Nebraska Revised Statute 43-1311.02
Placement of child and siblings; sibling visitation or ongoing interaction; motions authorized; court review; department; duties; right of sibling to intervene.
(1)(a) Reasonable efforts shall be made to place a child and the child's siblings in the same foster care placement or adoptive placement, unless such placement is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings. This requirement applies even if the custody orders of the siblings are made at separate times and even if the children have no preexisting relationship.
(b) If the siblings are not placed together in a joint-sibling placement, the Department of Health and Human Services shall provide the siblings and the court with the reasons why a joint-sibling placement would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings.
(2) When siblings are not placed together in a joint-sibling placement, the department shall make a reasonable effort to provide for frequent sibling visitation or ongoing interaction between the child and the child's siblings unless the department provides the siblings and the court with reasons why such sibling visitation or ongoing interaction would be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings. The court shall determine the type and frequency of sibling visitation or ongoing interaction to be implemented by the department. The court shall make a determination as to whether reasonable efforts have been made by the department to facilitate sibling placement and sibling visitation or other ongoing interaction and whether such placement and visitation or other ongoing interaction is contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings.
(3) The department shall file a written sibling placement report as required by subsection (3) of section 43-285. Such a report shall include the reasonable efforts of the department to locate the child’s siblings and, if a joint-sibling placement is made, whether such placement continues to be consistent with the safety and well-being of the children. If joint-sibling placement is not possible, the report shall include the reasons why a joint-sibling placement is and continues to be contrary to the safety or well-being of any of the siblings, the department’s continuing reasonable efforts to place a child with a sibling in the same foster care or adoptive placement, and the department’s continuing reasonable efforts to facilitate sibling visitation.
(4) Parties to the case, including a child's sibling, may file a motion for joint-sibling placement, sibling visitation, or ongoing interaction between siblings.
(5) The court shall periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the joint-sibling placement, sibling visitation, or ongoing interaction between siblings.
(6) If an order is entered for termination of parental rights of siblings who are subject to this section, unless the court has suspended or terminated joint-sibling placement, sibling visitation, or ongoing interaction between siblings, the department shall make reasonable efforts to make a joint-sibling placement or do all of the following to facilitate frequent sibling visitation or ongoing interaction between the child and the child's siblings when the child is adopted or enters a permanent placement: (a) Include in the training provided to prospective adoptive parents information regarding the importance of sibling relationships to an adopted child and counseling methods for maintaining sibling relationships; (b) provide prospective adoptive parents with information regarding the child's siblings; and (c) encourage prospective adoptive parents to plan for facilitating post-adoption contact between the child and the child's siblings.
(7) Any information regarding court-ordered or authorized joint-sibling placement, sibling visitation, or ongoing interaction between siblings shall be provided by the department to the parent or parents if parental rights have not been terminated unless the court determines that doing so would be contrary to the safety or well-being of the child and to the foster parent, relative caretaker, guardian, prospective adoptive parent, and child as soon as reasonably possible following the entry of the court order or authorization as necessary to facilitate the sibling time.
(8) For purposes relative to the administration of the federal foster care program and the state plans pursuant to Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act, as such act existed on January 1, 2015, the term sibling means an individual considered to be a sibling under Nebraska law or an individual who would have been considered a sibling but for a termination of parental rights or other disruption of parental rights such as death of a parent.
(9) 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.
(10) This section shall not be construed to subordinate the rights of foster or adoptive parents of a child to the rights of the parents of a sibling of that child or to subordinate the rights of an adoptive, foster, or biological parent to the rights of a child seeking sibling placement or visitation.
Despite the Legislature's creation of new duties for the Department of Health and Human Services to preserve sibling relationships, it has not created a private right of action for an adjudicated child's sibling to enforce the department's duties under section 43-1311.01 and this section. Instead, subsection (3) of this section specifically limits the right to enforce these duties to parties. In re Interest of Nizigiyimana R., 295 Neb. 324, 889 N.W.2d 362 (2016).
Under this section and section 43-1311.01, the Department of Health and Human Services' duties to make reasonable efforts to implement a joint-sibling placement do not depend upon the continued existence of the parent-child relationship with each of the siblings. The department's duties exist even if the siblings' custody orders were entered at separate times, even if a court has terminated a parent's relationship with each child, and even if the siblings have not previously lived together. Additionally, the department's duties regarding siblings do not depend on whether both siblings are adjudicated under section 43-247 or whether the department has placement authority for both siblings. Instead, the Legislature intended for the department to develop and maintain an adjudicated child's sibling relationships in a variety of circumstances. In re Interest of Nizigiyimana R., 295 Neb. 324, 889 N.W.2d 362 (2016).