Foster Care Reform Update 03/01/2016

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Policy Spotlight: H.R. 4472 – Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act
  • Court Opinions: In re Interest of Tavian B., In re Interest of Precious H. & Blut Law La H., In re Interest of Miah T. & DeKandyce H.
  • Legislative Actions: 2016 Child Welfare Legislative Bills
  • Announcements: Camp Catch-Up, Appleseed Blog

POLICY SPOTLIGHT

H.R. 4472 – Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) was established in the 1960s to provide a uniform legal framework to guide the interstate placement of children. The National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE) was created to ensure children in these situations, being placed out-of-state, did not have to wait longer than those with in-state placements. The NEICE system aims to reduce administrative burdens by providing an electronic case processing system for the exchange of data and documents across states. Piloted in five states and the District of Columbia, the NEICE system has lead to reduction in costs and a reduction in caseworker and staff time to process cases.

H.R. 4472, or the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act, was introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) this month in the House Ways and Means Committee. The Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act would amend Title IV of the Social Security Act to require that states adopt a centralized electronic system to help expedite the placement of children in foster care, guardianships, and adoptions, across state lines.  

H.R. 4472 requires that by October of 2022, states must implement and connect their own IT systems to the NEICE system. To aid in the development of these state systems, H.R.4472 will create a five million dollar grant program managed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Nebraska Appleseed will continue monitoring this piece of legislation.

COURT OPINIONS

In re Interest of Precious H. & Blut Law La H., No. A-15-675

January 16, 2016 (not designated for permanent publication)

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed an order of a juvenile court dismissing the State’s motion to terminate a mother’s parental rights over her children. In this case, the State filed a motion to terminate the mother’s parental rights as to her two children alleging that the children were within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(1), (2), (6), (7), and (9) and that termination was in the children’s best interests. The mother in this case was a Thai refugee whose native language is Karen. At the termination hearing, the caseworker testified that when he was first assigned to the case he met with the mother once a month and translation services were provided, although not every time. The mother testified that the caseworker only sometimes provided an interpreter but never provided one after the younger child was removed. She also testified that the caseworker never provided her with a phone number for an interpreter and she did not know anyone who could provide this service. The mother was also under the impression that she would have to pay for an interpreter. The caseworker and foster mother testified that they had corresponded with the mother regarding basic topics but felt a translator was needed for more complicated conversations. The caseworker stated that, at first, the mother was engaged in services and visited her child in the foster home until her younger child was born prematurely. The mother tried to visit the younger child in the hospital, but because of an active protection order, the mother could not visit the child without his supervision. The caseworker informed the mother of this over the phone (without a translator) and believed the mother understood him because she “cussed” at him and hung up, although he also felt the mother had a difficult time understanding the conversation. The mother stated she thought she was no longer allowed to see her child. The younger child then moved hospitals, was released from the new hospital, and was placed in the same foster home as the older child, without communication between the caseworker and the mother. The Court of Appeals concluded that the State failed to meet its burden of proof of clear and convincing evidence that termination of parental rights is in the children’s best interest. The Court of Appeals concluded that the testimony of the caseworker and foster parent, that termination was in the children’s best interests, without further justification was insufficient. The caseworker testified that termination of parental rights would be in the best interest of the children citing the mother’s failure to participate in court-ordered services “for nearly a year.” However, the Court of Appeals determined that many of the failures to participate in the case plan were issues outside of the mother’s control, such as lack of insurance authorization for psychological services and the lack of an interpreter.  Read the full opinion.

In re Interest of Miah T. & DeKandyce H., No. A-15-417, A-15-694 No. A-15-417, A-15-694

February 2, 2016

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed orders of a juvenile court involving a father and child. The first order required that the father attend a domestic violence batterer’s intervention course and victim’s impact group before being considered as a placement for his adjudicated child. The second order placed the child in a foster home rather than the father’s home. In this case, the child was removed from her mother’s home and was found to be within the meaning of as to§ 43-247(3)(a) due to the faults and habits of the mother. In addition, the juvenile court ordered the father to attend and successfully complete the above mentioned courses in order to be considered for placement of the child due to the father’s history of domestic violence and criminal history. The child and her sibling were placed in a foster home with the father’s cousin and the father failed to complete either of the required domestic violence courses. When the children’s foster parents requested that the children be removed from their home, the State placed the children in a non-relative foster home without considering the father as a placement because of his criminal history and his failure to complete the previously ordered domestic violence education courses. The father appealed the order requiring him to participate in the domestic violence education courses and the order failing to place the children in his home. The Court of Appeals first determined that the first order the father was appealing, requiring him to attend the domestic violence education, was an appealable order, “an order which is entered after a child is adjudicated to be within § 43-247(3)(a) and which requires a parent to complete some sort of rehabilitation plan affects a substantial right of the parent and is, thus, generally, a final, appealable order.” The Court of Appeals concluded that the domestic violence education order was appropriate and reasonable because the father may not have been able to provide a safe and stable home due to his history of domestic violence and criminal activity. The father also appealed the second order, which placed the children outside his home. However, the Court of Appeals determined that there because there was sufficient, “affirmative evidence” to conclude that the father was not fit to care for the children in that he had an extensive criminal history, had neglected other children, was on the child abuse registry, failed to pay child support, had a warrant out for his arrest, and this evidence trumped the parental preference doctrine. Read the full opinion.

