A bill that would extend and revamp the state’s alternative response procedures in child welfare cases was amended and advanced from select file March 6.
Alternative response is a practice that handles low-risk child welfare cases by empowering families to build on their strengths, rather than criminally investigating them or placing them on the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. Nebraska’s alternative response pilot program has been in place since 2014.
Among other provisions, LB1061, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, would eliminate the pilot program’s sunset date, provide clearer definitions of response pathways for reports of child abuse and neglect and establish an advisory group under the Nebraska Children’s Commission to examine the state Department of Health and Human Service’s use of alternative response.
Crawford introduced an amendment on select file, adopted 32-0, that would narrow the types of cases eligible for alternative response. Cases instead would be forwarded directly to the county attorney if they involve:
• a history of termination of parental rights;
• domestic violence involving a caretaker in situations where the alleged perpetrator has access to the child or caretaker;
• someone who illegally manufactures methamphetamine or opioids in a home where a child lives;
• a child who has contact with methamphetamine or other nonprescribed opioids;
• a household member who tests positive for methamphetamine or nonprescribed opioids at the birth of an infant who is the subject of the report; and
• absence of a caretaker without having given an alternate caregiver authority to make decisions and grant consents for necessary care, treatment and education of a child without having made a provision to be contacted to make such decisions or grant such consents.
The amendment also would remove abandonment of a child for six months or more immediately prior to a report from the list of cases excluded from eligibility for alternative response.
Crawford said she introduced the amendment after concerns were expressed by county attorneys that alternative response could be used too often.
Following adoption of the amendment, LB1061 was advanced to final reading on a voice vote.