Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
September 26, 2014

Russ Reno, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-8287 / 402-450-7318


Program to Start Earlier for Wards Who Age-Out

Lincoln – Bridge to Independence, the program that will help young adults who age out of state custody transition to adulthood, will launch Oct. 1, which is 19 days ahead of the federal deadline, according to Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services (CFS) in the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Staff had much of the program in place and ready to go when we received approval from the federal government last month to implement the program,” Pristow said. “We’ve expedited the remaining segments of the program and will be ready to serve former state wards sooner.”

Eleven independence coordinators are working with former and current wards who will soon age out of the system about the advantages of the voluntary program, he said. About 180 young adults 19-21 years old who were in an abuse and neglect case will be eligible to participate in the program this year.
More information will be available about the program Oct. 1 by going to: or interested persons may call 402-471-9457.

Bridge to Independence was born of legislation passed in 2013 and 2014. Federal funds also support the program.

Former state wards participating in the program will receive a monthly stipend to assist with living costs such as housing, education and other expenses, he said. Some may qualify for Medicaid or will be given assistance in arranging health insurance.

The qualifications for former state wards to participate in Bridge to Independence include:
  • Completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential;
  • Enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational education; full-time or part-time in a university or college, or enrolled in a vocational or trade school;
  • Participating in a program or activity designed to promote, or remove barriers to employment;
  • Employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
  • Incapable of doing any of the previously described educational or employment activities due to a documented medical condition. 
He added that the counseling offered by staff and discussion of options will be an approach similar to that provided by parents. “And, the youth will make their own life decisions.”

 “We are excited about the launch of this new program and staff is eagerly helping these young adults prepare for the next step in their lives,” said Kerry Winterer, DHHS CEO. “The program allows good flexibility to meet the needs of former wards, and our independence coordinators are trained to provide them the resources so they can make informed decisions about their future.”

He praised the many DHHS employees and stakeholders who worked together to develop the program.