Spotlight Team

Spotlight Team

JDAI IN OTOE COUNTY

JDAI IN OTOE COUNTY
JDAI IN OTOE COUNTY

Michele Lueders | Juvenile Intake & Detention Alternatives Specialist Nebraska State Probation

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) was designed with the vision that all youth involved in the juvenile justice system have opportunities to develop into healthy, productive adults. After more than two decades of innovation and replication, JDAI is one of the nation's most effective, influential, and widespread juvenile justice system reform initiatives.

JDAI promotes changes to policies, practices, and programs to reduce reliance on secure confinement, improve public safety, reduce racial disparities and bias, save taxpayers' dollars, and stimulate overall juvenile justice reforms.

In Nebraska, JDAI has been active since 2011 in Douglas County and 2012 in Sarpy County.  Through the leadership of Judge Robert O’Neal and Dave Partsch Otoe County Attorney, the JDAI efforts expanded into Otoe County, Nebraska’s first rural county to implement JDAI. The local Through the Eyes and Juvenile Justice teams provided an already existing structure for Otoe County to ensure that the right stakeholders were at the table to begin the work and can continue to work together.

Otoe County began by participating in a System Assessment, where multiple community stakeholders were interviewed to discuss what is working well within their community, what barriers exist and what gaps that may exist for young people and their families.  Through this process, a report was developed, highlighting what was going well as well as recommendations as to where Otoe County could work to make system improvements.  Another part of this process included the development of a Detention Utilization Study, which provided Otoe County with data points related to young people involved with the juvenile justice system.

On November 16, 2016 Otoe County held their first meeting to review their System Assessment and Detention Utilization Study.  These tools are being used to assist the local collaborative in developing their priorities and strategies to begin the reform efforts.  One specific area Otoe County has prioritized is collaboration within their community.  This was identified by various stakeholders as something that needed more clarification, along with ensuring all community members are at the table when discussion occur.

Otoe County participated in Fundamental’s Training on February 15, 2017, where multiple community stakeholders attended and learned about the core strategies and values around JDAI.  During this training, community members had the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss how they wanted to move juvenile justice reform forward.

Community leaders have developed a roadmap to prioritize strategies in order to implement changes to enhance work with youth and families.  For Otoe County, one of their focuses will be on ensuring services are available to young people and their families with the intention of trying to prevent young people from entering the juvenile justice system.

If you or your community is interested in further information around JDAI, you can visit the JDAI Help Desk to locate information around the work being done nationwide or contact Michele Lueders at michele.lueders@nebraska.gov.

YOUTH CRISIS INTERVENTION CENTER - WINNEBAGO, NE

YOUTH CRISIS INTERVENTION CENTER - WINNEBAGO, NE
YOUTH CRISIS INTERVENTION CENTER - WINNEBAGO, NE

Kellie Snow | Juvenile Probation Officer

The Youth Crisis Intervention Center (YCIC) is a facility for juveniles that came about through the Winnebago Tribal Court, and their proactive attempt to assist families as juveniles enter the juvenile justice system. 

The YCIC director is Daryl LaPointe Jr. He is a member of the Winnebago Tribe, a graduate of the Winnebago Public School, and he has worked in the juvenile justice system for the past 10 years, working for the Lancaster Youth Service Center, in Lincoln, Nebraska, from 2005 to 2015. Daryl, who prefers to be called JR. began his job in February 1, 2016. 

When asked what makes the YCIC unique, he replied, “there are many things, but the most unique is the ability to start early intervention in the juvenile court process for our youth and their families.” 

The Youth Crisis Intervention Center began with a round table discussion by the Winnebago Juvenile Justice Planning Team and the Winnebago Traditional Wellness Court. This discussion took place in 2012 and was spurred when four young ladies were detained in South Dakota. When attempts were made to get them some evaluation services, the BIA did not tell the tribe nor their attorneys that they had been moved to North Dakota. We want to heal our families, bring them together, not separate them. 

The YCIC was built to get the youth and their families help with physical, mental, cultural, spiritual and emotional needs right here in Winnebago.  It is a renovation of the old Catholic boarding school, Mary Hall. The tribe applied and received a grant, for approximately 1 million dollars, to renovate the facility. The tribe also received grant monies from the Nebraska Crime Commission, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe, and the Department of Justice to complete the facility. 

The Winnebago Tribe, fully funds the director position, and the youth/intake workers. The Winnebago Bureau of Indian Affairs Law Enforcement, in in partnership with the tribe manages the booking of youth into the facility. 

