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.