|DHHS youth rehabilitation and treatment centers use new resource for youth|
Anyone who is or was in foster care and is between the ages of 14 and 24 can learn the skills they need to successfully transition to adulthood by joining a Nebraska Foster Youth Council.
The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTCs) in Kearney and Geneva now have foster youth councils, too. The YRTCs are part of the Division of Children and Family Services in the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The Councils are an amazing resource. There’s an entire network of young people who know exactly what it’s like being in the foster care system,” said Todd Reckling, director of the Division of Children and Family Services. “Having our youth actively participate in the program while they’re at a YRTC is a great step in positively impacting their lives.”
Last September, both YRTCs created on-campus foster youth councils to help youth transition into independent living, recognize their strengths, create opportunities to connect with each other, and provide input on program and policy issues. Youth council members also get support from other youth with similar experiences when they reintegrate into their communities.
Youth at the YRTC in Kearney were visited by members of the youth council from Omaha that had a member who’d been committed to the YRTC several years back. He spoke of what a change he’s made in his life with the assistance and support of the Youth Council. He’s currently enrolled in school and is entering military service. Council members at the YRTC in Geneva helped collect and assemble care packages to send to local troop members and helped the local Rotary Club wrap over 100 coats for low-income families in need in November. The Nebraska Foster Youth Councils create many positive results that last over time.
Benefits to being involved in Nebraska Foster Youth Councils include access to:
• Educational resources and scholarships;
• A savings program, where $1,000 saved by youth is matched with $1,000;
• A program where $1,000 saved by youth is matched with $4,000 to help purchase a car;
Camp Catch-Up, which each summer gives youth in foster care and away from their siblings a chance to reconnect with them; and community service activities.
“We want to ensure that every youth at a YRTC knows about the council and has the opportunity to participate, if they want, while in the facility,” said Terri Nutzman, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Services in the Division. “Once they are ready to reintegrate back to their community, we want to make sure they can connect with the community local chapter.”
DHHS contracts with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation which supports Foster Youth Councils through its Project Everlast. Cassy Blakely of Project Everlast said, “From day one both YRTC facilities have been enthusiastic and proactive about engaging young people in Project Everlast’s Foster Youth Council. I’m especially inspired by the response the youth received from YRTC staff, state officials, fellow youth councils and national partners, making it clear their voice is desired by many. Much has developed since our initial conversations, and I look forward to seeing the impact they will continue to have.”