Program success story: Omaha’s PALS

PALS program overview omaha foster youth

The PALS Program (Preparation for Adult Living Services) helps at-risk young people transition to a successful adulthood. Managed by the Central Plains Center for Services and funded by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, PALS has helped the youth it serves make significant gains in education, employment status, housing, health and community engagement.

The successes have been staggering.

This population is transient. They’re at an age where poor decision making is a practically a biological imperative. Most of them are state wards. They often have histories of trauma. And they’re susceptible to the poor outcomes associated with aging out of foster care with no permanent situation.

With all this against them, most people would think that PALS was taking up a lost cause. But numbers don’t lie. And the progress just shows what a difference caring, committed adults can make in the lives of youth who just need a little support.

Program goals

In the last six months of 2012, PALS served 178 youth between the ages of 16 and 23. The goals of the program are:

  1. Education: Youth receive sufficient education and training to enable them to obtain and retain employment.
  2. Employment: Youth generate a sufficient income to support themselves by obtaining and retailing employment.
  3. Daily Living and Housing: Youth have access to safe, stable, affordable housing in the community that is close to public transportation, work and school.
  4. Permanence/Personal and Community Engagement: Youth have supportive relationships, are able to access services in the community to achieve their personal goals and have a voice and connection to their community.
  5. Physical and Behavioral Health: Youth have sufficient and affordable health insurance and services for both physical and behavioral health.

Moving the needle: Outcomes after 1.5 years in the program


  • More than 80% have received their high school diploma or GED (up from less than 50%)
  • Almost 50% are in college (up from 22%)
  • 43% have some achieved college credit (up from 1%)
  • 80% are in school or have enrollment plans


  • 61% participated in work readiness programs (up from 35%)
  • Nearly 70% have a resume (up from 35%)
  • 81% can meet their monthly expenses (up from 43%)


  • Vast majority of participants have safe, secure housing
  • Nearly 80% are living independently (up from 21%)
  • 64% are accessing housing assistance (up from only 20%)
  • 63% have a drivers license (up from 36%)
  • Nearly 90% have a household budget (up from 50%)
  • 67% have a checking account (up from 34%)


  • More than 50% have a mentor (up from 27%)
  • Nearly 40% have been involved in Project Everlast Youth Councils (up from 20%)


  • 63% know how to access low-cost providers (up from 38%)
  • 71% have accessed assistance (up from 57%)
  • Incarceration dropped as low as 4% (from 23%)

That’s what we call success.

PALS is making headway. In a population that many have given up on, we’re seeing youth who are using the resources they get from PALS to start building a life that’s healthy, productive and rooted in community. We couldn’t be prouder to fund this program.


Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

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Posted in Teen/Early Adulthood
3 comments on “Program success story: Omaha’s PALS
  1. I am one who have defied the odds of most foster care youth. I however, already being self sufficient and a productive member in society was not assigned a PALS worker. I cannot begin to tell you how furious I am about this. Again because everything appeared to be fine I was overlooked as I have been many times. I too recieved the prestigious Susan T. Buffett and was Shantel’s next door neighbor. I was scheduled meet a PALS worker today but i started my in patient partial program at alegentl

  2. still more than ever I need the support from these services. I see other foster youth I know recieving them and for some odd reason I have not. Yeah i missed my appointment today– give me a break okay. Been dealing with some issues that must be taken care of.

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