Foster Care Reform Update – December 2016

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Policy Spotlight: Nebraska Appleseed’s Agenda of Opportunity
  • Court Opinions: In re Interest of Nettie F.
  • Legislative Actions: Nebraska Interim Studies
  • Announcements: Foster Care Reform Update Survey, Alternative Response Know Your Rights Guide

POLICY SPOTLIGHT

Nebraska Appleseed’s Agenda of Opportunity

This week at Nebraska Appleseed, we released our 2017 Agenda of Opportunity,” a series of local, state, and federal policies that Appleseed will support in the coming year with the help of our network of advocates, allies, and partners like you.

Some of the policies in the “Agenda of Opportunity” include:

  • Access to quality, affordable health insurance for all Nebraskans
  • Protect the rights of Nebraska’s immigrant families
  • Ensure food security for hard-working people
  • Reform predatory payday lending policies
  • Strengthen Nebraska’s child welfare system

Click here to see a more detailed summary of each of these priority areas.

In the Child Welfare Program, Appleseed will work with lawmakers for further implementation of the federal Strengthening Families Act – an important law that promotes youth empowerment, permanency, and “normalcy,” which allows youth in foster care to have the same important developmental experiences and opportunities as other youth.

We also will continue efforts to make sure youth with juvenile justice experience can participate in the Bridge to Independence program, which has shown success in helping young people who have been in foster care transition into a healthy start to adulthood.

With the help of great advocates like you, we will stand up for justice in 2017 and keep fighting for a Nebraska where everyone can get ahead.


COURT OPINIONS

In re Interest of Nettie F., No. S-16-241

Decided November 18, 2016

The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the child’s sibling which challenged the juvenile court’s orders vacating the sibling’s intervention in the proceeding and in denying the motion for a joint-sibling placement because Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-2106.01 did not authorize such an appeal. In this case, the child was removed from her mother’s care and placed with a foster family three days after her birth. The appellant, the child’s older sister, sought to intervene through her adoptive parents in order to facilitate a joint-sibling placement. Similarly, the child’s foster parents also sought to intervene as the child’s preadoptive placement. However, the juvenile court subsequently vacated its orders granting intervention to the sibling and to the foster parents upon the motion of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). After an evidentiary hearing, the juvenile court found both the child’s preadoptive parents and her sibling’s adoptive parents to be equally qualified as a placement, but that a joint-sibling placement would be contrary to her safety and well-being due to the negative effects of disrupting the child’s current placement. The child’s sibling appealed the orders vacating intervention and denying joint-sibling placement. The Supreme Court determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the appeal, as an adjudicated child’s sibling has no right to appeal a juvenile court’s placement under the statute. The Supreme Court noted that § 43-1311.02(1)(a) requires the Department of Health and Human Services to make reasonable efforts to place adjudicated siblings in the same foster or adoptive placements, but it does not bestow any rights upon the sibling to appeal an order of the juvenile court. The Supreme Court concluded that the sibling did not have the ability to appeal because the Legislature has not authorized an adjudicated child’s sibling right to appeal under § 43-2,106.01. 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.

  • Last action – Hearing in Health and Human Services Committee on October 13, 2016
  • Read Nebraska Appleseed’s testimony here

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.

  • Last action – Hearing in Health and Human Services Committee on October 13, 2016
  • Read The Normalcy Task Force’s testimony here

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 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 the previous session by Nebraska Appleseed and our friends at Voices for Children in Nebraska.


ANNOUNCEMENTS

Foster Care Reform Update Survey

Thank you to those who have completed our quick survey on your satisfaction with our monthly Foster Care Reform Update. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts here if you haven’t already.

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 here.  Please share with the families you work with.

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