The YCIC is currently open for youth intake screenings, and counseling services for alcohol and other drugs. The hope is to have the whole facility open by mid-February. It will have a Booking/Intake center, and 72-hour Holdover facility, and an Assessment Center (which is currently open). It also houses the wraparound services, which are up and running, the Traditional Wellness Court, the Juvenile Probation Office and the Truancy/JSP Office. It is nice having all the services in one place. It makes it easy for families to get help.

HALL COUNTY THROUGH THE EYES TEAM HAS CREATED PROJECT JUMPSTART

HALL COUNTY THROUGH THE EYES TEAM HAS CREATED PROJECT JUMPSTART
HALL COUNTY THROUGH THE EYES TEAM HAS CREATED PROJECT JUMPSTART

Tami Gangwish | Team Coordinator - Grand Island 

The focus of Project Jumpstart is to "fast track" substance abuse services to families who have allegations of substance abuse issues. Project Jumpstart was created with the idea that allowing families to receive substance abuse services earlier in the case would help expedite necessary treatment services for reunification.

The Project Jumpstart team meets with families right before their initial appearance. We have been able to arrange and schedule substance abuse evaluations during this initial meeting for clients with the majority of the evaluations occurring within 7 to 14 days of scheduling. Project Jumpstart has received funds from our local United Way to help aid with the cost of these evaluations for families who are unable to afford the evaluations. We are finding that these initial meetings with the families not only helps get evaluations scheduled for them much sooner, however, it also allows the opportunity to provide and "orientation to they system" to the families as well during this time helping them know what to expect as well as decrease adversity that may initially be there from the situation.

Our current statistics show that 50% of the families we have served thru Project Jumpstart have completed evaluations and started treatment services within 30 days of initial hearing. This has been much faster than previously when the majority of cases had not received an evaluation much less started any treatment services prior to Pre-Adjudication being held.

During the "initial" Project Jumpstart meeting we are also working with families to ensure that visitation services are arranged for them, that they are having regular contact with DHHS regarding their situation and that they have no known barriers to them being able to get to their scheduled evaluation.

THE VALUE OF TEAM BUILDING ACROSS DISCIPLINES

THE VALUE OF TEAM BUILDING ACROSS DISCIPLINES
THE VALUE OF TEAM BUILDING ACROSS DISCIPLINES

Deb VanDyke-Ries | CIP Project Specialist 

Confusion about roles and responsibilities between the Department of Health and Human Services and Juvenile Probation was the catalyst for action in Judicial District 1. Appointed to the bench in December 2014, the Honorable Linda Bauer noticed law enforcement officers were unclear who to call and what to expect in juvenile justice and child welfare cases. Working closely with DHHS and Probation in court and with the Through the Eyes of the Child team, Judge Bauer saw dedication to children and families and she knew she had found two people who could educate stakeholders and build relationships. Enter Beth Buhr and Jennifer Manning.

Starting in Saline County, Jennifer, a Juvenile Justice Resource Supervisor and Beth, a Child and Family Services Specialist Supervisor, presented to 15 law enforcement staff from the Saline County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Crete, Friend, and Wilber Police Departments. Beth shared information about DHHS (hotline, intakes, Structured Decision Making, investigation, safety vs. risk and on-going work) and Jennifer presented Probation information (least restrictive option, who to call and when, 3b and uncontrollable youth and intake). Question and answer discussion focused on defining minimal standards, removal reasons and trauma focused decisions.

The training’s outcomes were increased understanding of agency roles, identification of who to call when and relationship building, putting names with faces. After the initial presentation, Jennifer and Beth have been “on the road” with additional trainings in Wilber, Jefferson County 1184 team, Beatrice School District and Falls City. They anticipate future trainings in District 1 this year.

Presenting together has had the unintended consequence of showing stakeholders that DHHS and Probation are a “united front”, working together with children and families. Similar to the Crossover Youth Practice Model implemented in Gage County, Probation and DHHS come to the table with different strengths, focus and resources. But the relationship built between the agencies and role clarification has enhanced positive outcomes for children and families. Also there is less finger-pointing when things don’t go well.

Beth and Jennifer highlight judicial leadership from Judge Bauer as a key factor in the success of the presentations. Judge Bauer is appreciative of staff in both agencies for taking on an additional role. Great job District 1, showing the value of teambuilding across disciplines!


