The Dilemma Of Being 18 In Nebraska

Just old enough to be on your own yet still need a little help, that’s the dilemma for 18-year-olds in Nebraska. The state still views them as minors, but many agencies don’t treat them as children. They’re stuck in a gray area and there are some teens who need help.

We will call her “Sue” as she doesn’t want her real name used because she is afraid of her family. “Like in our culture, the women are treated as property and the boys do whatever they want and the women, they kind of just prepare us for cooking and cleaning and how to care for my future kids.”

Sue is from another country. She is 18 years old and like many others her age she’s having trouble at home. She runs away, but there’s no one to help because she is still considered a minor in Nebraska.

“Eighteen to 19 is kind of a gray area and they could become an emancipated minor,” says Mary Fraser Meints with Youth Emergency Services. “There’s a process for that, but most of the young people try to work within their families to see what happens, but sometimes their family isn’t able to support them and they need the support of the community.”

There is a bill in the Nebraska Legislature, LB 216, that would extend support to teens who age out of the foster care system at 18 to 21. For those kids not in foster care, there’s another move they can make. Some young people move to other states. Experts say it might be a bit drastic, but moving out of Nebraska could be the answer for some 18-year-olds' problems.

Sue has friends who take care of her, but her family continues to drag her back home against her will. There are some cultural differences here, but Sue just wants to live her own life. “For me, I never completely realized it ‘cause it happened to my grandma, it happened to my mom, it happened to my sister and now it’s happening to me.”

Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi and Nebraska are the only states in the country where 18 is not the legal age of adulthood.

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