Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Nebraska

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 43-532

The legislature finds and declares that children develop their unique potential in relation to a caring social unit, usually the family, and other nurturing environments, especially the schools and the community. The legislature further finds that the State shall declare a family policy to guide the actions of State government in dealing with problems and crises involving children and families.

When children and families require assistance from a department, agency, institution, committee, or commission of State government, the health and safety of the child is the paramount concern and reasonable efforts shall be made to provide such assistance in the least intrusive and least restrictive method consistent with the needs of the child and to deliver such assistance as close to the home community of the child or family requiring assistance as possible. 

The policy set forth in this section shall be applied as follows:

  • Interpreted in conjunction with all relevant laws, rules, and regulations of the State and shall apply to all children and families who have need of services
  • Implemented through the cooperative efforts of State, county, and municipal governments; legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government; and other public and private resources

The family policy objectives prescribed in this section and § 43-533 shall not be construed to mean that a child shall be left in the home when it is shown that continued residence in the home places the child at risk and does not make the health and safety of the child of paramount concern.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 43-533 

The following principles shall guide the actions of State government when involved with families and children in need of assistance or services:

  • Prevention, early identification of problems, and early intervention shall be guiding philosophies when the State plans or implements services for families or children, when such services are in the best interests of the child.
  • When families or children request assistance, State and local government resources shall be utilized to complement community efforts to help meet the needs of such families. The State shall encourage community involvement in the provision of services to families and children to encourage and provide innovative strategies in the development of services for families and children.
  • The State shall develop methods to coordinate services and resources for families and children. Every child-serving agency shall recognize that the jurisdiction of any agency serving children with multiple needs is not mutually exclusive.
  • When children are removed from their home, permanency planning shall be the guiding philosophy. It shall be the policy of the State:
    • To make reasonable efforts to reunite the child with their family in a timeframe appropriate to the age and developmental needs of the child as long as the best interests of the child—the health and safety of the child being of paramount concern—and the needs of the child have been given primary consideration in making a determination whether reunification is possible
    • When a child cannot remain with parents, to give preference to relatives as a placement resource
    • To minimize the number of placement changes for children in out-of-home care as long as the needs, health, safety, and best interests of the child in care are considered
  • When families cannot be reunited and when active parental involvement is absent, adoption shall be aggressively pursued. Absent the possibility of adoption, other permanent settings shall be pursued. In either situation, the health, safety, and best interests of the child shall be the overriding concerns. Preference shall be given to relatives for the permanent placement of the child.

Other Considerations

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 43-1311.02(9); 43-1502

A sibling of a child under the jurisdiction of the court shall have the right to intervene at any point in the proceedings for the limited purpose of seeking joint-sibling placement, sibling visitation, or ongoing interaction with their sibling.

The purpose of the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act is to clarify State policies and procedures regarding the implementation by the State of Nebraska of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act. It shall be the policy of the State to cooperate fully with Indian Tribes in Nebraska to ensure that the intent and provisions of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act are enforced. This cooperation includes recognition by the State that Indian Tribes have a continuing and compelling governmental interest in an Indian child regardless of whether the Indian child is in the physical or legal custody of a parent, an Indian custodian, or an Indian extended family member at the commencement of an Indian child custody proceeding or the Indian child has resided or is domiciled on an Indian reservation. The State is committed to protecting the essential Tribal relations and best interests of an Indian child by promoting practices consistent with the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act and other applicable law designed to prevent the Indian child's voluntary or involuntary out-of-home placement.