Know Your Rights Guide

Know Your Rights Guide

A guide for older youth on the in's and out's of the juvenile court system. This guide explains the juvenile court process and who is involved.  It also discusses permanency and placement options and how to plan for the future.  All young people above the age of 12 are encouraged to read it, possibly with the assistance of their caseworker or Guardian ad Litem.

Get the PDF here Or, to order a paper copy, go to Publications.

Additional Resources from the Know Your Rights Guide

Getting Into College

Getting Into College
Getting Into College

College might be the perfect option if you’re looking at a professional career like nursing, teaching, counseling or becoming a lawyer.  Colleges come in all shapes and sizes: local community colleges, giant public universities, or small private colleges.  You need to find out which one may work for you and which one you can afford.  The great news is that there are a lot of scholarships and financial aid available – you have to know where to look and you have to get ready to write lots essays and fill out applications!

Here are some helpful tips! 

Get good grades and be active in school

        • Having  good grades is really important.  A high GPA is one of the top things colleges look at, both for get ting into college
          and for getting scholarships and financial aid.  Colleges also like to see that you’re involved in many activities.

Study for and take the standardized tests  

        • You will need to take the ACT or the SAT before you apply to colleges.  Start studying early and don’t wait until the last test date because you may want to take it again.  You can find more information at  The ACT and SAT tests costs money but you can get the cost waived so talk to your school counselor about how to take the test for free.

Talk to your school counselor 

        • Your school counselor can be a great resource and help to decide what colleges best fit what you are looking for.  

Visit the colleges that interest you

        • If you need help arranging the visit, talk to your caseworker or foster parent.  Talk with the students who attend.  

Apply to more than one school

        • When you’re figuring out which colleges to apply to, you should include both dream schools (colleges that will be hard
          to get into but that you would love attending) and safety schools (schools you have a great shot of getting into).

You can find a list of all Nebraska’s universities, colleges and schools here.  

You can find a list of community colleges and tribal colleges here.

Research Your Options 

Apply early and fill out your Financial Aid Information -  College applications and financial aid applications can take a lot of time so make sure you start applying early.  You will have to fill out a financial aid application for each school you’re applying to (but you only have to fill out one FAFSA form).  When you get accepted, the school will send you a letter letting you know what combination of grants and locals the school can offer you.  The amount of money depends on lots of things – your need, the costs of the school, the amount of funding available – so every school’s offer will be different.  

Vocational Schools, Technical Programs, and Career Schools

Vocational Schools, Technical Programs, and Career Schools
Vocational Schools, Technical Programs, and Career Schools

Every person is unique and has different skills and talents.  You may not do a great job in biology class but have a knack for woodworking.  A four-year college is one option but there are other options.  You have to think about what you’re good at and what you like doing.  Once you know that, figure out which jobs may work for you and find out what kind of education you need for them.  Some jobs require education at vocational schools or technical programs.  For example, Metro Community College has an electrical apprenticeship program where you can become a licensed electrician.  Licensed electricians make an average of $21 per hour in Nebraska.  Or, you may want to attend cosmetology school to become a professional hair stylist. 

Ask your caseworker about vocational schools, technical programs, or career schools that are in your area.  You can find a list of trade and technical schools here.

The Nebraska Department of Labor Career Services Center also has a website that can help you find the program or providers in Nebraska that can provide you the training you need for what you’re interested in.  Go to

Deciding on a Career

Deciding on a Career
Deciding on a Career

On-line career ideas lets you browse careers and tells you what kind of education you will, what type of people do best in that field and what kind of salary you can expect to make.  This website also has a survey with questions to help you figure out what type of work you might enjoy.

At the Career Center Services on the Nebraska Department of Labor website, you can use “Assessment Tools” to figure out what type of job you might like.  These are online tests that ask you a lot of questions about what you like and don’t like.  Click on the Career Center Services in the right column.

