Foster Care Reform Update – November 2016

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Policy Spotlight: Interim Study Examines Nebraska’s Age of Majority
  • Court Opinions: In re Interest of Antonio J. et al
  • Legislative Actions: Nebraska Interim Studies
  • Announcements: Appleseed Blog

POLICY SPOTLIGHT

Interim Study Examines Nebraska’s Age of Majority

An interim study hearing was held on November 15th with members from the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees to discuss Nebraska law regarding the protection of children who are 18 years old but have not yet reached Nebraska’s age of majority. LR 523 was introduced by Senator Howard to study some of the concerns for young people between the ages of 18 and 19. One issue raised at the hearing was the difficulty that some 18 year olds face in obtaining emancipation from their parents. Testifiers outlined safety concerns that exist for this population, and also the lack of clarity with Nebraska’s emancipation laws and the inconsistencies in how Nebraska deals with 18 year olds who are trying to escape an abusive home.

Currently Child Protective Services (CPS) only accepts referrals through age 17, effectively barring access to the protections provided by the juvenile court to 18 year olds. This also prevents many of these young persons from accessing a variety of services and support including access to the Bridge to Independence program. Voices for Children presented two potential solutions to this issue. First, Voices for Children proposed a statutory amendment to Neb.Rev. Stat. § 43-245(11) by changing the definition of a juvenile to “a person under 19 years of age.” The second solution proposed by Voices for Children was to allow minors that have reached a certain age to initiate their own proceedings for emancipation. Twenty-one other states offer a statutory avenue for minors to seek emancipation by petition to the courts. This option would also require a statutory amendment to Neb. Rev. Stat.§ 43-2101, adding language to permit a minor, of a certain age, to initiate these types of proceedings. These two solutions are explored further in this one-pager from Voices for Children.

If you have any input on this issue or these solutions, please contact the Legal Resource Center.

COURT OPINIONS

In re Interest of Antonio J. et al, No. S-16-276
Decided October 28, 2016

The Nebraska Supreme Court modified, then affirmed, a modified order of the juvenile court concluding that the juvenile court erred in dismissing two allegations with prejudice, as the State was entitled to voluntarily dismiss its allegations prior to presenting evidence. In this case, the State filed a petition alleging that five children were within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) based on five allegations of fault concerning the mother and four concerning the father. At the start of the adjudication hearing, the State moved to dismiss two of its allegations without prejudice, for lack of sufficient evidence. The first alleged that the father subjected a juvenile to inappropriate sexual contact and the second alleged that the mother knew or should have known about the contact. The juvenile court agreed to dismiss the allegations, but with prejudice. The State appealed the juvenile court’s decision to dismiss the allegations with prejudice and the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that the juvenile court erred in dismissing the allegations with prejudice, as the State had a right to voluntarily dismiss its allegations prior to the presentation of evidence. The Supreme Court also reasoned that a dismissal with prejudice is generally considered an adjudication on the merits, and in this matter the State moved for dismissal before any evidence had been presented, admissions were made, or the merits had been passed upon. Therefore, the Nebraska Supreme Court modified then affirmed the adjudication order to include a dismissal of the allegations at issue without prejudice. Read the full opinion here

LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

NEBRASKA INTERIM STUDIES

LR 513 (Sen. Howard) – Interim study to examine workforce issues within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

LR 514 (Sen. Bolz) – Interim study to examine the availability of transition services for youth who will leave or have left the juvenile justice system while in an out-of-home placement.

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

LR 523 (Sen. Howard) – Interim study to examine Nebraska law regarding the protection of children who have reached eighteen years of age but have not yet reached the age of majority.

  • Last action – Hearing in Health and Human Services Committee on November 15, 2016

LR 529 (Sen. Howard) – Interim study to examine the ongoing implementation of the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 and related state law and policy.

LR 544 (Sen. Crawford) – Interim study to examine the alternative response demonstration projects created in LB 853, 2014.

  • Last action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee

LR 545 (Sen. Campbell) – Interim study to examine medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with an emphasis on children that are eligible but unenrolled in these programs.

  • Last action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee

LR 551 (Sen. Krist) – Interim study to explore and assess the use of congregate care in Nebraska for youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

  • Last action – Referred to Health and Human Services Committee

LR 561 (Sen. Krist) – Interim study to examine the effectiveness, economic stability, and long-term viability of the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney and the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Geneva.

  • Last action – Referred to Judiciary Committee

LR 576 (Sen. Pansing Brooks) – Interim study to examine children’s access to legal counsel in juvenile proceedings across the state of Nebraska.

  • Last action – Referred to Judiciary Committee

Click here to see a chart of the introduced child welfare and juvenile justice interim studies.

Click here to see a chart of final actions on all child welfare and juvenile justice bills tracked this session by Nebraska Appleseed and our friends at Voices for Children in Nebraska.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Alternative Response Know Your Rights Guide

Nebraska Appleseed has developed a resource for parents navigating non-court child welfare cases. The guide includes an explanation on how the Alternative Response pilot program works, what parent’s rights are in non-court cases, and how they can contact an attorney for assistance when needed. You can download the pamphlet, please share with the families you work with.

Appleseed Blog

Appleseed maintains a blog 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: neappleseed.org/blog

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