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Say What? A Mini Dictionary of the Juvenile Court, Part I

Every field of specialization has its own vocabulary, and the Nebraska juvenile code is no different.  As a new legislative session begins and hundreds of bills are offered up for consideration, we here at Voices thought a quick (non-exclusive) list of definitions and commonly used acronyms might be helpful to increase understanding as these terms get thrown around in bills, in testimony, and on the floor.  This post is the first in a series intending to provide some clarification on this unique language.  In Part I today, we take up types of cases and hearings seen in the juvenile justice and child welfare realms.

Type of case:

Nebraska Revised Statute §43-247 grants the juvenile court jurisdiction over children and their families in multiple situations, and different types of court cases are often referred to by their location in this statute, such as:

3(a): Cases where the court has jurisdiction over the child because the parent has been accused of abuse or neglect.  A subdivision of these cases are classified as “no fault”: through no fault of the parent, something going on with the child requires state intervention.

3(b): Also called status cases.  Cases where the minor is accused of engaging in behavior such as truancy, use of alcohol, or ungovernability, that would not be a crime if an adult committed the act.

3(c): Cases where the child has been identified as mentally ill and dangerous to herself or others.

Delinquency: Cases where the child has been charged with a criminal act, whether felony, misdemeanor, or certain types of traffic infractions.

Recent waves of reform in Nebraska have also underscored the importance of deinstitutionalization and minimizing court involvement where possible.  We now have several initiatives aimed at keeping these cases out of court, including;

Alternative Response (AR): A program allowing families to access necessary assistance and maintain children safely in their homes through voluntary, non-court involvement with child welfare services.

Diversion and Civil Citation: Mechanisms by which youth who have committed criminal or status offenses can take responsibility for their actions, engage in rehabilitative services, and make reparations to the community without the expense and delay of court involvement.

Crossover Youth: An initiative aimed at addressing the particular needs of children who have been the subject of abuse or neglect proceedings, who have gone on to commit delinquent or status offenses.

Types of Hearings:

Detention/Protective Custody: A hearing required by the Constitution when the state is asking for a child to be removed from his home, either to be detained on a delinquency case, or taken into protective custody (foster care) on a parent case.

Adjudication: The point at which the court considers whether jurisdiction is proper.  Can be either by trial or plea.

Dispo: The disposition hearing, where the court gives orders to the child or family. Similar to sentencing in the criminal court, except that in the juvenile court, dispositional orders are intended to be rehabilitative rather than punitive.

Review and Permanency Planning: Periodic hearings at which the court considers the long-term permanency goals of the case, and whether any changes to orders are required.

Motion to Revoke: A hearing held in a delinquency or status case, where the state alleges the child has failed to follow through with a term of her probation, and usually asks the court to impose a new set of orders.

TPR: Termination of Parental Rights, a hearing in a 3(A) case at which the court considers whether to sever the parental relationship.


Do you have experience in juvenile justice or child welfare and think there is a type of case or hearing that we’ve missed?  Add it in the comments below!  And check back next week for Part II, when we will take up common players, documents, and services.

Thank you to taking the time to share!

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