Articles Tagged with DCF

Scales-of-Justice-Gold-300x277Investigations by the Florida Department of Children and Families begin with allegations that a child or vulnerable adult has been abandoned, neglected, or abused. It is the role of the Florida Department of Children and Families to take each allegation seriously and to ensure that claim is investigated to ensure the safety of all individuals involved.   Being involved in an investigation is stressful and causes many to worry about losing legal rights to a child or a grandchild. This, in turn, leaves many to wonder if they should contact a Florida Family Law Attorney to protect their parental rights.

Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) cases start with allegations that are forwarded to law enforcement or directly to DCF.  An investigator is sent out to visit the child, parents, and any other adults who may have relevant information regarding the allegations.   Usually, at that time, an investigator will not only interview the alleged victim, but also will assess the conditions of the home or place that the incident is alleged to have occurred.   Upon review, the investigative team will determine whether there are facts that give rise to the case going to court and whether the child should remain in the home during the pendency of the DCF investigation and court case.

While these types of investigations can involve criminal matters like domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse, the DCF investigation and resulting case are not criminal charges.   Under Florida Statutes Chapter 39, the State of Florida has a duty to children and vulnerable adults to protect them from abuse, neglect, and abandonment through a civil court, which can result in the child being removed from the home and ultimately to the loss of parental rights.  These are serious cases and should not be taken lightly.

363466_more_travel_teddies_series_n Recently in the Florida 2016 Legislative Session some new bills were passed which greatly affect the way child welfare cases under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families is handled. One of the biggest changes now requires the court to consider the child’s best interests when considering making a transfer of a child from custody to a placement with a prospective adoptive parent. Prior to this change of the bill the court was only required to evaluate the appropriateness of the placement. The change seeks to eliminate the circumstances in which a placement may be appropriate, in that the prospective adoptive parents are deemed a satisfactory caretaker, but that alone does not mean changing a child’s placement would be in their best interests.
The statute now evaluates the following factors regarding the best interests of the children: the permanency of the placement, the bond between the child and the current caregiver, the stability of the adoptive home, the importance of maintaining sibling relationships, the preferences of the child (if the child is of sufficient maturity), whether a petition to terminate the parental rights of the child’s biological family has been filed, and if the parent has any remaining rights to determine the appropriate placement of the child. If the Court finds that the adoption would be in the child’s best interests the court will transfer the custody of the child over to the prospective adoptive parents. This change to the statute may cause a large amount of the older aged department placements to remain in their current placements rather than with the prospective adopting parents. The older children who are dependents of the State will have a greater voice in determining their possible adoption. Typically with older placements they do not wish to continue to be placed in different homes, they will now be able to express that desire and a full evaluation of the interests of that child will take place, rather than just an evaluation of the placement.
This different evaluation will be completed only after a Motion to Intervene is filed by an adoption agency. The dependency system is difficult to navigate. The mere arrival of DCF on your door step will cause a number of questions to arise. It is essential that families who have children that have been placed under the care of the state understand their rights.