For more information contact: Jennifer Manning or Beth Buhr

CHADRON STATE COLLEGE CONFERENCE A COLLABORATIVE SUCCESS

CHADRON STATE COLLEGE CONFERENCE A COLLABORATIVE SUCCESS
CHADRON STATE COLLEGE CONFERENCE A COLLABORATIVE SUCCESS

Christine Henningsen, J.D. 

On November 5, 2014, child welfare and juvenile justice students and professionals came together for a day-long conference hosted by Chadron State College. The event, which was free and open to the public, is held every year as the capstone project of the “Communities & Organizations” class within Chadron’s Social Work Program. Adding to the success of the event was the collaboration with the District 12- Northern Panhandle Through the Eyes of the Child Team led by Judge Russell Harford. Team Coordinator, Rebecca Fernau, is a graduate of the Chadron School of Social Work and a current caseworker with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The focus of this year’s conference was the need for cross-systems collaboration to meet the needs of our youth and families. State Court Administrator, Corey Steele, presented the keynote address, which outlined recent changes to Nebraska’s Juvenile Justice System and explained how advances inadolescent brain research have helped guide us towards interventions which result in better outcomes for system involved youth. Jeanne Brandner, Deputy Administrator in the Office of Probation Administration assisted Steele in the keynote address, emphasizing the need for a collaborative community effort. A panel discussion following the keynote address provided concrete examples where collaboration can and should occur for youth. Panelists included: Dr. Shannon Black, psychologist and sex offender expert; Judge Susan Bazis; Judge James Worden; Juanita Sherick and William Cross, Director and Social Worker with the ICWA ONTRAC office in the Pine Ridge Reservation; and Dr. Caroline Winchester, Superintendent of Chadron Public Schools. The panel both answered questions from conference participants and challenged participants to take steps to increase communication and collaboration across systems. Judge Bazis also presented on the changes to Nebraska’s guardianship and conservatorship laws and how those can be utilized for Nebraska’s youth. A student in the School of Social Work, stated that the purpose of the conference was to “ensure the well-being of children by educating and empowering community members and service providers.” The knowledge gained by all participants and the bringing together of so many case professionals only leads us towards that goal. The efforts of Chadron State College and Judge Harford’s Through the Eyes Team is to be applauded!

THE HASTINGS TEAM–ESTABLISHING THE MARYLAND LIVING CENTER

THE HASTINGS TEAM–ESTABLISHING THE MARYLAND LIVING CENTER
THE HASTINGS TEAM–ESTABLISHING THE MARYLAND LIVING CENTER

March 2013 

In 2012, the Hastings team of the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative partnered with other community organizations to secure funding for the development and operation of a living center for older runaway and homeless youth. At the 2012 Children’s Summit, statewide team members honored the project by voting it Project with the Most Impact. Below is a Q & A with Project Coordinator Lauren Slaughter about the Maryland Living Center (MLC).

What is the Maryland Living Center? Who has primarily been involved with planning/development?

The Maryland Living Center is a transitional housing facility that serves runaway and homeless youth ages 16-21. The youth can enter into the program for up to 18 months in which they will work on developing essential proficiencies in areas such as job training, coping skills,
education, independent living skills, financial management, food management, healthy living choices, and relationship development.

Planning for this project began in 2011 when a group of community agency leaders met and identified homeless youth, especially ones aging out of the child welfare system, as a major concern in the community. RuAnn Root, Executive Director of CASA of South Central NE, took the lead and began meeting with different people in the community to figure out what options were out there for combating this problem. After meeting with Linda Addison, Executive Director of Housing Development Corporation, the two organization leaders began the execution of the project. These two women have led the march towards completing this project with support from community organizations such as Hastings Family Planning, Mary Lanning Hospital, Wells Fargo, US Bank, YWCA, Crossroads and local businesses and churches.

 

What are your primary sources of funding?

For the purchase and renovation of the building the Department of Economic Development is the main funder with a grant of nearly $1 million. In addition to this funding, Housing Development has fronted $400,000 for the project and over $100,000 has been raised through capital campaign efforts.

For ongoing and operational costs Maryland Living Center was able to secure a Transitional Living Program grant through the Families and Youth Service Bureau (FYSB). This grant is for $180,000 each year for 5 years. A 20% match for this grant has been met this year with funding from Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Mary Lanning Hospital Trust, and local churches and individual donations.

 

How has this been a community effort?

