Imagine being alone without money, resources, or family. Imagine expecting a child, or already having one. Imagine feeling as though you’re separated from a distant, unpredictable adult world: you aren’t sure how to cross over or who will catch you if you fall. Thanks to your resiliency, you bounce back each time, but every instance feels more precarious than the last.
Imagine having experienced the foster care system. Maybe you connected with a family. Maybe you didn’t, and now you’re alone. You’re ready to live your best life, but are so focused on surviving, you’ve yet to approach thriving.
Maybe you are that person. Maybe you’ve been that person. Maybe even, just for one second, you can put yourself into the shoes of that person. The good news is that there are new supports and services for young people who have experienced the foster care or juvenile justice system, homelessness, or human trafficking, particularly during the pandemic.
Thanks to Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Connected Youth Initiative (CYI), there are support systems to help young people between the ages of 15-25 years old find their voice in and connection to a world where they’ve may have felt disconnected. The term “unconnected youth” refers to young people who may not have the connection to the necessary people, family, services, and supports needed to live one’s best life.
The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, CYI, Central Plains Center for Services and The Sherwood Foundation have teamed up to create Granting Opportunities for Achievement and Lifelong Success (GOALS). This initiative offers a monthly $775 stipend to young adults who are transitioning from extended foster care during and throughout the pandemic.
When young adults first exit the extended foster care system also known as Bridge to Independence (B2i), GOALS will assist in their transition into the next phase of this new, real, and strange world.
Thanks to GOALS and their resilience, young people can eliminate some pandemic-related anxiety. Participants enrolled in GOALS can alleviate financial insecurity, which sometimes marks their path to adulthood during a time when the economy has been affected, jobs may be scarce, and other services may be overwhelmed.
Young people will also connect with central navigation for an array of resources. Central navigation is designed to identify the best supports for the young person in question, then put that person touch with the proper contacts with minimal hassle and without multiple stops.
Young people will apply to NE Works via the Department of Labor to receive job information, enhance their work experience, and undergo hard and soft skill training. They will also receive strength-based CYI coaching support from Central Plains Center for Services, connections to postsecondary education by way of Nebraska Children’s Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) networks, and participate in Opportunity Passport™ for financial coaching and savings toward an asset purchase.
We anticipate that over 80 youth, many of whom are young parents, will receive support via the GOALS program through the end of 2020 and into 2021. As a Nebraska Children initiative, CYI envisions a state where all youth can thrive, pandemic or not. Thanks to the GOALS program, our young people can continue to cross into a world that will support and welcome them, as they enter adulthood.