In this Douglas County courtroom, a dozen or so people routinely fill the chambers - lawyers, advocates, social workers. More often than not, the one person they are there to discuss is absent: the child.
The scene on a recent Tuesday was no exception.
The day started with a case of a missing teenager - a chronic runner. The judge was deciding where she should go once she resurfaced.
Then came the case of an almost 3-year-old boy whose foster parents wanted to adopt the child they had cared for since he was just 3 months old. Paperwork threatened to cause a delay.
About 10:30 a.m., a teenage boy shuffled in, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange jumpsuit. He was appealing his jail sentence.
But it was a case before lunch that was perhaps the most dramatic of the morning. Even before the judge entered, the mom in question - dressed in a striped skirt and high-heeled shoes - turned to her parents and told them she loved them. She told the judge she no longer objected to her parents caring for her two children - a change of mind.
She said she'd found a job, was looking for a place of her own and was willing to participate in family therapy. When the judge left the courtroom, family members embraced.
Presiding was Douglas County District Judge Jean Shepherd with short, cropped hair, stylish eyeglasses and a yellow, floral dress beneath her stern black robe.
In nearly 25 years on the bench, Shepherd has seen and heard it all before.
Any child who goes through the foster care system in Douglas County eventually will find their case in Shepherd's court. The judge decides whether children should be removed from their parents, if they should return home and if the parent and child should not be reunited and adoption begins.
The goal of the state's foster care system is to reintegrate children with their biological families. If that path fails, the next step is adoption, sometimes with the current foster care family.
"They are big decisions," Shepherd said. "Terminating someone's parental rights is sort of like a capital case, in that they are losing their children forever."
Overshadowing these decisions is a ticking clock.
"For a child that comes into custody at 3 months old, by the time he is a year, it's been four times his life span," Shepherd said when explaining her firm words earlier that morning after hearing an adoption had been put off because of more paperwork.
Shepherd, a mother of three, has seen hundreds of children grow up. Some have graduated from college, even earned law degrees. She has officiated at their weddings and a few have returned before the judge as parents whose children are about to enter foster care.
Her years on the job have given her perspective. She throws out suggestions on where to look for runaways, knows of the large family networks that envelop the county and has a running record of children's complicated case history.
But it isn't just Shepherd and the parents in the courtroom. Children older than 10 can sit in on hearings. Grandparents and foster families fill the gallery.
And attorneys - representing parents, potential adoptive parents, the district attorney's office and the child - are there. The hearings also attract representatives from agencies.
With so many different parties, it can be a struggle to remember it's the child that has brought everyone together, Shepherd said. But in the end it works.
"We've all made a real difference in their lives. A lot of people have been involved and that has been a good thing," Shepherd said.