Nebraska's Tool Kit for Systems Involved in the Education of Students in Out-of-Home Care

Tool D-1
FAQ: Nebraska DHHS - Office of Juvenile Services

Part Three: Juvenile & Criminal Justice Systems
Section D. Nebraska DHHS - Office of Juvenile Services


three high school students siting togetherThe following summarizes questions often posed about the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Children and Family Services’ Office of Juvenile Services (DHHS-OJS), which includes the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) located in Geneva and Kearney. The responses are based on Nebraska statute, administrative rules, regulations and State agency memoranda. While statutory law, rules and regulations may address these topics in general terms, familiarity and discussion as to how OJS policies, procedures and protocols may relate to a particular youth under a specific set of circumstances is recommended as a matter of “best practice” and may greatly assist in advocating for that student and achievement of his or her academic and vocational goals.

In January of 2011, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) transferred case management functions in the Eastern and Southeastern Service Areas of the state to private contractors in the child welfare and juvenile services system as part of the Nebraska Families Matter Reform. The goal of this reform is to improve the outcomes of child and community safety, permanency and well-being for children, youth and families.

Private contractor caseworkers, known as Family Permanency Specialists, will handle certain case management functions which were performed by DHHS Children and Family Services Specialists (CFSS) prior to the Reform. DHHS staff in the Eastern and Southeastern Service Areas are now known as Children and Family Outcome Monitors (CFOM) and will take on a new role of monitoring outcomes and analyzing data as well as continuing to make key decisions as required by Nebraska statute. For more information about the Nebraska Families Matter: Child Welfare and Juvenile Services Reform, refer to the Families Matter website: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/children_family_services/OHReform/index.htm

 

For more information about the Nebraska Juvenile Services Act, Office of Juvenile Services and Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, refer to Nebraska Revised Statutes §43-401 to 43-423. Additional information is available on the following DHHS websites:

 

Office of Juvenile Services


1. What is the Office of Juvenile Services (OJS)?

The Office of Juvenile Services is part of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Children and Family Services (DHHS). The Office of Juvenile Services provides supervision, case management, programming and treatment services for youth adjudicated as delinquent and committed to its care and custody by the Juvenile Court. This includes those who are:

  • “Direct commitments” to DHHS-OJS who receive community-based treatment services while remaining in the parental home or an out-of-home placement;
  • Committed to a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC); and
  • Released from a YRTC and have returned to the community on parole.

The Office of Juvenile Services is also responsible for the administration of the YRTCs in Geneva and Kearney.
(Source: Nebraska Revised Statutes (NRS) §43-404 to 43-406)

2. What is the role of a Juvenile Services Officer (JSO)?
A Juvenile Services Officer is assigned to every youth upon commitment to DHHS-OJS. The JSO’s primary role as case manager is to guide the juvenile toward successful completion of his or her Case Plan while enforcing compliance with the Conditions of Liberty Agreement, thereby reducing the risk of re-offending. To accomplish this, the JSO ensures safety issues for both the youth and the community are addressed through direct supervision and monitoring. Private contractor caseworkers (Family Permanency Specialists) may assist with ongoing case management, supervision, monitoring and treatment services needed by the youth and the family.

The JSO’s role is similar to a “Juvenile Parole Officer” as they have the statutory authority to do the following:

  • Apprehend and detain youth who are attempting to or have absconded (e.g., escape from an YRTC, escape or lack of cooperation with an OJS Evaluation, or failure to comply with the Conditions of Liberty);
  • Apprehend and detain youth who have violated or are about to violate the Conditions of Liberty;
  • Search and seize contraband and evidence related to possible parole violations; and
  • Issue written notice of alleged parole violations and Revocation Hearings.
    (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-410; NRS §43-411; and NRS §43-418)

3. What is the difference between a Juvenile Services Officer and a Probation Officer?
A Probation Officer is an employee of the Nebraska State Probation Administration, while a Juvenile Services Officer is an employee of DHHS–OJS. Both provide community-based supervision, monitoring and case management of youth who have violated the law. During a Disposition Hearing, the Juvenile Court Judge will make the determination as to which State agency is responsible for supervising and meeting the needs of a juvenile who has been adjudicated as delinquent. The parents typically retain custody when a youth is placed on probation while a juvenile committed to DHHS-OJS becomes a State ward.

