Information for Youth and Families

Information for Youth and Families

Engagement of youth and families in the court process is critical to ensure thoughtful decision-making by the judges and targeted and appropriate case plans and goals.  Parents and youth who are involved in the proceedings in a meaningful also find the process more fair and more likely feel like their voice is being heard.  

For Youth:

Since 2009, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative has partnered with Project Everlast and other agencies to increase youth voice in the proceedings.  Some of these efforts include increasing the number of youth attending their hearings; however, because not all youth are comfortable with attending court other methods of communication have been developed.  The TTEOC has worked on a statewide level to develop protocols, guidelines, and court forms, and has also provided assistance to local teams to address these issues.  To view guides and forms available to young people, go to the Youth section.

The Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative has also made efforts to increase the voices of the parents and foster parents in proceedings. Guides have been developed to help parents and caregivers understand the court process.  A Caregiver Information Form was also developed pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 43

For Parents:

When a child enters the foster care system, a parent is often frustrated and confused by the process.  Court proceedings can seem labryintine to a parent and they may not encourage their active engagement.  Many teams have addressed this issue by making court processes more engaging and conducive to parents, whether by implementing Pre-Hearing Conferences or creating a first hearing guide.

The Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative has also produced materials to help parents understand the court system.

Parents are the most important individuals in ensuring the health and safety of their children.  However, not all parents can or do properly care for their children due to a variety of reasons, including substance abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse and mental health disorders.  When a child is unsafe, the child welfare court system becomes involved.

The goal of the child welfare court system is to ensure that children coming under its care are safe, find permanency and have their well-being protected and enhanced.  In Nebraska, Separate Juvenile Courts and county courts have jurisdiction of juvenile cases.  Child welfare court cases are referred to as "abuse and neglect" or "3(a)" cases (based on the jurisdiction provided by Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-247(3)(a)).  By statute, every child in a 3a case is appointed a Guardian ad Litem, or GAL, who is an attorney that protects the interests of the child and is deemed a parent of the child for the purposes of the 3a proceedings.  Parents are also entitled to counsel at their own expense or at county expense if they cannot afford counsel.  Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-272.  Other parties involved in a 3a case may include the county attorney, caseworker, CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate), FCRO (Foster Care Review Office), probation officer (if there is also a juvenile justice case), and tribal representative.

If a child is removed, the initial hearing is a Protective Custody Hearing typically concurrent with a First Appearance.  Subsequent hearings may include Adjudication, Disposition and Review Hearings.  By law, Permanency Hearings must happen within 12 months of the child entering foster care and every 12 months thereafter.

For Foster Parents and Relative Caregivers:

Foster parents have the right to be heard in juvenile court review hearings under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-1314.  Specifically, "[t]he court shall inquire into the well-being of the foster child by asking questions, if present at the hearing, of any willing foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative providing care for the child."  Foster parents and caregivers are also entitled to notice of proceedings.

The Caregiver Information Form is one way for foster parents make their voice heard by the judge.  Each year, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative sends a letter to every foster parent and caregiver letting them know of the form and how to submit it to the court.

The Court Improvement Project also developed a Guide for Foster Parents.  This guide educates foster parents about the juvenile court process and their rights in the proceedings.



Child Welfare Issues



Juvenile Justice Issues



General Information

Bridge to Independence (B2i)

In 2013, the Nebraska Legislature passed the Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act into state law.  The Bridge to Independence (b2i) program was kicked off in October 2014.  The program provides extended services and supports to young people aging out of the foster care system.  Services include housing support, medical assistance and case management. For more information go to Nebraska Appleseed or DHHS. This program is about YOU and your future.  The people involved - the judge, your Independence Coordinator, your attorney - only know what you want if you speak up. Tell your judge about your life and how things are going.  You can attend your court hearing or you can fill out this B2i form and send it to your judge (or give it to your attorney to send in).

What Now? Guides

Two separate guides for older youth on the in's and out's of the juvenile court system. One guide explains the juvenile justice court process and who is involved, and the other outlines child welfare court processes.  It also discusses permanency and placement options and how to plan for the future.  All young people above the age of 12 are encouraged to read it, possibly with the assistance of their caseworker or Guardian ad Litem.

Download the PDFs here:

What Now? Child Welfare Guide

What Now? Juvenile Justice Guide