measure that would work to provide proper nutrition to more of Nebraska’s children.

On Monday, Policy Coordinator Kaitlin Reece testified in support of LB 305, a bill to extend paid family leave in Nebraska, stating: “A paid family leave program would level the playing field, provide a way to retain and attract workers, and provide a systemic solution to the current patchwork system that isn’t working for families or businesses.”

She also provided testimony in support of LB 372. This bill would support workers who are experiencing a high amount of family/work conflict and protect them from discrimination.

Proposed income tax cuts will leave Nebraskans in the future less able to respond to community needs. Policy Coordinator Kaitlin Reece provided testimony in opposition to LB 337 because we are concerned about the effects tax cuts will have on children, families, and education.


Take a look at our 2017 State Policy Agenda for the full list of our priority legislation.


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Emerging Adults: Health

The 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report includes an in-depth look at the first steps young people take along their transition away from childhood – emerging adulthood. This is a time of profound growth and development coupled with frequent life changes. The decisions made during these years lead to lifelong decisions impacted the next generation of Nebraska’s workforce and families. Our first post in this series investigating our commentary introduced some of the characteristics of emerging adults and provided an overview of this population in Nebraska. Today, we look at the health of these young Nebraskans with some data highlights in risk behaviors, health insurance, and mental health.

Of great interest in this data in the dramatic decrease in uninsured emerging adults in Nebraska. In 2009, nearly one-third of emerging adults ages 19-25 were uninsured. With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”), insurance coverage has been expanded to these young people due to provisions allowing them to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26 or to purchase insurance directly through the Health Care Marketplace. Typically, working-age Americans get their health care coverage through an employer, meaning for many emerging adults who are in school full-time or are working in a job where health insurance is not offered, it was difficult to obtain affordable coverage. The ACA created health insurance options for emerging adults who were not previously eligible for coverage and allowed emerging adults greater flexibility to explore different career and educational paths without being tied to a job for the sake of health insurance. With the enactment of dependent coverage, the uninsured rate among 18-24-year-olds in Nebraska dropped by more than 50% from 2009 to 2015 from 25.5% uninsured to 12.4%, helping to lead the nation toward our lowest uninsured rate in recorded history. The increases in access to coverage have led to increased access to health care for young people, and has improved their health and financial security which may potentially generate long-term economic benefits.

Stay tuned over the next several weeks as we continue to share data and recommendations on Nebraska’s Emerging Adults from our 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report.

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Emerging Adults – Characteristics and Population

Image Source: Catherine Giordano, HubPages

The 2016 Kids Count in Nebraska Report includes an in-depth look at the first steps young people take along their transition away from childhood – emerging adulthood. This is a time of profound growth and development coupled with frequent life changes. The decisions made during these years lead to lifelong decisions impacted the next generation of Nebraska’s workforce and families.

For years, youth was thought to end around age 18 or upon graduation from high school and the beginnings of careers or higher education. These years from late teens to early twenties are spent building the foundation for future wealth, occupational training, and achievements that impact the remainder of adulthood. While legally adults at age 19 in Nebraska, this time period is one of profound change and development. Exploration of love, work, and world views shift and change over the course of this stage. In the past half century, the age of marriage and childbearing has steadily increased, allowing for the immediate years following high school to be a time of change and exploration of life paths. It is no longer expected for those in their late teens and early twenties to have already settled in to long-term, adult roles. Because of these changes in expectations, some have determined the late teens and early twenties to be a distinct developmental age known as “Emerging Adulthood.”

Emerging adults, especially those 18-24 years old, are at a unique point in their life characterized by relative independence from social roles and normative expectations. This age, more than any other point throughout the course of life, allows for independent exploration of life’s possibilities with few outside responsibilities. There are few requirements for these young people, thereby making demographic status unpredictable and volatile. These years of development are characterized by instability, frequent transitions, and increased access to other emerging adults who are demographically different. Demographic transitions and fluctuations make it difficult to categorize emerging adults as adults. In fact, most young people at this age do not consider themselves to be adults, but rather as being in a period between adolescence and adulthood. The top criteria most young people use to consider themselves as adults are characterized by self-sufficiency and include accepting responsibility for one’s self, making independent decisions, and reaching financial independence. Emerging adulthood is a period when self-sufficiency has not yet been reached and many are often still reliant on parents and other family members for assistance – whether financially or for guidance. Identity exploration and formation and character traits continue to develop. It is only after these qualities are established and self-sufficiency is reached, that many make the transition from emerging adulthood to being a young adult, typically in the mid- to late-twenties.

Characteristics of emerging adults:

  1. The age of instability: Emerging adults often encounter complications on their path to independence and are therefore forced to revise their plans often changing educational plans, partners, jobs, or residences.
  2. The age of identity exploration: Emerging adults are trying out different possibilities in an attempt to figure out who they are and who they’d like to become before making the transition to stable, long-lasting commitments.
  3. The self-focused age: Emerging adults tend to delay significant adult responsibilities in an effort to exercise freedom and independence.
  4. The age of feeling in between: Emerging adults tend to feel that they have not yet met the criteria of adulthood, but have advanced beyond adolescence.
  5. The age of possibilities: Emerging adults often have a very optimistic view of their future and believe they will accomplish their dreams while overcoming past obstacles to opportunity.

The following data provides a glimpse of the population of Nebraska’s emerging adults. Over the next several weeks we will explore the data related to this age group and make recommendations to ensure that all Nebraska’s young people are set up for lifetime success and opportunity.

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