Collaborative judicial child welfare practices are court-referred or child welfare-referred facilitative approaches that can be used to achieve permanency for children, improve timeliness, engagement of families in decision-making, and strengthened family systems throughout the child welfare or juvenile case. Nebraska’s county and juvenile courts and Health and Human Services’ Department actively refers these cases to the six regional ODR-approved mediation centers, as reported in this 2003-2012 Summary.
- Voluntary referrals for families in need
- Immediately upon a child’s removal – protective custody hearing
- 12-month review hearing
- Pre-termination of parental rights
- Other key decision-making points for the child and family
Types of collaborative practices available through Nebraska’s Office of Dispute Resolution– approved mediation centers*:
FGC: (Family group conferencing): This research -based child and family-centered approach may be used at any stage of the child welfare process, including as a voluntary referral. FGC Coordinators proficient in working with complex family dynamics in children and youth matters individually meet with, prepare, and engage family, extended family, and a network of others to create a meaningful and accountable family plan or a youth/young adult plan. Private family time is an essential component of the decision-making process. Family group conferencing statistics provide a picture of the use of this process in the state.
PHC: (Pre-hearing conference facilitation – initial removal): Scheduled by the juvenile court immediately preceding the initial protective custody hearing, knowledgeable child welfare facilitators assist in facilitating a brief (30-45 minute) conference to address key preliminary safety and permanency issues with parents, child welfare, attorneys, guardians ad litem.
PHPR: (Pre-hearing conference facilitation – twelve month permanency review): Optimally scheduled 60 days prior to twelve-month permanency review court hearing, this court-ordered off-site facilitated prehearing conference requires the parents, child welfare workers, attorneys, and GALs to confront critical progress, permanency decisions and action steps for the future of the child.
PHTPR: (Facilitated prehearing conference of termination of parental rights matters): Experienced, proficient facilitators in the matters of TPR, conflict dynamics, and future welfare of the child prepares and facilitates a conference of parents, attorneys, GALs and other professionals to confront the critical issues and determine next steps, including a consideration of relinquishment as well as contested trial, in a termination of parental rights matter.
CDM: (Child dependency mediation): small, one-to-one private problem solving between family members and providers, or family members themselves.
EFGC: (Expedited family group conference): A family group conference specially created for use in Nebraska cases at the initial removal stage.
Juvenile collaborative practices: Working with youth in either delinquency or other matters though mediation, victim offender dialogue, FGC, and other restorative justice approaches.
Research demonstrates that:
- Children achieve permanency more quickly in mediation or collaborative intervention than in non-mediated cases
- Reduction of re-abuse rates for children occurs more often in FGC cases than non-FGC
- Increase of using extended family members care for children at risk in FGC cases
- Reduction in the number of multiple placements – FGC plans create stability for children
- American Humane Association, www.fgdm.org
Collaborative practices are those in which:
- Family members are empowered to make decisions
- Children’s voices are at the center of the process
- Relationships among family members and friends are strengthened
- Cases reach permanency more quickly when mediated
- Specially trained and experienced independent facilitator or mediator convenes and facilitates dialogue
*As funding and other resources are available.