This project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the community support it has received. Some examples of community collaboration are partnerships with Hastings Family Planning for reproductive education and health needs, the Mary Lanning Clinic for primary health care, Wells Fargo for financial literacy education, Hastings College for peer mentors and facility workers, YWCA for job training assistance, Horizon Recovery for Life Skills and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment options, Healthy Beginnings for parenting education, and New Dimensions and South Central Behavior for mental health. Hastings Public Schools has also been very supportive and assists our program with the distribution of emergency food and hygiene kits. Other support for the program has come from local churches such as First Presbyterian and First St. Paul’s Lutheran who have contributed in numerous ways.
 

Discuss the importance of the location.

The location of the facility is great for our youth in the program as it is centrally located near many of our partners that will offer services. Within walking distance are the YWCA (job prep), Hastings Family Planning (reproductive health), Wells Fargo (financial literacy and bank accounts), Russ’s Market (food, employer), Hastings College (peer mentors), Walgreens, Keith’s Pharmacy, Mary Lanning Health Clinic & Hospital, and other local shops and food establishments. It is also near a couple parks, which allows for fun recreational activities.

 

How do you see the courts or DHHS being involved?

I think there are many roles that the court and DHHS will have in our program. Often the youth that enter into the child welfare program and court system are runaway or homeless youth. Maryland Living Center gives an extra support system and option for courts and DHHS to access when looking for assistance for youth. Collaborating in making sure to meet the needs of the youth in the community, especially those aging out of the system, is critical to our program goals.

 

What are the guidelines for the MLC (i.e., rent, who’s eligible, general rules, etc.)? What responsibilities will the young adult have?

General guidelines for the MLC program are similar to most transitional living programs. Youth that enter into the facility must be runaways, homeless or near homeless, 16-21 and their income under the 110% of poverty line. We require youth to do background checks, sexual registry checks, and urine analysis tests upon entering into the program in addition to completing a formal intake and the Daniel Memorial Independent Living Assessment. Rules for the program will depend on what level the youth is at. The program is split into a 3 level system and as you progress in the program and move through the levels the less restrictive the rules are. The youth do have curfews, a sign in/sign out system, random apartment checks, random UA testing, volunteer 3 hours per month, are required to pay in 30% of their paychecks for rent/utilities and save 10% of paychecks to use after graduating from the program, and follow case plans that are designed with the youths input that will cover the needs of the youth on an individual basis.

 

What has been the most difficult hurdle?

The most difficult hurdle thus far has been making sure that we raise the money needed for the renovation of the building as well as making sure we have a healthy operational budget that will allow us to give each youth the services he/she is in need of. I would also say that garnering support for the project at times was difficult because people in the community were not always aware of the need for this type of program. Homelessness and being a runaway in rural Nebraska doesn’t always look the same as it does in inner cities which is what the general public is used to seeing so getting them to believe and understand that youth homelessness is a huge problem in our area wasn’t always easy. Over time however, the community has come together and supported this project in a really fantastic and amazing way.

 

What has been the most rewarding experience so far?

It is hard to name just one! I think every day there is something that happens that makes this a rewarding experience. Whether it is a development in the project that takes us one step closer to the doors opening or an accomplishment of one of our youth like getting into college, there is something each day that reminds me of what a program like this can mean to someone. It is all very exciting and we can’t wait to open the doors and help as many youth as we can.

 

How do you think this will help a young adult transition to adulthood?

MLC will help youth transition into adulthood in many ways. First, housing a youth and ensuring that their basic safety needs are being met allows a youth to focus on more than where they will rest their head at the end of the day or where their next meal is going to come from. After meeting these basic needs, we will help youth to discover what their goals are and collaborate on a plan to meet those goals. Assisting them in enrolling in school and gaining employment are essential in helping prepare them for adulthood. In addition, providing life skills training, fiscal literacy education, and helping to build permanent connections in the community will help the youth to be more successful once they are out on their own.


Lauren Slaughter, the Maryland Living Center Project Coordinator, can be reached at 402-463-1030.

SEVEN NEBRASKA COURTS CELEBRATE NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY

SEVEN NEBRASKA COURTS CELEBRATE NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY
SEVEN NEBRASKA COURTS CELEBRATE NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY

On November 19 and 20, 2010, seven courts across Nebraska celebrated National Adoption Day. Judges in Scottsbluff, Norfolk, Hastings, Kearney, Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha opened their courthouses to finalize adoption and celebrate the creation of permanent relationships of children in foster care to their caregivers. In Norfolk, Judge Ross Stoffer led a celebration that included swimming, laser tag, face painting, gifts and door prizes. An online photo album of the adoptions of eight children in Grand Island which was led by Judge Mac Martin is available here. The Omaha courts celebrated their 11th National Adoption Day where 29 children were adopted. For news coverage on the various Adoption Days, please see links below.

