Nebraska Revised Statute 43-4508
Department; filing with juvenile court; contents; jurisdiction of court; bridge to independence program file; hearing for permanency review; appointment of hearing officer; department; duties; court review services and support; confidentiality; waiver.
(1) Within fifteen days after the voluntary services and support agreement is signed, the department shall file a petition with the juvenile court describing the young adult's current situation, including the young adult's name, date of birth, and current address and the reasons why it is in the young adult's best interests to participate in the bridge to independence program. The department shall also provide the juvenile court with a copy of the signed voluntary services and support agreement, a copy of the case plan, and any other information the department or the young adult wants the court to consider.
(2) The department shall ensure continuity of care and eligibility by working with a child who wants to participate in the bridge to independence program and is likely to be eligible to participate in such program immediately following the termination of the juvenile court's jurisdiction pursuant to subdivision (3)(a) of section 43-247 or subdivision (8) of section 43-247 if the young adult's guardianship or state-funded adoption assistance agreement was disrupted or terminated after he or she had attained the age of sixteen years. The voluntary services and support agreement shall be signed and the petition filed with the court upon the child's nineteenth birthday or within ten days thereafter. There shall be no interruption in the foster care maintenance payment and medical assistance coverage for a child who is eligible and chooses to participate in the bridge to independence program immediately following the termination of the juvenile court's jurisdiction pursuant to subdivision (3)(a) of section 43-247.
(3) The court has the jurisdiction to review the voluntary services and support agreement signed by the department and the young adult under section 43-4506 and to conduct permanency reviews as described in this section. Upon the filing of a petition under subsection (1) of this section, the court shall open a bridge to independence program file for the young adult for the purpose of determining whether continuing in such program is in the young adult's best interests and for the purpose of conducting permanency reviews.
(4) The court shall make the best interests determination as described in subsection (3) of this section not later than one hundred eighty days after the young adult and the department enter into the voluntary services and support agreement.
(5) The court shall conduct a hearing for permanency review consistent with 42 U.S.C. 675(5)(C) as described in subsection (6) of this section regarding the voluntary services and support agreement at least once per year and may conduct such hearing at additional times, but not more times than is reasonably practicable, at the request of the young adult, the department, or any other party to the proceeding. The court shall make a reasonable effort finding required by subdivision (6)(c) of this section within twelve months after the court makes its best interests determination under subsection (4) of this section. Upon the filing of the petition as provided in subsection (1) of this section or anytime thereafter, the young adult may request, in the voluntary services and support agreement or by other appropriate means, a timeframe in which the young adult prefers to have the permanency review hearing scheduled and the court shall seek to accommodate the request as practicable and consistent with 42 U.S.C. 675(5)(C). The juvenile court may request the appointment of a hearing officer pursuant to section 24-230 to conduct permanency review hearings. The department is not required to have legal counsel present at such hearings. The juvenile court shall conduct the permanency reviews in an expedited manner and shall issue findings and orders, if any, as speedily as possible.
(6)(a) The primary purpose of the permanency review is to ensure that the bridge to independence program is providing the young adult with the needed services and support to help the young adult move toward permanency and self-sufficiency. This shall include that, in all permanency reviews or hearings regarding the transition of the young adult from foster care to independent living, the court shall consult, in an age-appropriate manner, with the young adult regarding the proposed permanency or transition plan for the young adult. The young adult shall have a clear self-advocacy role in the permanency review in accordance with section 43-4510, and the hearing shall support the active engagement of the young adult in key decisions. Permanency reviews shall be conducted on the record and in an informal manner and, whenever possible, outside of the courtroom.
(b) The department shall prepare and present to the juvenile court a report, at the direction of the young adult, addressing progress made in meeting the goals in the case plan, including the independent living transition proposal, and shall propose modifications as necessary to further those goals.
(c) The court shall determine whether the bridge to independence program is providing the appropriate services and support as provided in the voluntary services and support agreement to carry out the case plan. The court shall also determine whether reasonable efforts have been made to achieve the permanency goal as set forth in the case plan and the department's report provided under subdivision (6)(b) of this section. The court shall issue specific written findings regarding such reasonable efforts. The court has the authority to determine whether the young adult is receiving the services and support he or she is entitled to receive under the Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act and the department's policies or state or federal law to help the young adult move toward permanency and self-sufficiency. If the court believes that the young adult requires additional services and support to achieve the goals documented in the case plan or under the Young Adult Bridge to Independence Act and the department's policies or state or federal law, the court may make appropriate findings or order the department to take action to ensure that the young adult receives the identified services and support.
(7) All pleadings, filings, documents, and reports filed pursuant to this section and subdivision (11) of section 43-247 shall be confidential. The proceedings pursuant to this section and subdivision (11) of section 43-247 shall be confidential unless a young adult provides a written waiver or a verbal waiver in court. Such waiver may be made by the young adult in order to permit the proceedings to be held outside of the courtroom or for any other reason. The Foster Care Review Office shall have access to any and all pleadings, filings, documents, reports, and proceedings necessary to complete its case review process. This section shall not prevent the juvenile court from issuing an order identifying individuals and agencies who shall be allowed to receive otherwise confidential information for legitimate and official purposes as authorized by section 43-3001.