SIJ Status Denied Because of Bad Juvenile Court Findings

However, the [Nebraska] juvenile court did not make a finding that the petitioner’s reunification with one or both of his parents “is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law,” as required by section 101(a)(27)(J)(i) of the Act. Although the temporary guardianship order indicated that the petitioner “may be eligible for long term foster care as defined” by the Act and the regulation, see Letters of Temporary Guardianship, (emphasis added), the court did not make the requisite determination that family reunification was not viable. Further, the record contains no evidence to support a finding of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Although counsel states that the petitioner’s solo and difficult journey to the United States must have been “to escape abuse, neglect or abandonment by his parents,” Brief on Appeal at 5, the juvenile court made no such finding. Accordingly, the petitioner has not met his burden of showing eligibility for SIJ classification.

IN RE: [IDENTIFYING INFORMATION REDACTED BY AGENCY], 2011 WL 7790475 (INS).

The Nebraska court here was tracking the old language that the child is “eligible for long term foster care.” In Florida, the term “eligible for long term foster care” is statutorily defined as “reunification with a child’s parent is not an appropriate option for permanency for the child.” § 39.5057(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2011). This redefinition is obviously confusing and does not exactly track the federal regulations. PRO TIP: Always include both the required Florida and the Federal findings and language in a Best Interests Order.

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