Nebraska Children's Summit
On September 9, 2009, four hundred professionals involved in abuse and neglect cases convened in Grand Island to attend the 2009 Nebraska Children's Summit, hosted by the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative and funded by the Nebraska Court Improvement Project. Begun in 2006, the Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative is a project of the Nebraska Supreme Court and Chief Justice Michael Heavican, and aims to improve court processing in abuse/neglect cases, in part through the activities of 27 multi-disciplinary teams across the state being led by judges with juvenile court jurisdiction. The 2009 Children's Summit was the follow-up to the inaugural Children's Summit held in 2006 in Nebraska City.
Over 6000 children are currently in foster care in Nebraska. Until recently, Nebraska had the highest rate in the nation of children in out-of-home care. Due to busy court calendars, attorney conflicts, missing court reports and other issues, court proceedings have contributed to delays in achieving permanency. Between April 2008 and March 2009, the median stay in foster care was 12.8 months and the median time to adoption was 32.6 months. Delays in proceedings, whether it be through a continuance or an ill-prepared attorney, means the child further languishes in foster care.
In opening the Children's Summit, Chief Justice Heavican noted the court's role in decreasing the time to permanency for children in foster care, specifically in tightening court hearing time frames, improving practice and ensuring accountability of the professionals involved in the case. Five main areas to be directly impacted by court conduct were focused on at the Summit: parenting time (i.e., visitation), reasonable efforts, children attending court hearings, permanency hearings and using ADR/mediation.
At the conclusion of the Children's Summit, Chief Justice Heavican announced the new priorities of the Initiative voted upon by the attendees, namely: (1) to reduce the time to reunification (for reunified children), (2) to improve systems effectiveness with parents with substance abuse issues, and (3) to improve the use of parenting time to improve permanency. These Priorities are the center of focus of teams across the state and in the activities developed on a statewide level. The Summit theme of Action to Impact will also continue to be addressed through the monitoring of case progression timelines to ensure that the Initiative's efforts are truly improving the permanency and well-being of children in foster care.
For more information, contact Kelli Hauptman, Staff Attorney, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-472-3927.
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