Grand Island:
Grand Island Daily Independent 
Grand Island Daily Independent
Grand Island Independent Photo 1 | Photo 2

Lincoln:
Lincoln Journal Star 

Omaha:
WOWT

Scotts Bluff:
Star-Herald

Kearney:
Kearney Hub

THE NORTHERN PANHANDLE TEAM-RECRUITING FOSTER PARENTS

THE NORTHERN PANHANDLE TEAM-RECRUITING FOSTER PARENTS
THE NORTHERN PANHANDLE TEAM-RECRUITING FOSTER PARENTS

Chronic shortages in the availability of foster parents. That’s what faced Judge Russell Harford and his Northern Panhandle team over the past few years. A problem statewide, it is especially acute in rural areas and professionals often have to resort to using foster homes a long distance from the child’s home. Judge Harford, DHHS and the Through the Eyes team decided to tackle this issue through a recruitment campaign and have made increasing the availability of local foster homes a team goal.

 
As a major component of the project, the team led by Judge Russell Harford and Team Coordinator Rebecca Fernau recently completed the development of an advertising campaign to recruit local foster parents. Rebecca Fernau, a graduate of the social work program at Chadron State College (CSC) initiated the project with instructor Bruce Hoem. Partnering with social work students at CSC, the team assisted in creating the public service campaign materials. Judge Harford and other professionals met with the students and told them about Nebraska’s high rate of out-of-home care and the team’s efforts to keep children in their same community and school. As part of the project, the CSC student developed media for newspapers, brochures to hand out to groups and organizations, public service announcements for radio ads, and a video that explains the importance of foster care. While the project was being developed, DHHS even received some calls from professors and other college employees asking for additional information about foster parenting.

Additional funding is being sought for brochure development and distribution. All DHHS offices in the Western Service Area have received the materials, and they have also been distributed at a local health fair in Alliance and will be distributed at a children’s carnival. Judge Harford and the team look forward to partnering with the college again on other projects.

INNOVATION IN DODGE COUNTY JUVENILE COURT

INNOVATION IN DODGE COUNTY JUVENILE COURT
INNOVATION IN DODGE COUNTY JUVENILE COURT

Christine Henningsen

On May 14, 2014, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican, State Court Administrator Corey Steele, Director of Dispute Resolution and Special Programs Debora Denny Brownyard, myself, and other juvenile justice stakeholders, travelled to Fremont to visit with the Honorable Kenneth Vampola and view Dodge County’s newly renovated juvenile courtroom.

The Chief Justice’s team observed three juvenile court hearings and then met with Dodge County juvenile court stakeholders to discuss how the judicial branch, probation and mediation centers are working together to improve outcomes for our youth. In addition to Judge Vampola, the meeting included District 6 Chief Probation Officer Bob Denton, County Attorney Oliver Glass, Deputy County Attorney Sara Vanbrandwijk, and Director of the Nebraska Mediation Center Jane Martin Hoffman. The Dodge County team remarked how the new courtroom style fosters a sense of teamwork and helps to engage families. Judge Vampola remarked that it, “creates an atmosphere that we are here to help. It puts the families in a whole other frame of mind.” Judge Vampola also remarked how the new set-up helps him observe non-verbal cues from the youth that he may not have seen from the bench. For example, oftentimes he can tell how well a case is going by how close to the youth is sitting at the table. Engaging the family helps to foster better outcomes for our youth and our communities. Even when court is not in session, the new facility is used for mediations and for juvenile diversion programs, which is producing positive outcomes for families.

It is no surprise that Dodge County is also working on other efforts to improve the juvenile court system. The County Attorney’s office began a truancy program to divert youth from the court system. Additionally, District 6 Chief Probation Officer Bob Denton has been working with the community in applying for Crime Commission dollars to fund detention alternatives. Finally, Dodge County recently became a pilot site for implementing the crossover youth practice model. As Judge Vampola said, “we are developing services all of the time,” to address the needs of their youth.