For more information about Probation Officers and Juveniles on Probation, refer to the Systems Tool Kit - Part Three, Section B. Nebraska’s Probation System. Additional topics related to juveniles under the jurisdiction of the Court for law violations are addressed in the Systems Tool Kit - Part Three, Section A. Nebraska’s Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems.

 

Office of Juvenile Services Evaluations and Comments


1. What is an Office of Juvenile Services Evaluation?

To assist in determining an appropriate disposition, the Juvenile Court Judge may temporarily place a youth adjudicated as delinquent with DHHS–OJS for an evaluation prior to the Disposition Hearing. An OJS Evaluation is conducted in either a community-based or residential setting by a contracted agency. In addition to a comprehensive evaluation of the youth’s social, physical, psychological and education needs, the OJS Evaluation includes DHHS-OJS staff’s recommendations as to an appropriate treatment plan, including:

  • Whether the youth should be committed to DHHS-OJS or placed on probation;
  • The “level of restrictiveness” needed in the initial residential placement; and
  • The level of mental health and/or substance abuse treatment needed.
    (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-281; NRS §43-403(4), (5) and (6); and NRS §43-413 to 43-415)

2. What is included in an OJS Evaluation?
The OJS Evaluation includes an in-depth “clinical assessment” and “initial classification”. The Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Assessment (CCAA) is a multidisciplinary “clinical assessment” of the youth’s behavioral, mental health and substance abuse treatment needs. The “initial classification” portion of the OJS Evaluation is
DHHS-OJS’ initial categorization of the juvenile’s required level of supervision and structure from a community safety perspective. There are four (4) possible supervision levels based on risk of re-offending and individual treatment needs. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-406(1)-(2); and NRS §43-413 to 43-415)

3. What happens when a juvenile is committed to the Office of Juvenile Services?
Once a youth is committed to DHHS-OJS during the Disposition Hearing, he or she becomes a State ward. The Juvenile Court Judge orders an “initial level of treatment” which refers to the “level of restrictiveness” of the initial residential placement. Despite the name, it does not refer to treatment per se. There are three (3) “initial levels of treatment”, ranging from less restrictive to most restrictive:

  • Continuing to reside in the parental home;
  • Community-based out-of-home placement (e.g., foster care, group home or residential treatment program); or
  • Commitment to a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center.

While the Juvenile Court is authorized to decide the “initial level of treatment” from the above options, it cannot order a specific placement for the youth. DHHS-OJS is responsible for determining the specific placement and treatment services to best address the needs of the juvenile and reduce the probability of further delinquent behavior. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-286(1)-(2); and NRS §43-407 to 43-408)

4. What type of treatment services are provided through the Office of Juvenile Services?

In addition to determining the appropriate placement, DHHS-OJS is responsible for arranging and ensuring treatment services are provided to youth committed to its care and custody. The type of treatment may include individual, group and/or family counseling, as well as programs and services which address the following:

  • Behavioral impairments, emotional disturbances, mental health or psychiatric disorders;
  • Substance abuse and addiction;
  • Sexual offender behaviors;
  • Health and medical needs;
  • Physical or sexual abuse;
  • Maltreatment and dysfunctional family relationships; and
  • Education and vocational needs.
    (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-407)

Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers


1. What is a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC)?

The Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers, operated by DHHS-OJS, are staff secure institutional facilities for juveniles who have been adjudicated as delinquent and subsequently committed to DHHS-OJS for placement at a YRTC by the Juvenile Court. The YRTC in Geneva serves females between twelve (12) and eighteen (18) years of age, while the YRTC in Kearney serves their male counterparts. In addition to the treatment services listed above, both facilities provide medical and dental care, recreational and religious activities, individual and group rehabilitation programs, and supervised community service. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-251.01(2) and (4); and NRS §43-407)

