Extension of Foster Care Beyond Age 18 - Nebraska

Date: March 2022

Availability of Foster Care to Age 21

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 43-905

Legal custody and care of a child and services by the Department of Health and Human Services shall never extend beyond the age of majority, except as follows:

  • Services by the department to a child shall continue until the child reaches age 21 if the child is in the Bridge to Independence Program, as provided in the Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act.
  • Coverage for health care and related services shall be extended as provided for Medicaid coverage for individuals under age 26.

Requirements for Remaining in Placement

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 43-4504

The Bridge to Independence Program is available, on a voluntary basis, to a young adult who meets the following criteria:

  • Attained the age of eligibility
  • Was adjudicated to be a neglected juvenile under State law or an equivalent Tribal law and any of the following apply:
    • Was a ward of the juvenile court and the youth's guardianship or State-funded adoption assistance agreement was disrupted or terminated after they had reached age 16
    • Upon reaching the age of eligibility, was in an out-of-home placement or had been discharged to independent living
    • Was receiving federally funded or State-funded kinship guardianship assistance, if the young adult had reached age 16 before the agreement became effective
  • Is doing one of the following:
    • Completing secondary education or an educational program leading to an equivalent credential
    • Enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education
    • Employed for at least 80 hours per month
    • Participating in a program or activity designed to promote employment or remove barriers to employment
    • Incapable of doing any of the preceding activities due to a medical condition, with the incapacity being supported by regularly updated information in the case plan of the young adult
  • Is a Nebraska resident, except that this requirement shall not disqualify a young adult who was a Nebraska resident but was placed outside Nebraska pursuant to the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children

Placement Agreements

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 43-4506

If an eligible young adult chooses to participate in the Bridge to Independence Program, the young adult and the department shall sign, and the young adult shall be provided a copy of, a voluntary services and support agreement that includes, at a minimum, information regarding all the following:

  • The requirement that the young adult continue to be eligible for the duration of the voluntary services and support agreement and any other expectations of the young adult
  • The services and support the young adult shall receive through the Bridge to Independence Program
  • The voluntary nature of the young adult's participation and the young adult's right to terminate the voluntary services and support agreement at any time
  • Conditions that may result in the termination of the voluntary services and support agreement and the young adult's early discharge from the Bridge to Independence Program

As soon as the young adult and the department sign the voluntary services and support agreement and the department determines that the young adult is eligible for the Bridge to Independence Program, but no longer than 15 days after signing the agreement, the department shall provide services and support to the young adult in accordance with the voluntary services and support agreement.

A young adult participating in the Bridge to Independence Program shall be assigned an independence coordinator to provide case management services for the young adult. Independence coordinators and their supervisors shall be specialized in primarily providing services for young adults in the Bridge to Independence Program or shall, at minimum, have specialized training in providing transition services and support to young adults. The department shall provide continued efforts at achieving permanency and creating permanent connections for a young adult participating in the Bridge to Independence Program.

As soon as possible after the young adult is determined eligible for the Bridge to Independence Program and signs the voluntary services and support agreement, the department shall conduct a determination of income eligibility for purposes of title IV-E of the Federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 672).

Transition Supports Provided

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 43-4505; 43-1311.03(9)

Extended services and support provided under the Bridge to Independence Program include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Medical care under the medical assistance program
  • Housing, placement, and support in the form of foster care maintenance payments, with housing options that may include any of the following:
    • A foster family home
    • A supervised independent living setting
    • An institution
    • A foster care facility
  • Case management services that are youth driven, including a description of the resources that will help the youth create permanent relationships and prepare for the transition to adulthood and independent living
  • The resources that will assist the youth in the transition from the Bridge to Independence Program to adulthood, including, but not limited to, assisting the youth to do the following:
    • Obtain employment or other financial support
    • Obtain a State-issued identification card
    • Open and maintain a bank account
    • Access appropriate community resources, including health, mental health, developmental disability, and other services and support
    • Complete secondary education
    • Apply for admission and aid for postsecondary education or vocational courses
    • Create a health-care power-of-attorney or health-care proxy
    • Obtain a copy of health and education records
    • Apply for any public benefits for which they may be eligible
    • Maintain relationships with individuals who are important to the youth, including searching for individuals with whom the youth has lost contact
    • Access information about maternal and paternal relatives, including any siblings
    • Access youth empowerment opportunities, such as peer support groups
    • Access pregnancy and parenting resources and services
    • Health and health-care coverage, including the youth's potential eligibility for Medicaid coverage
    • Financial assistance, including education on credit card financing, banking, and other services

On or before the date the youth reaches ages 18 or 19, or age 21 if the youth participates in the Bridge to Independence Program, the department shall, if the youth is leaving foster care, provide the youth with the following:

  • A certified copy of the youth's birth certificate
  • The youth's Social Security card
  • Health insurance information and all documentation required for enrollment in Medicaid coverage
  • Copies of the youth's medical and educational records
  • A driver's license or State-issued identification card
  • A credit report check
  • Contact information, with permission, for family members, including siblings, with whom the youth can maintain a safe and appropriate relationship and other supportive adults
  • A list of local community resources, including, but not limited to, support groups, health clinics, mental and behavioral health and substance abuse treatment services and support, pregnancy and parenting resources, and employment and housing agencies
  • Written information, including contact information, for disability resources or benefits that may assist the youth as an adult
  • An application for public assistance and information on how to access the system to determine public assistance eligibility
  • A letter prepared by the department that verifies the youth's name and date of birth; dates the youth was in foster care; whether the child was in foster care on their 18th, 19th, or 21st birthday; and enrolled in Medicaid while in foster care
  • Written information about the youth's Indian heritage or Tribal connection, if any
  • Written information on how to access personal documents in the future