 

TEAM 2 - SARPY COUNTY: A MEDIATION PILOT ON PERMANENCY PRE-HEARING CONFERENCE AND PRE-HEARING TPR CONFERENCES

TEAM 2 - SARPY COUNTY: A MEDIATION PILOT ON PERMANENCY PRE-HEARING CONFERENCE AND PRE-HEARING TPR CONFERENCES
TEAM 2 - SARPY COUNTY: A MEDIATION PILOT ON PERMANENCY PRE-HEARING CONFERENCE AND PRE-HEARING TPR CONFERENCES

In collaboration with the Concord Center and Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution, the Sarpy County team led by Judge Bob O’Neal and Judge Larry Gendler has secured funding from DHHS for a pilot mediation project beginning in October 2009. The pilot project will involve two types of structured facilitated discussion: Pre-Hearing Termination of Parental Rights Conference (PHTPR) and Permanency Pre-Hearing Conference (PPHC). Over 20 current cases have been selected to be included in the pilot, which is expected to run through June 2010. The goal is to replicated this pilot project in five other juvenile court settings. Mediators from the Concord Center will lead the structured facilitated discussions. Both mediations are governed by Neb. Rev. Stat. section 43-247.01, in that all discussions are considered confidential and privileged.

Permanency Pre-Hearing Conference
In Nebraska, a Permanency Hearing is required by federal law to be held at 12 months after the child enters foster care to determine what the permanency plan will be, namely reunification, guardianship or adoption. However, attorneys, caseworkers and others involved with the child at this critical juncture have, in many cases, not given the Permanency Hearing the focus, intensity and preparation required by law and necessary for the child’s well-being. Instead, the 12-month Permanency Hearings have often been a routine review of the events since the family was last in court. The PPHC is meant to make the Permanency Hearing more meaningful. 

The process of the PPHC is similar to that introduced by the Sidney/Kimball team at the Children’s Summit in Grand Island. Its purpose is to bring parties together to gather information and determine what information is still needed prior to the Permanency Hearing so that (a) the court has sufficient information to make a permanency plan decision and (b) the parties have the opportunity to discuss what permanency plans will be proposed to the Court and what steps need to be made to accomplish the plans. The PPHC should be attended by the parents and their attorneys, older children and youth, caseworker, guardians ad litem, relatives, foster parents, the county attorney and the family support worker.
During the PPHC, the mediator will guide the parties through the following stages:

1. Introduction
2. Updates on the children – placement, education and health information, services provided, sibling contact
3. Updates on the parents – services provided, progress and issues still needing to be addressed
4. Discussion of Permanency Plan recommendation(s)
5. Addressing Permanency Plan Questions
6. Discussion of Next Steps

A full discussion of these steps and a list of the Permanency Plan Questions are available in the PPHC Protocol. 

The PPHC may result in, but need not, agreement of the parties. The PPHC will be scheduled approximately 6-8 weeks prior to the Permanency Hearing so that there is sufficient time to parties to provide any missing information and ensure all services have been provided. At the conclusion of the PPHC, it will be determined what information should be provided to the Court and by whom.

Pre-Hearing Termination of Parental Rights Conference
When a Petition or Motion for Termination of Parental Rights is filed, the Court typically sets court dates for the Pre-Trial Hearing and Trial. In many cases, agreements are reached by the parties after the Petition is filed but prior to the order of termination of parental rights. However, valuable court time is often wasted and the child lingers in foster care awaiting permanency. The purpose of the PHTPR is to bring the parties together soon after the Petition or Motion is filed to gather information and determine whether the case is ready for trial regarding terminating parental rights and to provide the parties an opportunity to explore non-trial alternatives, such as voluntary relinquishment. 

The PHTPR should be held within 14 days of the filing of the Petition or Motion for Termination of Parental Rights, and 6 to 8 weeks prior to trial to ensure sufficient time to provide missing information. The PHTPR may be attended by the parents and their attorneys, older children and youth and their attorneys, the caseworker, relatives, foster parents and the county attorney.
During the PHTPR, the mediator will guide the parties through the following stages:

1. Introduction
2. Updates on the children: current placement and sibling contact
3. Updates on the parents: services provided, progress and lack thereof
4. Discussion of recommendation of termination of parental rights: filing party explains why and other parties have opportunity to express agreement or disagreement
5. Addressing Permanency Plan Questions
6. Discussion of Next Steps

A full discussion of these steps and a list of the Permanency Plan questions are available in the PHTPR Protocol. 

The PHTPR may, but need not, result in agreement among the parties. At the conclusion of the PHTPR, it will be decided who will be responsible for next steps and what information will be provided to the Court.