2. What type of education programs are provided at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers?
The Kearney West High School and Geneva North School are Special Purpose Schools operated by the YRTCs. These schools, along with public schools and private schools, are accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education through ”Rule 10: Regulations and Procedures for the Accreditation of Schools”. These Special Purpose Schools have the same authority and responsibilities as public schools, including being able to award academic credits and high school diplomas to their students. The curriculum is similar to what is provided in public schools, including mandatory and elective courses. This includes instruction in the core curriculum areas of Reading / Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, as well as Personal Health, Physical Education, Visual and Performing Arts and Career Education. In addition to Rule 10’s curriculum requirements, the YRTC academic program is statutorily required to include classes in health education, behavior management and modification, family and parent responsibilities, substance abuse awareness, physical education, independent living skills, vocational and job skills training, and job placement assistance.

Academic credits earned for coursework completed by students while at a YRTC can be transferred to the receiving school upon their release from the facility. Students meeting graduation requirements may receive their high school diploma while at the YRTC or after return to public school. The YRTCs also provide General Education Development (GED) preparatory courses as well GED testing through outside sources. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-407; and Nebraska Department of Education - Title 92 NAC Chapter 10-113.04 and 10-113.05)

3. Under what circumstances is a juvenile released from a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center?
The two (2) primary types of release from a YRTC are “parole” and “institutional discharge”. Recommendations regarding the juvenile’s readiness for release are made by the staff to the YRTC Administrator. A youth is typically considered ready for release on “parole” once his or her program goals are completed or treatment needs have been identified which can be better addressed in a community setting. Upon “parole” from a YRTC, the youth is conditionally released into the community for aftercare under the direct supervision and monitoring of a Juvenile Services Officer.

When an “institutional discharge” occurs, the youth is released from the YRTC without subsequent supervision and monitoring by a JSO. Following this type of release, the juvenile is no longer under the care and custody of DHHS-OJS. The YRTC Administrator has the ultimate decision-making authority regarding release on “parole” while the OJS Administrator must give approval for an “institutional discharge”. (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-403(5); NRS §43-412; and NRS §43-416 to 43-417)

 

Conditions of Liberty


1. What is a Conditions of Liberty (COL) Agreement?

The Conditions of Liberty Agreement is a behavioral contract identifying the rules, expectations and special conditions a juvenile committed to DHHS-OJS must comply with while under community-based supervision and monitoring. Both youth who are “direct commitments” and “parolees”, as well as their parents or out-of-home caregiver and their Juvenile Services Officer, must sign and agree to the Agreement. The Conditions of Liberty support the youth’s Case Plan, providing accountability and addressing the following:

  • Place of residence;
  • Curfew;
  • School and employment;
  • Laws, directives and responsibilities;
  • Associates (peers);
  • Motor vehicle use;
  • Narcotic and intoxicant use;
  • Possession and use of weapons;
  • Consent to searches;
  • Travel restrictions;
  • Marriage;
  • Any special conditions; and
  • Possible consequences for failing to comply with the COL Agreement.
    (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-416)

2. What school-related requirements are included in the Conditions of Liberty Agreement?
Requirements related to education are included under the Conditions of Liberty - School Conditions section. When applicable, the youth must comply with the following:

  • Immediate enrollment in a full-time school program or GED program, with attendance every school day;
  • Full cooperation with school officials; and
  • No change in the education program without permission from the Juvenile Service Officer or approved party.

3. What happens if a juvenile committed to the Office of Juvenile Services violates the Conditions of Liberty Agreement?
There will be cases where prevention efforts and supervision do not eliminate behavioral problems. The Juvenile Services Officer may adjust the youth’s level of restrictiveness and supervision, using consequences and graduated sanctions as a progressive response to rule violations and misconduct. Failure to comply with those conditions can result in the following:

  • A youth who is a “direct commitment” returns to Juvenile Court for a formal review and determination of whether a more restrictive placement is needed (e.g., out-of-home placement or YRTC).
  • If there is probable cause to believe that a youth on “parole” has violated the Conditions of Liberty, parole may be revoked and the juvenile returned to the YRTC.
    (Source: Nebraska Revised Statute §43-416; and NRS §43-418 to 43-423)

 

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