April 20, 2014

Former foster children urge extension of services (AUDIO)

Sen. Amanda McGill waits to speak at a Capitol news conference with former state wards Army Peters and John Thompson

Former foster children say youth who age out of the system still need help as they become adults.

A proposal could be coming to the legislature next year to extend foster care services until 21. Foster care youth age out of the system at 19 currently. The state offers the Former Ward program, but it extends services only to those former wards of the state who decide to go to college.

Former foster child Amy Peters, now with Project Everlast, says the current Former Ward program isn’t enough, because not every former foster child wants to go to college.

“I was always a really good student and even I struggled trying to maintain a life on my own, have employment, not end up on the streets and still going to school; extremely difficult,” Peters says. “So, even myself, I almost had to drop out as well.”

A report released by Nebraska Appleseed found that 321 youth aged out of the Nebraska foster care system last year, but only 112 entered the Former Ward program.

Federal regulations have changed. Nebraska could apply for federal funds to make over its after-foster care program for former state wards. Advocates estimate an extension of services could cost the state up to $3 million a year.

John Thompson

John Thompson, who entered the foster care system at age 12, was forced to exit it four weeks ago when he turned 19.

Thompson says leaving the system can be traumatic.

“So many youth divert from their dreams, fall through the cracks and get in trouble after aging out of care,” according to Thompson. “Extending services and support would help to prevent this by helping a youth look for possible colleges, scholarships, sports, careers or, in my case, join the military.”

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]