Section 39.01(51), Florida Statutes (2010), defines “party” to include “the petitioner.” Because the grandparents are petitioners in the trial court, they are not “essentially” parties, they are parties. Thus, we determine that they have standing to challenge the order. In addition, the effect of the order is to prohibit the grandfather from living with his wife, which affects his legal rights.
Reading subsection (2) on legislative intent as a whole with the remainder of section 39.0139 supports the conclusion that the Act is intended to apply to children who have been sexually abused or exploited. Based on the legislature’s express statement of intent to protect and reduce the risk of further harm to children who have been sexually abused or exploited, it appears that the Act does not apply to S.C. Thus, the trial court applied the incorrect law, thereby departing from the essential requirements of the law in ordering that the grandfather have no contact with his grandson based on the Act.
In re S.C., — So.3d —-, 2012 WL 246466 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012) (January 27, 2012).
Grandparents and foster parents have been trying to get standing in dependency cases for a long time. They’ve been limited, however, by the definition of “a party” in Chapter 39, which explicitly does not include them. This is the stepping stone case that they’ve been waiting for: to get standing, they have to be petitioners. The next step will be to join the Department’s petition as a private petitioner and see what happens. It will be interesting to see if future courts read the “affects his legal rights” language to be an implicit requirement of “some additional standing” that the court seems to have dismissed two sentences earlier.
The KCSA ruling is not surprising. Despite the Act’s good intentions, it tends to wreak havoc on justice, and for a while it was considered patently unconstitutional by everyone who read it.
Attorneys: Kevin Colbert for the Mother, Denis Burger for the Father, FIU College of Law Family and Child Advocacy Clinic for minor child A.M.; Hillary Kambour for the GAL Program, Karla Perkins for DCF, another AAL for the minor child M.M.
Issue: whether the mother received sufficient services and time; whether there was evidence to show the mother presented a continuing threat of harm (i.e., that she was still in a relationship with the violent father); whether the father received appropriate services; whether the GAL Program had a conflict of interest requiring reversal; whether the trial court properly considered the child A.M.’s wishes.
Psychotropic Medication bills, HB 1405 and SB 1808 and have been filed in the House and the Senate. Running the bills through DiffPDF, it appears they are substantially the same as SB 2718 and HB 1567, which were filed in 2010, with some cosmetic changes. For example, both the House and the Senate bills still have the same likely typos in them that I spotted in 2010.
I wrote some off-the-cuff analyses of those bills in four parts back then:
I don’t know how much of the above I still stand by, so don’t hold me to it.
Recall that in 2010 the bills allegedly died due to push-back from doctors who wanted less paperwork/didn’t want to be conscripted into the case planning element of dependency/etc. If this is true, it was a failure of public education. The bills as far as I can see do not add any new requirements on doctors beyond what they already do: see children and write a report explaining their treatment plans for the court to review.
What’s new is that this bill elevates the doctor’s treatment plan to case plan status, where the Department is then obligated to implement that plan as they would any service provided to a parent. From the physician’s perspective of having the child’s well-being foremost in their mind and having healthy skepticism about the Department’s ability or willingness to follow through with treatment recommendations, this is an important and powerful tool to improve the care of children in the system.
Over the last couple of years, the Department has promulgated administrative rules to cover psychotropic medication and we learned a great deal through that process. I think the 2010 bills were good but could be made even better. I look forward to seeing what can be accomplished.
Attorneys: Thomas Butler for the mother; Hillary Kambour for GAL Program; Karla Perkins for DCF (joining GAL’s OA)
Issue: Whether the evidence established that termination of the mother’s rights was the least restrictive means; whether the trial court’s order made sufficient findings of least restrictive means; whether mother has a right to confrontation; whether alleged evidence errors constituted an unfair trial.