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Emily has been preparing for this day since last spring as a senior in high school – filling out her application form to get into college, completing her FAFSA form for financial aid, developing a budgeting system all with the help of Nebraska Families Collaborative’s Independent Living program in preparation of turning 19 and being on her own.
Today, Emily is one of 58 18-year-olds in the Foster Care System in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. She, like many others, will age out of the system on her 19th birthday.
“Last year we launched the Happy 19 campaign in an effort to bring awareness of the challenges teenagers or children with special needs face when they age out of the system at 19 and find themselves with little to no support,” said Dave Newell, NFC president and CEO. “As more of these young people approach their 19th birthday, we wanted to once again bring this issue to the attention of the general public.”
NFC’s Independent Living specialists, formed at NFC in February of 2017, serves young people like Emily, between the ages of 16 - 19 so that they’re prepared to be more self-sufficient when they age out of the system at 19.
“Regardless of where they go when they leave us, they’ll be better prepared and have the life skills they need to be successful,” said Crystal Aldmeyer, NFC Independent Living Supervisor.
At this time, NFC is serving 48 independent living youth. The goal is to serve between 60-75 independent living youth in the future.
Referrals for Independent Living all go through a program known as Project Everlast which then refers youth to NFC, Pals, Child Saving Institute (CSI) or Branching Out. Pals, CSI and Branching Out can serve a total of 240 youth. Last June, 2016, NFC had nearly 500 youth between the ages of 14-19 in its care. The reason NFC added the Independent Living program was to add additional space for independent living services. Currently Project Everlast has a waiting list for youth seeking independent living services.
NFC is a public-private partnership with the State of Nebraska. It works with its community partners to provide foster, kinship and group home care in Eastern Nebraska. As part of its role, NFC seeks to urges caring adults to consider adoption, especially the adoption of teenagers.
The theme of the campaign is “Help Us Make 19 Happy Once Again.” You or someone you know can be part of the solution to help reduce the number of children like Emily who find themselves without family support just as they turn 19.