Snapshot: Nebraska Youth Councils Pen Foster Care Bill of Rights

May 22, 2013

Here's an example of how youth input can open adults' eyes. In Nebraska, youth councils at the state and local level have been working hard to supporting youth in advocating for themselves on the policies that impact their lives the most, including foster care.

But it's not easy to advocate if you don't know what your rights are, or how to find out.

When youth council members told legislators that most foster care youth were unaware of the policies affecting them and their legal rights, those legislators found that they themselves couldn't describe just what the laws said. In that moment, everyone recognized a need to clarify the rights of youth in care.

As a result, the Nebraska Foster Youth Initiative and the Governor’s Youth Advisory Board worked together to draft a resolution that created a Foster Youth Bill of Rights, LR 76, which was adopted by the state legislature. It outlines ten rights to be afforded every youth in care.

The idea of a foster care bill of rights is not new, but it would never have happened had the youth council members not raised the question—and worked with legislators to make the Bill a reality.

Council members then worked with the Center for Children Families and the Law to create and publish the Know Your Rights Handbook in 2008, designed to help youth in care learn about the judicial system and their rights.

Now, in 2013, the Nebraska Foster Youth Council are working on a resource book for transitioning youth. Council members and alumni are also involved in public speaking and training with foster and adoptive parents and  child welfare professionals.

Don’t be fooled by the small size of this profile, this policy has big impact on thousands of youth in care.

About the Councils

The Nebraska Foster Youth Council launched 2002, with the mission of advocating for the 5,595 foster youth in Nebraska. It is sponsored by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, and a member of the Foster Youth Action Network.

Nebraska Governor’s Youth Advisory Council is a body of young Nebraskans between the ages of 14 and 19 who are committed to being informed and taking a stand on the public issues that affect young people the most - education, finance, careers and employment, recreation, health, drug and alcohol abuse, foster care and more. It was launched in 1993.

Members meet quarterly to review pending legislation, discuss key issues, learn about politics and share this information with their communities. The council ensures that youth and their economic, cultural, geographic and familial perspectives are represented in discussions about policies that impact them. This is done through regular meetings with the Governor and an annual luncheon with State Senators during the legislative session.

Youth receive ongoing professional development support. The council uses legislative aids to provide training to youth on how to present to the legislature. They also hold retreats on leadership training, advocacy strategies and how to engage the media. 

The council is facilitated by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

This snapshot is part of SparkAction's Youth Impact  series, short profiles of youth councils and commissions that are influencing local and state policies and practices. SparkAction is producing this series in partnership with the youth-led Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To suggest an impact story, please contact Caitlin Johnson, managing editor, at