Foster Care Reform Update – November 30, 2015

NE_Appleseed_Icons_SystemicReform-128IN THIS ISSUE

  • Policy Spotlight: Memorial March to Honor Lost Children
  • Court Opinions: In re Interest of Mya C.
  • Legislative Actions: 2015 Child Welfare Interim Studies
  • Announcements: Ethics CLE, Appleseed Blog

POLICY SPOTLIGHT

Memorial March to Honor Lost Children

Last Wednesday, advocates for Native American children led the 13th annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children in Sioux City. The march sought to honor Native American children that have been placed in the foster system and, as a result, have been separated from their families and tribal communities. The march also focused on encouraging compliance with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and was part of a larger program to discuss issues related to the Native American community.

Many tribal members, advocates and community members, including those from Sioux City, Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Omaha and elsewhere marched from South Sioux City, Nebraska over the Missouri River to Sioux City, Iowa. This is the thirteenth year of the march, held annually the day before Thanksgiving. The march is organized by Frank LaMere, a long-time advocate for human rights and dignity. LaMere is best known for his advocacy for change in the Native American community, his efforts to improve the child welfare system, protect the right to vote, and his advocacy for common-sense immigration reform. His efforts have touched the lives of thousands in Nebraska and Iowa. Nebraska Appleseed recently honored LaMere at the Good Apple Awards with the Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award, and you can read more about it here.

Appleseed is deeply concerned about the gross disproportionality of Native American children in Nebraska’s child welfare system. While there was progressmade in Nebraska during the 2015 Legislative session with the passage of the Nebraska ICWA (LB 566), the Sioux City march still serves as a reminder that a great deal of work remains to be done on this critical child welfare, civil rights, and family issue.

Please contact us if you have a case raising an ICWA issue and are seeking technical assistance.


 

COURT OPINIONS

In re Interest of Mya C. No. A-15-204
Decided November 17, 2015

The Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed an order of the juvenile court that terminated the parental rights of a father. The Court of Appeals concluded that the juvenile court erred in terminating the father’s parental rights because the State failed to show that he currently was an unfit parent and that termination of his parental rights was in the best interests of the children. In this case, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) became involved when the mother’s oldest child, unrelated to the father, missed too many days of school.  DHHS caseworkers eventually removed all the children from the home because the children were found wearing dirty clothes, the home was unsanitary, the father yelled and used threatening language towards the children, and the parents left one of the children in timeout for extended periods of time. Eventually, all of the children were adjudicated pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a). After the mother and father had another child together who was removed from his parents’ care at birth, the mother relinquished her parental rights to all of her children. The State sought to terminate the father’s parental rights pursuant to § 43-292(2), (6), (7) because the children had been out of the home for 15 months, the father occasionally missed his visitation, he yelled at his daughter for eating off the floor, and he used aggressive language towards the children and caseworkers. The juvenile court terminated the father’s parental rights and he timely appealed the juvenile court’s order alleging that the State had failed to produce evidence that the children were within the meaning of § 43-292 and that termination of his parental rights was in the children’s best interests. The Court of Appeals first determined that the State had met its burden in proving that the children were within the meaning of § 43-292(2) because, at the inception of the case, the father had allowed the children to live in an inappropriately dirty home, had inappropriately disciplined the children, and had used aggressive language with the children. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals concluded that the State had shown that the children were within the meaning of § 43-292(7) because they had been out of the father’s home for more than 15 months. However, the Court of Appeals also concluded that the State failed to meet its burden in showing that the children were within the meaning of § 43-292(6) because the father had made great progress in complying with the directives of the case plan, he had attended and succeeded in parenting training, and he had addressed the unsanitary condition of his living quarters. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that the father’s “financial and organization abilities” presented concern in the case, as the father at times could not afford to buy specialized food or medicine that his children needed, but this alone was not sufficient to show that the children were within the meaning of § 43-292(6). Finally, the Court of Appeals concluded that termination of the father’s parental rights was not in the children’s best interest because the father improved his parenting skills, the children had a positive bond with their father, the father had consistently met the goals of his case plan, the father had addressed his anger issues, and the father had maintained stable housing and employment. Therefore, the Court of Appeals reversed the order of the juvenile court and remanded the case for further proceedings in juvenile court. Read the full opinion


LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

LR 52 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the Child and Maternal Death Review Act

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 186 (Sen. Morfeld)  Interim study to examine state services available to victims of human trafficking in Nebraska

 

LR 222 (Sen. Crawford)  Interim study to examine issues relating to family and medical leave

  • Last Action – Hearing held in Business and Labor Committee on September 25, 2015

 

LR 227 (Sen. Harr)  Interim study to examine opportunities to train Nebraska’s youth for the workforce while addressing both educational and workforce needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Business and Labor Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 242 (Sen. Coash) Interim study to examine the interplay between developmental disability and child welfare services to ensure proper treatment and protection of the rights of state wards

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 248 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act and its implementation in Nebraska

 

LR 249 (Sen. Coash) Interim study to examine the use of seclusion in public and private schools for children with behavioral issues or special needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Education Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 275 (Sen. Mello) Interim study to examine issues surrounding the affordability, delivery, and taxation of child care in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 276 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) Interim study to examine bullying by and against students and youth

  • Last Action – Referred to Judiciary Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 282 (Sen. Mello) Interim study to examine the reasons for the higher cost of juvenile services under the Office of Probation Administration

  • Last Action – Referred to Appropriations Committee on May 21,2015

 

LR 292 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine issues relating to public assistance programs for relative or kinship caregivers

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 295 (Sen. Bolz)  Interim study to examine how to improve behavioral health and mental health services in Nebraska in order to prevent crime and reduce costs associated with the incarceration of people who have heightened behavioral and mental health needs

  • Last Action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on October 9, 2015

 

LR 296 (Sen. Bolz) Interim study to examine the financing of Nebraska’s child welfare system

  • Last Action – Notice of hearing in Appropriations Committee on December 1, 2015 (cancelled)

 

LR 300 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine the out-of-state placements of Nebraska children

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 304 (Sen. Campbell) Interim study to examine and assess the behavioral health needs of children and youth in Nebraska and the resources available to meet those needs

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 312 (Sen. Harr) Interim study to examine ways to improve and fund child behavioral health programming in Nebraska

  • Last Action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee on May 21, 2015

 

LR 334 (Sen. Morfeld) Interim study to examine the integral link between achievement and risky health behaviors

  • Last Action – Hearing held in Education Committee on September 10, 2015

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Ethics CLE – Court Rules for Guardians Ad Litem and Professional Conduct

Nebraska Appleseed is hosting a webinar discussion on professional responsibility for Guardians Ad Litem in juvenile court on December 17, 2015 from 12:00 – 1:00PM. This webinar will provide attorneys with a forum to discuss the ethical issues that they have come across in representing children and the new Court Rules for Guardians Ad Litem. This webinar has been approved for one ethics CLE credit which will be provided to you at no cost. You can register for the event HERE.

Appleseed Blog

Appleseed maintains a blog (on our recently updated website!) where you can read daily updates about our work to positively impact low-income families, immigrants, children in foster care, and access to health care.  Stop by and check it out!  Read, comment, and share your own stories with us at: http://www.neappleseed.org/blog

 

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