In re Interest of Tavian B., No. S-15-129

February 19, 2016

The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed the judgment of a juvenile court that overruled a motion to transfer proceedings to tribal court in an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. In this case, the State found a child to be within the meaning of § 43-247(3)(a) and subsequently moved to terminate the parental rights of the parents in juvenile court in May of 2013. Notice of the motion was sent to the Oglala Sioux Tribe (the Tribe). The father was accepted and enrolled as a member of the Tribe and in January of 2015 the Tribe moved to transfer jurisdiction to tribal court. The State then withdrew the motion to terminate parental rights and the juvenile court denied the motion to transfer to tribal court citing good cause existed to overrule the motion because the proceedings were in an advanced stage. The father appealed and alleged that the juvenile court erred in finding good cause to deny the transfer to tribal court. The Nebraska Supreme Court first noted that § 43-1504(2) provides that “in absence of good cause to the contrary” the juvenile court shall transfer proceedings to tribal court and that § 43-1504(4) places the burden to prove “good cause” on the party opposing the transfer. The Supreme Court also noted that at the time of the juvenile court ruling, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) guidelines provided that “good cause” may exist if the proceeding were “at an advanced stage.” However, during the appeal of this case the BIA guidelines were amended to eliminate the “advanced stage” consideration, thus a claim that the proceedings were in an advanced stage would no longer satisfy “good cause” under the BIA guidelines. The Nebraska Supreme Court found the amended guidelines persuasive and instructive and applied the BIA guidelines to the case. Further, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider a previous holding that determined that the best interests of the Indian child is not a good basis for “good cause” to deny a transfer of the case to tribal court. Read the full opinion.

LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

LB 670 (Sen. Krist) – Require a hearing prior to release for persons taken into custody for mental health reasons

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on February 17, 2016

 

LB 673 (Sen. Krist) – Change provisions relating to appointment of guardians ad litem

 

LB 675 (Sen. Krist) – Change provisions relating to placement and detention of juveniles

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on January 20, 2016

 

LB 684 (Sen. Bolz and Sen. Kolterman) – Change provisions relating to exemption from an adoptive home study as prescribed

  • Last action – Placed on General File with AM1985 on February 17, 2016

 

LB 697 (Sen. Howard) – Provide for a medicaid state plan amendment application relating to functional family therapy

  • Last action – Notice of hearing in Health and Human Services Committee for March 3, 2016

 

LB 707 (Sen. Coash) – Increase the number of judges of the separate juvenile court

  • Last action – Notice of hearing in Judiciary Committee for March 2, 2016

 

LB 709 (Sen. Howard) – Provide for an alternative to detention for juveniles

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on January 20, 2016

 

LB 744 (Sen. Watermeier) – Provide for communication and contact agreements in private and agency adoptions

  • Last action – Placed on General File with AM2142 on February 24, 2016

 

LB 746 (Sen. Campbell) – Adopt the Nebraska SFA, change provisions for guardians ad litem and services for children, and create the Normalcy Task Force

 

LB 780 (Sen. Schumacher) – Change provisions relating to emergency protective custody

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2016

 

LB 818 (Sen. Kolowski) – Change provisions relating to immunity when submitting a complaint under the Children’s Residential Facilities and Placing Licensure Act

  • Last action – Placed on General File on February 17, 2016

 

LB 843 (Sen. Pansing Brooks and Sen. Scheer) – Change provisions relating to prostitution

  • Pansing Brooks priority bill
  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on February 10, 2016

 

LB 845 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) – Provide requirements relating to confinement of juveniles and provide a duty for the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare

 

LB 866 (Sen. Bolz) – Adopt the Transition to Adult Living Success Program Act

 

LB 867 (Sen. Murante) – Change provisions relating to the Administrative Procedure Act and require the Department of Correctional Services to adopt and promulgate rules and regulations

  • Last action – Placed on General File with AM1976 on February 19, 2016

 

LB 893 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) – Modify jurisdiction of juvenile courts and change provisions relating to temporary custody and disposition of juveniles

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on January 22, 2016

 

LB 894 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) – Change provisions relating to appointment of counsel in juvenile cases

  • Judiciary priority bill
  • Last action – Placed on General File with AM1962 on February 10, 2016, with additional amendments pending

 

LB 939 (Sen. Mello) – Adopt the Nebraska Early Childhood Advantage Act

  • Last action – Hearing held in Health and Human Services Committee on February 19, 2016

 

LB 954 (Sen. Krist) – Change provisions relating to access to records for and investigations by the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare

  • Executive Board priority bill
    Last action – Placed on Final Reading with ST61 on February 25, 2016

 

LB 975 (Sen. Kolterman) – Adopt the Child Welfare Services Preservation Act

 

LB 998 (Sen. Schumacher) – Provide for emergency community crisis centers and change provisions relating to emergency protective custody

  • Last action – Hearing held in Health and Human Services Committee, on February 24, 2016

 

LB 1010 (Sen. Williams) – Change provisions relating to juvenile court petitions

  • Last action – Hearing held in Judiciary Committee on February 17, 2016

 

LB 1034 (Sen. Campbell) – Change provisions relating to the Nebraska Children’s Commission

  • Last action – Hearing held in Health and Human Services Committee on February 19, 2016

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

2016 Appleseed Open House

Come celebrate 20 years of standing up for justice on March 4th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Nebraska Appleseed’s Open House on the 9th floor of the Terminal Building (941 O Street). Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP here.

Volunteers Needed – Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Camp Catch-Up

Camp Catch-Up is a free summer program for siblings separated due to different foster, adoptive or guardianship placements to spend time together. Adult volunteers are needed for the camps running from June 16-19 in Halsey and July 7-10 in Gretna. Find an application for youth between the ages of 8 and 19 at campcatchup.org or contact Alana Pearson at apearson@nebraskachildren.org to volunteer.

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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