EXTENDING SERVICES AND SUPPORT TO 21 IN NEBRASKA: A Survey for Stakeholders Working in Child Welfare
Under the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections), states have the opportunity to claim federal matching funds for the costs of extending foster care services to eligible youth up to the age of 21. Several local organization have been exploring the possibility of adding Nebraska to the growing list of over a dozen other states who have taken advantage of this opportunity. In March 2012, Senator Amanda McGill introduced an interim study, LR 537, with the purpose of further exploring the challenges facing youth who age out of foster care. This survey is being distributed as a method of gaining input from stakeholders and professionals working in the field of child welfare for LR 537. A similar survey was conducted with over 100 youth this summer. Results from both the youth and stakeholder surveys will be compiled into a report with Nebraska-specific data regarding youth aging out each year and presented at the LR 537 hearing on October 25, 2012, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Nebraska State Capitol.

This 17 question survey is anonymous. It should take you 10-15 minutes to complete. Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that this type of program will be created in Nebraska anytime in the near future, nor that specific program design options you may favor will become part of a program, if it is established. However, gaining input from a wide range of stakeholders is important in developing ideas and shaping services designed to improve the system for older youth. Your responses will be combined with those of other stakeholders and shared with policymakers and others who are working on designing this program.

Click below to view a one page summary of the highlights of an extended services and support to 21 program:
http://neappleseed.org/downloads560


THIS SURVEY WILL CLOSE ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE, PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR RESPONSE PRIOR TO OCTOBER 5TH.




PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY
The Fostering Connection Act allows federal matching funds for extended services and Medicaid coverage for young adults who “age out” of foster care, but Nebraska may want to explore including other groups of young adults.

The Fostering Connections Act also allows for continued adoption/guardianship subsidies for youth who were adopted or who entered a guardianship at age 16 or older and who meet other program requirements. Medicaid coverage would also be included.
1. Who should be included in the program? (check as many as you would like) *
Including broader populations of youth would offer support to additional at-risk populations. However, federal match would not be provided to youth under the age of 18 or those who are reunified, so the State of Nebraska would be responsible for this cost.
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Comments (1):
2. How should adoption/guardianship subsidies for young adults in this program be handled? (check one) *
Providing subsidies directly to young adults in this program would ensure that they are the direct beneficiaries of this money - especially for those who do not continue to live with their adoptive parent/guardian until the age of 21. This could empower them to practice budgeting, saving money, and even paying rent. However, this may be problematic if young adults are not careful in how they spend the money. Additionally, other states with programs like this have continued sending subsidies to adoptive parents/guardians. Should Nebraska explore this option, we would be the first, and federal funding may not support this.
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Comments (2):
CASE MANAGEMENT
In this program, the caseworker’s role of would be very different from the role of caseworkers for children in foster care under the age of 19. Workers would be responsible for providing support in a completely young adult-directed way, so young adults would be able to choose the areas in which they needed help. The Fostering Connections Act requires that workers meet with their assigned young adults once a month to check in and make sure their needs are being met.
3. Who should provide case management services? (check one) *
Keeping original caseworkers on young adults' cases would help with continuity of care, but may lead to confusion, as caseworkers would be serving both children in the traditional foster care system and young adults voluntarily involved in this program. It is of the utmost importance that workers in this program understand the needs of young adults and how to work with them in a young adult-directed way. Neither DHHS/NFC or any other private agency currently offer such a program, however, so there would have to be a period of hiring and training new workers should a separate group of workers be created for this program.
Comments (3):
4. What characteristics are important in a caseworker for young adults?
5. What should the caseworker’s role be in an extended program for young adults? (check as many as you would like) (Note: They are ALWAYS responsible for transition planning and working to help young adults find permanency. Monthly face-to-face contact is also required by the Fostering Connections Act.) *
It is important to ensure that the caseworker's role balances supervision and service delivery with empowerment and young adult-lead processes. Because this program would be voluntary, it is important for services to be truly meaningful and helpful to each individual young adult, not overbearing.
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Comments (5):
HOUSING OPTIONS
This program would continue providing some financial support for housing costs of young people until the age of 21, similar to funding for children’s placements in the under 19 system. Housing options for these young adults can and should include more age/developmentally-appropriate, independent settings, including single or shared apartments, dorms, or renting a room in a home. There are options about what rules should be set and how monthly housing stipends can be handled for young adults living in these independent settings.
6. How should housing stipends be handled for those living in independent settings? (check as many as you would like) (Note: Because of federal rules, these options would not apply for licensed foster homes, adoptive/guardianship homes, or group homes.) *
Paying rent and other housing costs directly for young adults will ensure that bills are paid, so they wouldn't have to worry about missing rent or being kicked out of their living situation. However, it is also important that young adults in this program are empowered and able to practice some of the important skills they will need later in adulthood (such as budgeting). Paying bills for them will not help them learn how to do it once they are on their own.
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Comments (6):
7. If a young adult is living in a more independent setting, what rules/guidelines should there be to approve the young adult’s housing? (check as many as you would like) *
Again, it is important to balance safety with empowerment and responsibility in this program. When children are in the foster care system, the main priority is to keep them safe. Young adults should also be in environments that are safe. However, this program is for young adults who developmentally need to be able to take healthy risks and be responsible for their decisions. It is also important to remember that this program is voluntary. Setting too many rules about young adults' living situations may serve as a deterrent for participation in the program and remind young adults too much of traditional foster care. Even without rules like background checks, there will be periodic reviews to make sure young adults are safe.
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Comments (7):
JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT
Reviews every six months are required by the Fostering Connections Act. These can take the form of either: a) two case reviews each year, or b) one permanency review and one case review each year. Case reviews and permanency reviews must be developmentally appropriate and responsive to the needs of the young adult, focusing on areas such as ensuring young adults are safe in their housing situations, looking at what efforts DHHS has made in providing meaningful independent living skill services, and determining what progress has been made to prepare the young adult for independence on a projected date. There is flexibility under the federal Fostering Connections Act as to how these reviews are structured: it could be as formal as a hearing in front of a judge in a courtroom or as informal as a meeting with some other oversight group in a conference room, like the Foster Care Review Office or Mediation Center.