Searching for a Job

There are many places you can search for the right job.  Online Job Search Engines will show you open jobs: 

Programs to Help Get a Job

Nebraska Department of Labor

The Department of Labor has a job training program for young people who have been in foster care, homeless or juvenile justice and are between the ages of 14 and 21.  This program provides job shadowing, paid work experience, summer employment, short-term training, tutoring, career counseling, and tuition assistance.  There are 11 career centers across the state.  Find the center nearest you at


Job Corps is a no-cost education and training program that helps young people over the age of 16.  At Job Corps, you can enroll to learn a trade, earn a high school diploma or GED or get help finding a good job.  You can live on campus and they provide you with free food, books and even spending money.  There are Job Corps Centers in Chadron, Nebraska, and Denison, Iowa.  For more information, call 1-800-733-JOBS or go to

Goodwill – Partnership for Youth Development Program (Omaha and Blair)

The Partnership for Youth program is a local program that provides help with getting your high school diploma or GED, getting training, or finding a job.  The program is open to young people between the ages of 14 and 21.  It is free to people who are eligible.  For more information, go to or call 402-934-2241.

Center for People in Need Education & Job Skills Training (Lincoln)

The Center provides job training to people of all ages.  They provide free job skills training in the following areas: forklift operation, computer/office skills, warehousing and retain, janitorial services, print services and food service.  The Center also provides computer classes, construction classes and GED classes.  Go to and click on “Education & Job Skills Training.”


Americorps is a national service network that provides year-long full-time jobs to young people and adults.  You will be paid while in the program and when you complete the program, you get scholarship money for college or training.  For more information, call 1-800-942-2677 or go to

YESS (Youth Education & Support Services)

YESS can help youth in Lancaster and Saunders Counties with college, jobs, GED preparation and support services.  To be eligible, you must be between 14 and 21, be low income, and have a barrier that is making it difficult to finish school or keep a job.  Go to the YESS website or call 402-441-7111

Finding Housing

Finding Housing
Finding Housing

Finding housing is one of the biggest programs young people aging out of foster care have.  Some end up “couch surfing” or being homeless.  If you prepare ahead of time, you can avoid this from happening.

Low Income Housing

To find out if there is low-income housing in your area, contact your local Housing Authority at the links below:

Transitional Living Centers

You should talk to your caseworker about centers that might be in your area but here are a few:

Jacob’s Place (Omaha)

An apartment complex about 3 miles south of the Omaha Home for Boys.  Young people 17-20 can live here while they get help with housing, education and independent living skills.  You can find more information at Omaha Home for Boys or call 

Maryland Living Center (Hastings)

This is a permanent housing facility that helps transition homeless and aged-out youth ages 16-21 into independent living within 12-18 months.  This apartment complex has individual, furnished apartments for young people who qualify.  Young people typically pay a portion of the rent based on their income.  Find out more at Maryland Living Center or call 402-834-3180.

Cedars Bridges Transitional Living Program (Lincoln)

This program has supervised community-based living for young people ages 16 to 21 who have been homeless or are leaving the foster care system.   You may live alone or with a roommate.  For more information, go to Cedars Home for Children or call 402-434-KIDS.

CAPWN Transition Supportive Housing Program (Scottsbluff)

CAPWN offers a variety of services for young people including this program which provides apartments to homeless young people ages 18-24 for up to 24 months.  CAPWN also has a Permanent Supportive Housing Program that helps the same young people and young families access housing.  For more information, go to CAPWN or call 308-635-7777.

Homeless Shelter

You may find yourself in a situation, where you need to stay in a homeless shelter.  Shelters can provide emergency lodging and hook you up with services you may need.  To find a list of shelters in Nebraska, go to HSD.

Health Care Options

Health Care Options
Health Care Options

Getting insured helps you pay for any medical services you will need.  This includes physical health, dental health and mental health.  Listed below are some tips on how to find the right health care for you.  


If you were in foster care at age 18 or you aged out of foster care, you can enroll in Medicaid and be eligible up to the age of 26. You can also get Medicaid until the age of 21 if you enroll in the Bridge to Independence program.  If you’re not able to get Medicaid you may enroll for health insurance at

Sliding-Fee Scale Provider

If you aren’t going to be using insurance, you will want to find a sliding-fee scale provider. These medical providers will charge you an amount based on how much money you make.  The less money you make, the less money you will pay them.

