More details on the Connected Youth Initiative

What happened?

The Corporation for National and Community Service has awarded a Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant so that the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. The grant will be used to expand a successful model to rural communities across the state to help unconnected youth become contributing, independent citizens.

How much?

$6 million may be invested in rural Nebraska over the next 2 years, with the potential for another $9 million in the following 3 years.

  • $2 million in federal funds ($1 mm/year for 2 years), plus potential for another $3 million ($1 mm/year for the following 3 years)
  • $2 million in private match funds ($1 million per year for 2 years)
  • $2 million in dollar-for-dollar match from grantee communities

Who will be served?

The initiative will serve “unconnected youth” in rural Nebraska communities. Unconnected youth are defined as young people between 14-24 who are currently or have been in the Nebraska foster care system, have had contact with the child protective services, have had contact with the juvenile justice system (but are not on probation), or are homeless or near homeless. Why does this matter? Without community support, unconnected youth are unlikely to reach their full potential. Take a look at the projected outcomes for the 431 foster youth ages 17+ in Greater Nebraska, compared to 431 of their peers not in the system:





Jim Casey Youth Opportunities, a national expert on unconnected youth, estimates that each annual class of young people who age out of care cost Nebraska approximately $90 million over their lifetime in lost tax revenue, criminal justice expenses and public assistance costs. Outcomes are similar for those with juvenile justice experience.

How will the expansion work?

Currently, Nebraska Children has older youth systems in Lincoln, Omaha and the Panhandle. The federal grant funds from SIF and private match funds will pay for staff, planning and implementation costs associated with expansion to greater Nebraska. Nebraska Children has already set up “youth councils” in several communities across the state to determine what youth most need.


Nebraska Children will award 7-10 subgrants of $100,00–150,000 per year for five years to communities wishing to build a Connected Youth Community system. Recipient communities will be required to supply a dollar-for-dollar cash match from public or private community funders. Applications will be available this fall.

By 2020, what will be achieved?

  • 85% of Nebraska Counties will be served
  • 250% increase in youth served
  • Each community will “own” its own initiative, leading to long-term sustainability

About the Connected Youth Community system model

With help from the Project Everlast youth councils and existing community relationships, the new Connected Youth Community systems in rural Nebraska will be youth-driven. Thanks to prior experience and learning, Nebraska Children is in a position to advise on best practices for serving unconnected youth, including:

  • Central access services to help young people navigate services
  • Individual development accounts (IDAs) to encourage saving and teach financial literacy
  • Transitional/voluntary case management services to provide a source of support for unconnected youth
  • Alignment and maximization of existing community services to help youth transition towards self-reliance

The model for the new Connected Youth Community systems is a combination of the Omaha Independent Living Plan (2007) and the Social Services Rural Homeless Youth federal demonstration grant (2009). This model uses a collaborative leadership process to focus on the needs of unconnected youth by aligning current community efforts, developing additional resources, creating an evaluation process, and merging statewide actions into the plan.

What is SIF?

The Corporation for National and Community Service created the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a key White House initiative intended to “create a learning network of organizations working to implement innovative and effective evidence-based solutions to local and national challenges in three priority areas: economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development.” (From

Who is eligible to apply for subgrants?

Nebraska Children is looking for community leaders or nonprofit organizations in rural Nebraska communities that are currently bringing together crosssector collaboratives focused on improving outcomes for unconnected youth. These applicants should be working to create older youth systems that focus on educational and career outcomes, and well being factors such as:

  • Daily needs
  • Transportation
  • Health (mental, physical and dental)
  • Housing
  • Permanency
  • Financial stability

This material is based upon work supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) under agreement number 15SIHNE001. Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of, or a position that is endorsed by, CNCS or the Social Innovation Fund.

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

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