Regardless, it is important to keep in mind that the court is the only entity that can order DHHS to provide a service needed for the young adult.
8. Who should oversee annual permanency reviews? (check one) *
Judges are used to holding reviews, they know what DHHS can and should do, and, most importantly, they have the authority to order DHHS to provide a service needed for the young adult. However, going to court can be intimidating, so young adults may prefer to stay out of the court room. Having a court related person/group oversee reviews would continue allowing the court to issue orders requiring DHHS to provide a service, but young adults wouldn't need to see a judge in court. An administrative body would be an even less expensive option, but would not be able to order DHHS to do anything. If something went wrong, young adults would have to seek an administrative appeal, which may be a confusing and difficult process.
Comments/Explanation (8):
9. Who should oversee case reviews? (check one) *
Judges are used to holding reviews, they know what DHHS can and should do, and, most importantly, they have the authority to order DHHS to provide a service needed for the young adult. However, going to court can be intimidating, so young adults may prefer to stay out of the court room. Having a court related person/group oversee reviews would continue allowing the court to issue orders requiring DHHS to provide a service, but young adults wouldn't need to see a judge in court. An administrative body would be an even cheaper option, but would not be able to order DHHS to do anything. If something went wrong, young adults would have to ask to go to court, which may be a confusing and difficult process.
Comments (9):
10. Should young adults have legal representation at case reviews? (check one) *
Attorneys know the foster care system and what DHHS can and should do for youth. They could be of great assistance in advocating for young adults and helping if anything went wrong in the case. However, this would make the program more expensive, as Nebraska or the county would have to cover this cost. Not providing young adults with an attorney or requiring that young adults specifically request one may result in young adults not getting the help they need.
Comments (10):
FORMER WARD
The Former Ward program in Nebraska currently provides assistance to college-bound young adults who age out of foster care until they turn 21. There are a few key differences between the Former Ward program, which is already offered, and the extended services and support to 21 program, which has not yet been created. In particular, the Former Ward program includes only young adults who are furthering their education, while the extended services and support to 21 program would also include those who are working or actively seeking work. The Former Ward program also does not offer youth-directed case management services, while a program of extended services and support would. Extended services and support would also continue adoption/guardianship subsidies for young adults who were adopted or who entered a guardianship at age 16 or older.

To see a quick chart highlighting the differences between these two programs, copy/paste the link below into a new tab or browser window: http://neappleseed.org/downloads343
11. Is there anything you would like to see change about the Former Ward program as it currently operates? *
Comments/Explanation (11):
12. FORMER WARD: To what extent do you agree that the current Former Ward program meets the needs of older youth exiting foster care? *
Strongly agree
Strongly disagree
Comments (12):
13. FORMER WARD: How do you think this extended services and support to 21 program compares to the already existing Former Ward program? *
Extended services and support to 21 would be much better
Extended services and support to 21 would be much worse
Comments (13):
14. FORMER WARD: If this extended services and support to 21 program is created, what do you think should happen with the Former Ward program? *
This program provides more services and support and includes more young adults, so offering only this program would ensure that all young adults receive the same amount of assistance. However, different people need different levels of help; some young adults may need only a little financial assistance while getting through college, so they may not want to sign up for a more comprehensive program. Keeping the Former Ward program (and possibly changing some rules so more young adults would be eligible) would provide these young adults with options. This would be more expensive for Nebraska.
15. OTHER QUESTIONS: What is your role? *
Required
Comments/Explanation (14):
16. Primary city of practice: *
17. Any final thoughts or comments to share with us?
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