If you have mental health or substance abuse needs, you can find resources through your local Regional Behavioral Health Authority (also called “the Region”).  Contact your Region to see if you are eligible for this program or if there are additional services you may be eligible for.

You can also find dentists who take clients on a free or reduced rate. Go to DHHS to see a current list.

See below under the Regions for a list of sliding-fee providers.

Region 1

Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, Morrill,
Scotts Bluff, Sheridan and Sioux Counties
List of providers

Region 2

Arthur, Chase, Dawson, Dundy, Frontier, Gosper, Grant, Hayes, Hitchcock, Hooker, Keith, Lincoln, Logan, McPherson, Perkins, Red Willow, and Thomas Counties
List of providers

Region 3

Adams, Blaine, Buffalo, Clay, Custer, Franklin, Furnas, Garfield, Greeley, Hall, Hamilton, Harlan, Howard, Kearney, Loup, Merrick, Nuckolls, Phelps, Valley, Sherman, Webster and Wheeler Counties
308-237-5113 or 1-800-321-4981
List of providers

Region 4

Antelope, Boone, Boyd, Brown, Burt, Cedar, Cherry, Colfax, Cuming, Dakota, Dixon, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Madison, Nance, Pierce, Platte, Rock, Stanton, Thurston, and Wayne Counties   
List of providers

Region 5

Butler, Filmore, Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Lancaster, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee, Polk, Richardson, Saline, Saunders, Seward, Thayer, York Counties
402-441-4343 or 1-877-286-4343  
List of providers

Region 6

Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties
402-444-6573 or 1-800-311-8717
List of providers

Family Planning and Sex Education

You have a right to get birth control. Talk to your caseworker or doctor if you are sexually active or may become sexually active so that you can get more information.  If you need an exam, birth control or STD testing and want to keep it private, you can go to a Title X health clinic.  A list of these clinics can be found here.

Parenting Resources 

Services available for pregnant mothers and new parents.  WIC serves pregnant and postpartum women and children up to age 5.  They provide food vouchers, health screens and lead tests.  Call 
1-800-942-1171 or go to Nebraska WIC Program

You may also be able to get help from home visiting nurses.  Home Visiting is a free, voluntary program that supports families.  Nebraska Home Visiting is a network across the state; for more information, go to DDHS or call 402-471-1938 to get connected to a program near you. Healthy Families America provides home visiting in Auburn, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha and Scottsbluff:

          • Omaha: 402-444-7945
          • Lincoln402-441-8065 
          • Scottsbluff308-633-2866 
          • North Platte: 308-221-6095

If you are in the Omaha area, you could also call the VNA at 402-342-5566 or go to

The State of Nebraska also has a Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Helpline that you can call at 
1-800-862-1889.  There are many other parenting programs and resources so talk with your caseworker and ask for a list of services.

Well Being 

It may seem obvious but living a healthy life is the best way to stay healthy.  You’ve heard it before: don’t drink, don’t smoke, drink water, eat fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep and avoid stress. It is important that you get some exercise and stay active.  But it can be expensive to live a healthy life so here are some suggestions of ways to be healthy and save money:

          • Find a reduced rate or free gym membership (for example, those under 19 can have a free YMCA membership)

          • Use SNAP food stamps at your local Farmer’s Market to get fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and eggs.  You can find a list of local Farmer’s Markets at

          • Take part in nutrition education (UNL Extension Offices or the Regions often offer free cooking classes)

          • Get your home tested if you have concerns:
              • Radon – You may be able to get a free test.  Go to DDHS to find out.
              • Lead – a blood test may be free if you have Medicaid.  If your blood test stays high, your local Health Department may help you with renovations
              • Mold – The Legal Aid Handbook can help you write a letter to your landlord

If you live in Omaha, you may be able to get some help for these problems at OHKA.