The Florida foster care/ dependency system can be extremely difficult to understand and navigate.
Dependency Court: The court process is initiated by a call to the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE. Depending on the nature of the maltreatment reported the Florida Department of Children and Families Child Protective Investigator is required to make contact with the child within 24 hours. The initial on site investigation will usually include an inspection of the child’s home. If the investigation determines that the child is at imminent risk of harm, the child is removed from the caregiver’s home and placed with a relative, a foster parent or a non-licensed placement. This is when the court system begins.
In Florida, the Florida Statute, Chapter 39 and the federal laws such as Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) govern the dependency system. ASFA, passed by Congress in 1997, gives foster parents, including pre-adoptive parents, relatives and caregivers of the children, the right to notice and to be heard in certain court hearings. By passing this section of the federal law, Congress recognized that foster parents and caregivers provide valuable information to the court.
Likewise, the federal requires that the state make reasonable efforts to enable the biological parents rehabilitate themselves and regain custody of their child. This is called reunification. When reunification is not possible due to the parent’s non-compliance with their Case Plan and a determination is made by the Court that reunification is not in the child’s best interest, then the Court will proceed with other permanency options, such as adoption or permanent guardianship.
Although the state and federal laws set forth timeframes for the parents to achieve reunification with the child, often times, the “dependency system” does not work as timely and efficiently as a child deserves it to work, and thus permanency for a child, is often times delayed.
Whether you are a biological parent, caregiver or pre-adoptive foster parent, our firm will pro-actively and aggressively represent you in your dependency court matter in order to achieve the permanency goal that is consistent with the best interest of the child.
Our firm has passionately represented many caregivers involved in the Dependency system, Unified Family Court, and Termination of Parental Rights cases.