Eligibility

General Eligibility

Extended Care, called the “bridge to independence program, is available on a voluntary basis to a young adult—defined as “an individual who has attained nineteen years of age but who has not attained twenty-one years of age,” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4053—who: (1) Has attained at least nineteen years of age; (2) Was adjudicated to be a juvenile described in subdivision (3)(a) of section 43-247 or the equivalent under tribal law and (a) upon attaining nineteen years of age, was in an out-of-home placement or had been discharged to independent living or (b) with respect to whom a kinship guardianship assistance agreement was in effect pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 673 if the young adult had attained sixteen years of age before the agreement became effective or with respect to whom a state-funded guardianship assistance agreement was in effect if the young adult had attained sixteen years of age before the agreement became effective; and (3) Is: (a) Completing secondary education or an educational program leading to an equivalent credential; (b) Enrolled in an institution which provides postsecondary or vocational education; (c) Employed for at least eighty hours per month; (d) Participating in a program or activity designed to promote employment or remove barriers to employment; or (e) Incapable of doing any of the activities described in subdivisions (3)(a) through (d) of this section due to a medical condition, which incapacity is supported by regularly updated information in the case plan of the young adult. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 4503.

Youth who are in guardianship arrangements that were in effect when the youth was 16 or older may select whether to participate in extended guardianship or bridge to independence program. (1) Young adults who are eligible to participate under both extended guardianship assistance as provided in Section 43-4511 and the bridge to independence program as provided in subdivision (2)(b) of Section 43-4504 may choose to participate in either program. (2) The department shall create a clear and developmentally appropriate written notice discussing the rights of young adults who are eligible under both extended guardianship assistance and the bridge to independence program. The notice shall explain the benefits and responsibilities and the process to apply. The department shall provide the written notice and make efforts to provide a verbal explanation to a young adult with respect to whom a kinship guardianship assistance agreement was in effect pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 673 if the young adult had attained sixteen years of age before the agreement became effective or with respect to whom a state-funded guardianship assistance agreement was in effect if the young adult had attained sixteen years of age before the agreement became effective. The department shall provide the notice yearly thereafter until such young adult reaches nineteen years of age and not later than ninety days prior to the young adult attaining nineteen years of age. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4511.01.

Extension Process

Voluntary Care Agreement Requirement

Youth and Department shall sign voluntary services and support agreement. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4507.

Contents of Voluntary Care Agreement

The agreement must contain, at minimum, information regarding all of the following: (a) 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; (b) The services and support the young adult shall receive through the bridge to independence program; (c) 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; and (d) 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 described in section 43-4507 (providing for termination if youth reaches age 21 or is no longer eligible as described above). Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4506.

Direct Payment to Youth

The department may send all or part of the foster care maintenance payments directly to the young adult if he is in a supervised independent living setting. “This should be decided on a case-by-case basis by and with the young adult in a manner that respects the independence of the young adult.” § Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-4505(2)(a).

Re-Entry

Eligibility & Procedure

A young adult may re-enter the care by signing a new voluntary services and support agreement at any time, so long as he is eligible under Section 43-4504.

Previous termination by either the department or youth does not bar re-entry. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4507.

Courts & Rights

Court Oversight of Extended Care

The court has jurisdiction to review the voluntary services and support agreement between the youth and the Department and shall conduct a permanency hearing at least once per year. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4508.

On request, a young adult shall be appointed client-directed counsel. § 43-4510.

Right to Counsel

Upon request, a young adult shall be appointed client-directed counsel. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-4510.

Subsidies

Eligibility for Extended Adoption Assistance

Adoption assistance may extend until age 21 if the young adult was 16 before the agreement became effective and the young adult meets the extended care eligibility criteria. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-512(1).

Eligibility for Extended Guardianship Assistance

Guardianship assistance may extend until age 21 if the young adult was 16 before the agreement became effective and the young adult meets the extended care eligibility criteria. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-511(1).