A bill that extends and revamps the state’s alternative response procedures in child welfare cases passed July 21.
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, eliminates the pilot program’s sunset date, removes 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, provides clearer definitions of response pathways for reports of child abuse and neglect and establishes an advisory group under the Nebraska Children’s Commission to examine the state Department of Health and Human Service’s use of alternative response.
The bill also narrows the types of cases eligible for alternative response. Cases instead will 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 living in a home where a child lives who is illegally manufacturing methamphetamine or opioids;
• a child 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; or
• 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 and without the caregiver having made a provision to be contacted to make such decisions or grant such consents.
LB1061 passed 46-0 and takes effect immediately.