Nebraska Children grants $800,000 to Connected Youth Initiatives in six communities


(Lincoln, Nebraska) – Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is awarding grants ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 per year to six statewide communities over two years — $800,000 per year for a 2-year total of $1.6 million. Each community will use the funding to build a Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) system to serve unconnected young people in need.

“Nebraska Children has spent the last several years putting systems into place in Omaha, Lincoln and the Panhandle to help vulnerable young people transition successfully to adulthood,” said Troy Gagner, Nebraska Children’s Connected Youth Initiative lead. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with six communities across the state to expand that work and see even more young people served.”

Communities receiving grants are:

  • North Platte Area (Lincoln County)
  • Grand Island Area (Hall, Dawson, Buffalo, Merrick, Hamilton, Phelps, Kearney, Adams, Clay, Harlan, Franklin, Webster and Nuckolls Counties)
  • Norfolk Area (Madison, Pierce, Wayne and Stanton County)
  • Fremont Area (Dodge County)
  • Central Plains (Custer, Garfield, Blaine, Sherman, Valley and Loup Counties)
  • Southeast Nebraska (Butler, Cass, Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee, Polk, Richardson, Saline, Seward, Thayer and York Counties)

What is the Connected Youth Initiative (CYI)?

CYI is based on the successful practices of existing initiatives in Omaha, Lincoln and the Panhandle. The initiative targets youth ages 14-24 who are considered “unconnected” – either because they’ve aged out of the foster care system, are exiting the juvenile justice system, are homeless or near homeless, or simply lack the family supports required to transition successfully to adulthood.

“The goal of these Connected Youth Initiatives is simple: To support unconnected young people to become self-reliant, contributing adults,” said Gagner. “Without the support of a family, the barriers to independence can seem insurmountable. These Connected Youth communities will use this funding to remove those barriers, and make success attainable for this vulnerable population.”

Where is the money coming from?

In August 2015, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation received $2 million from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) to expand this model to rural communities across Nebraska. Nebraska Children is using that grant, plus private match funds from Nebraska-based foundations to provide these community subgrants to implement Connected Youth Initiatives.

“The grants being provided by the SIF will support and expand education, training and mentoring to rural Nebraskan disconnected youth ages 14 to 23 in 40 counties,” noted Damian Thorman, director of the Social Innovation Fund, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “With our funding, we can catch them at that trajectory point in their lives and intervene with powerful and practical solutions to move them into more productive and financially stable lives. Young people residing in rural areas also have another big strike against them which is limited access to public transportation. These SIF grants provide new ways to get to and from school, work and job trainings. Otherwise, these kids are stuck. We have an exciting opportunity in Nebraska to change patterns of behavior and create a sustainable future.”

The SIF is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs. The SIF fosters public and private collaborations to evaluate and grow innovative community-based solutions that work. In just five years, the SIF and its private-sector partners have invested more than $876 million dollars in compelling community solutions. As a result of $295 million in federal grants and more than $581 million in non-federal match commitments, the SIF has made grants to 39 grant-making institutions and 353 nonprofits working in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

How will each community use the money?

While each community’s CYI will look different depending on the needs of youth and resources in the area, required components include:

  • Central Access Navigation – A coordinated approach that ensures CYI participants get access to all of the services they need in a streamlined, common-sense way. By coordinating service and helping youth navigate them through a central access point, the Families First Partnership can avoid duplication of efforts and effectively track the progress of young people.
  • Opportunity Passport™ – A nationally recognized financial literacy and asset-building program. Participating youth open Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) at a local bank, learn financial literacy skills, and save money for things like tuition, security deposits on apartments, or a car to take them to school and work. Youth savings are matched up to 4-to-1, helping them reach their goals more quickly.
  • Need-Based Funds – Emergency cash available to help youth keep small bumps in the road – like broke down cars, class fees, utility bill surges – from becoming catastrophes.
  • Youth voice – A council of area youth to provide input on how the CYI system should be set up and what services are most necessary.

Each of the six CYI grant communities will begin implementing their work plan immediately. WestEd, in conjunction with the University of Nebraska, will serve as a third-party evaluator to ensure fidelity to the original model, assess outcomes and make sure the community efforts are having the desired impact.

About the Social Innovation Fund (SIF)

The Social Innovation Fund is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. Learn more at

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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2 comments on “Nebraska Children grants $800,000 to Connected Youth Initiatives in six communities
  1. Jerry Wiedel says:

    Hello, my name is Jerry Wiedel. I am looking for a contact name and phone number for you.. We were referred to you from one of our girl’s counselor in Hastings Ne. My e-mail is We are in urgent need of help!
    thanks Jerry Wiedel 402 469 3725

    • Hello Jerry. What kind of help are you looking for? Nebraska Children and Families Foundation operates youth councils for young people in foster care or involved with the juvenile justice system, but not emergency services. If you need urgent help, the Nebraska Family Hotline is 1-888-866-8660.

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