As we move into the fall season, there comes transition. While leaves blush or turn gold and fall from branches, in many ways, people transition as well. With seasons and life, there are transitions and opportunities for people to move into the next phase.
Probably one of the most striking transitions that we have dealt with has been the pandemic. When young people who experience the foster care system age out, they are presented with a complex world that changes more than the seasons.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and partners recognize the difficulty inherent throughout these changes. Through experiencing foster care and other systems, young people display resiliency and incredible accomplishments on local and national levels.
Just as many of us had a family network to rely on, youth need to be supported as they move into adulthood. Our older youth initiative, Connected Youth Initiative, offers support and services to young people between the ages of 14-26 who have experienced foster care, juvenile justice or probation, human trafficking, and homelessness.
It comes as no surprise to learn that transition-aged youth and young adults in Nebraska continue to face challenges during COVID-19.
We can all agree that the pandemic has altered our lives as we know it, especially for Nebraska’s young people. Even so, we know that our young people are invaluable and the driving force behind our nation’s well-being and economic success. Moreover, as young community members join the full-time workforce, they need to earn and save money.
Starting in March 2020, we listened to these young people’s voices. One thing became apparent – they wanted to be heard and find ways to meet their needs. Together, we and our co-collaborators leveraged our supports in response to these essential needs and challenges.
We gathered comprehensive insights and responses through a collection of roundtables, surveys, and discussions on national and local levels. What began as an early series of solutions has since solidified into long-term supports for our next generation of Nebraskans to achieve economic stability.
Here’s how we responded to transition-aged youth during COVID-19
- We leveraged over $1.7M in public COVID-19 relief funding to support older youth from March 2020 – September 2021
- We delivered 100% of those funds to 1,153 young people as emergency cash payment, stipend, stimulus, or Education and Training Vouchers
- We provided over 215 young people with devices to stay connected to virtual coaching, home-visiting services, e-learning, and social relationships
- We provided 65 hotel vouchers to 64 youth in Omaha with temporary housing
- We enrolled 156 youth (96% of those eligible in Nebraska) in pandemic foster care via the Department of Health and Human Services or CYI
- We offered ongoing support in response to young people aging out of foster care
- We distributed 95% of Nebraska’s current Education and Training Voucher (ETV) to recipients
- We created a voucher increase for the 2021 Fall and 2022 Spring semesters
- We delivered over 100 bags to siblings separated by foster care across Nebraska for a virtual Camp Catch-Up
Although we have a long way to go, together with Nebraska’s young people, we are our way to creating positive, lasting change.
Adulthood, no matter what, is a difficult transition. Thanks to your support, we can ensure that these young people can enter this uncertain world, well beyond fall and into many other seasons, feeling confident and supported.