A. The presiding judge of the juvenile court in each county may appoint an adult as a special advocate to be the guardian ad litem for a child who is the subject of a dependency action. The court shall make this appointment at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings. A child, through the child’s guardian ad litem or attorney, has the right to be informed of, to be present at and to be heard in any proceeding involving dependency or termination of parental rights.
B. The supreme court shall certify special advocates pursuant to rules adopted by the court. Court rules for certification shall include compliance with qualification standards prescribed by the court.
C. The appointment of the special advocate continues until the court relieves the advocate of the advocate’s responsibilities or until the court dismisses the action before it.
D. A special advocate serves without compensation but is entitled to reimbursement of expenses pursuant to guidelines prescribed by the supreme court by rule.
E. A special advocate shall:
1. Meet with the child.
2. Advocate for the child’s safety as the first priority.
3. Gather and provide independent, factual information to aid the court in making its decision regarding what is in the child’s best interest and in determining if reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removal of the child from the child’s home or to reunite the child with the child’s family.
4. Provide advocacy to ensure that appropriate case planning and services are provided for the child.
5. Perform other duties prescribed by the supreme court by rule.
F. A special advocate shall have access to all documents and information regarding the child and the child’s family without obtaining prior approval of the child, the child’s family or the court. All records and information the special advocate acquires, reviews or produces may only be disclosed as provided for in section 41-1959.
G. The special advocate shall receive notice of all hearings, staffings, investigations and other matters concerning the child. The special advocate shall have a right to participate in the formulation of any agreement, stipulation or case plan entered into regarding the child.
H. A special advocate is immune from civil or criminal liability for the advocate’s acts or omissions in connection with the authorized responsibilities the special advocate performs in good faith.