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, education, 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.