“At the core of the intent of the rule is the child’s right to be present.”

Upon consideration, we adopt the amendments to rule 8.255(b) as proposed by the Committee in its revised proposal. The amendments address the right of a child to be present at all hearings in dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings, as well as the duty of the trial judge to make the appropriate best interest determinations regarding the child’s presence. Subdivision (b)(1) states that the child has the right to be present at “all hearings.” Moreover, new subdivision (b)(3) is added requiring that, if the child is not present, the court shall inquire and determine the reason for the child’s absence. The trial judge must then determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to conduct the hearing without the presence of the child, or to continue the hearing so as to allow the child the opportunity to be present. Under new subdivision (b)(2), if the child is present at the hearing, the court may excuse the child if it would not be in the child’s best
interest to remain.

In re Amendments to the Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.255 (Fla. 2012). 


Haste Makes Waste – Insufficient Orders Reversed and Remanded

As predicted, both of these orders got reversed.

Insufficient dependency order reversed and remanded: A.F. v. DCF, — So. 3d —- (Fla. 3rd DCA 2012). Oral argument here. Dependency orders require specific findings, not just a list of witnesses.

Insufficient permanent guardianship order reversed and remanded: M.G. v. DCF, — So. 3d —- (Fla. 3rd DCA). Oral argument here. The Third agrees that a permanent guardianship order must set a minimum visitation schedule and cannot completely delegate to the permanent guardian.

Egregious Failure to Believe

K.G. argues that there is insufficient evidence of egregious conduct. She claims that the father never showed frustration or anger toward the child. K.G. also points to the conflicting medical testimony about the cause of the injuries. Instead of termination, K.G. wants a case plan with a goal of reunification. For the well-being of this child, we cannot agree with K.G.

K.G. refused to acknowledge that the child suffered injuries from which she likely will never fully recover. Faced with Dr. Brooks’ and Dr. Alexander’s opinions, the apparent frustration displayed that night by the father over the child’s fussiness, and her own doubts, K.G. has refused to recognize the father’s conduct. K.G. made clear that she will continue her relationship with the father and will remarry him. K.G. has placed her self-interest above the well-being of the child. The trial court had ample evidence to conclude that K.G. will not protect the child from the person who caused the severe injuries. The evidence of egregious conduct was clear and convincing.

In re S.V.B., — So. 3d —-, 2012 WL 1366724 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012).

Judge Davis, in dissent, believes that the mother’s inability to believe cannot be considered egregious in light of the fact that she wasn’t on notice of possible injuries and there was conflicting medical testimony about the possible sources of the injuries. “K.G. is faced with a horrible dilemma: should she believe the father of her child in his protestations of innocence or should she accept the doctor’s findings that the child has been abused when she knows the father to be the only one with the opportunity to inflict such abuse.” Judge Davis would give a case plan.

Too Many, Too Much, Too Young – Oversight of Psychotropic Medication for Children in Foster Care

I was prepared to eye-roll, but this ACYF memo is the most comprehensive government document on psych meds I have seen yet.

Until all drugs are properly studied in the populations for which they are being used, the lack of specific evidence-based recommendations reinforces the need for close supervision and monitoring for patients receiving psychotropic medication for off-label uses.

What tasks can be in a case plan?

Only tasks “[]relevant to the issue that resulted in the dependency and [] meaningfully designed to address the issue that resulted in [the child’s] removal from the home.” In re. G.S., — So. 3d. —-, 2012 WL 1193358 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012). In this case, the dependency was based on the child’s lack of parent or custodian. The trial court, however, ordered DV, parenting, and substance abuse services in the case plan. The Second reverses, saying to create a new case plan that only addresses the issue of the dependency. I suppose that’s a plane ticket.

Juvenile in Justice

If you have not seen the Juvenile-In-Justice blog yet, you should. Stark pictures of a system that is not living up to anyone’s expectations.

From wired.com:

The resulting photo-survey, Juvenile-In-Justice, documents 350 facilities in over 30 states. It’s more than a peek into unseen worlds — it is a call to action and care.

“I grew up in a world where you solve problems, you don’t destroy a population,” says Ross. “To me it is an affront when I see the way some of these kids are dealt with.”

Oral Argument: Can you delegate visitation parameters to permanent guardian?

My apologies for the technical difficulties: this is only audio. 

Court: Florida Third District Court of Appeal

Judges: Shepherd, Rothenberg, Emas

Attorneys: Kevin Colbert for the Mother; Karla Perkins for DCF

Issues: whether a permanent guardianship order can delegate the parental visitation parameters to the permanent guardian; DCF separately concedes that findings on this order were not sufficient and requests remand.

Prediction: Most likely a remand with instructions to set minimum visitation.