Today, Voices for Children testified in support of LB 216, which voluntarily extends foster care services to age 21 for state wards. Here is our written testimony to the Health and Human Services Committee:
January 31, 2013
To: Members of the Health and Human Services Committee
From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator – Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Support for LB 216 – Extending Supports and Services for State Wards to 21
Young adults in our child welfare system deserve quality supports that help them transition successfully to adulthood. Adolescence is a crucial time in the lives of young people, especially for youth who may have been exposed to trauma and lack permanent family connections. Providing the proper programs and supports to these young people is a key part of a child-centered, effective child welfare system.
Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 216, which will extend services to state wards on a voluntary basis up to age 21. Enacting this legislation is crucial because it provides:
- Increased access to federal child welfare funds. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (2008) provided federal funding for a number of services and supports for older youth who age out or who were recently adopted or placed in guardianship. States can now receive up to a 75% match under Title IV-E foster care and adoption dollars for the following services: extending foster care and adoption and guardianship subsidies up to age 21; allowing youth adopted or placed in guardianship after age 16 to participate in Independent Living services; and allowing youth adopted or placed in kinship guardianship after age 16 to receive educational vouchers.
- Support for “at-risk” youth. The number of young people “aging out” of foster care without permanent family support is increasing both nationally and in Nebraska. Often the outcomes for these young people are dismal. Few have advanced educational opportunities, and even more have trouble finding employment and stable housing. High percentages will face poverty and involvement with the criminal justice system. By providing supportive services for these vulnerable youth, Nebraska can help them successfully transition to adulthood and encourage educational and career-building opportunities while still providing a safety net of necessary services.
- Developmentally appropriate services to ease the transition to adulthood. Adolescence is a time of growth and opportunity. Through the teen years and up until age 25, the brain is still developing and forming connections that help regulate impulse control and build the skills that make youth successful adults. Providing the right services to young people can help them make the most of adolescence, and learn and grow to their full potential.
LB 216 is an important part of a complete, child-focused child welfare system. We hope it will be the start of greater conversations in Nebraska on needed system changes that enhance permanency and ensure that young people have the skills and relationships that will allow them to successfully transition to adulthood. We urge you to advance it. Thank you.
 “Fostering Connections: About the Law.” http://www.fosteringconnections.org/about_the_law?id=0001
 Courtney, Mark. “Midwest Study of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth.” Chapin Hall University of Chicago. 2010.
 “Graham v. Florida, Amicus Brief.” American Psychological Association.