Child Welfare

Child Welfare

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.

To find out more about the timeliness of court hearings, go to our Team Data Reports.  Or find more about a specific issue below.


Over the past decade, there has been growing support and interest across the country for giving children a voice in their court proceedings. In Nebraska, Project Everlast emphasizes "nothing about me without me", a philosophy which includes having the youth involved in the court process. The Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative has supported youth having a voice in their future, and has...Read more

A variety of materials have been developed for judges, attorneys, team members and others to assist in the implementation of best practices into court cases.  

Some of the these materials, like the Parenting Time Guidelines and Education Court Report, were created and approved by the...Read more

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a uniform statutory agreement among all 50 states that governs the legal and administrative procedures for the interstate placement of children with a relative or non-agency guardian.

In 2008, state Court Improvement Projects were required to conduct an assessment of the role, responsibilities and effectiveness of their...Read more

Since the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative was created in 2006, particular attention has been paid to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), or mediation and facilitation, practices within the context of the abuse/neglect court system. As the best interests of the child are of primary concern, mediation and facilitation practices have been shown to be particularly useful in placing the...Read more

The following articles are related to Nebraska juvenile court issues: