Secretary Wilkins Fixes DCF, Goes to Disney World

The man in charge of the Florida Department of Children and Families has a new job to add to his current one and that’s raising some concerns. Gov. Rick Scott is making David Wilkins Florida’s new Chief Operating Officer for Government Operations. Wilkins will take on that job and continue to serve as secretary of […]

Third DCA Rejects Fifth’s Interpretation of 39.507(7) – All Parents to be Treated Equally

Furthermore, we reject DCF’s confession of error based on the Fifth District’s holding in P.S. that section 39.507(7) of the Florida Statutes prohibits a supplemental adjudication of dependency based on prospective abuse or neglect. In P.S., as here, the mother consented to DCF’s petition for dependency and the trial court entered an order adjudicating the children dependent. The father, however, challenged the […]

Fifth DCA Says No Written Interrogatories in Dependency Cases

Petitioner correctly contends that discovery in juvenile proceedings is governed by rule 8.245 and that the discovery tools authorized are limited. The rule permits production of documents and things for inspection and other purposes [rule 8.245(d) ], production of documents and things without deposition [rule 8.245(e) ] and depositions [rule 8.245(g) ]. The juvenile rules do allow for the use […]

Third DCA Says that DCF Can’t Penalize RTI Recipients for Changing School Programs

The Department’s interpretation of these provisions in connection with the renewal of Ms. Enich’s stipend altered the plain meaning of the statute. See Bennett v. St. Vincent’s Med. Ctr., Inc., 71 So. 2d 828, 841 (Fla. 2011). The Department imposed a more stringent set of requirements upon Enich than the statute actually requires. In concluding […]

“The Department’s position amounted to nothing more than parroted statutory phrases”

But even if the circuit court’s characterization were accurate, it could not serve as a legal basis for terminating N.F.’s parental rights. As mentioned, simply failing to complete a case plan, as such, is not ground for terminating parental rights. Rather, evidence of neglect or abuse can only be based on a failure to “substantially comply,” i.e., fail […]

Dependency Plea Vacated Based on Permanency Goal Bait-and-Switch

As a general rule, a party who receives notice of a disposition hearing will be found to have notice that the trial court may consider any and all disposition options authorized by law. However, in the instant case, the consent plea form recited that the plea was entered based on the understanding that the trial […]

Who Pays for Expert Depos in TPR Cases?

This case presents this question: As between two agencies funded by state government, which should bear the responsibility for an expert witness fee incurred in a deposition taken in a termination of parental rights proceeding? In the absence of any statutory direction, we hold that the Florida Rules of Juvenile and Civil Procedure apply to […]

Can you Seek TPR of Some Siblings but not Others under LRM? Yes.

In challenging the final judgment terminating her rights, appellant mother claims that the trial court’s finding that termination was the least restrictive means of protecting the child from harm, as required by Padgett v. Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services, 577 So. 2d 565 (Fla. 1991), was not supported by competent substantial evidence. In particular, […]

First DCA Hammers DCF on Failure to Prove Harm

“[T]o support a finding of dependency, the parent’s harmful behavior must pose a present threat to the child based on current circumstances.” C.W. v. Dep’t of Children & Fams., 10 So.3d 136, 138 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).“[I]n the absence of actual abuse, abandonment, or neglect, a finding of  dependency can be made if prospective abuse, abandonment, or […]