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The Florida Senate

2004 Florida Statutes

Legislative findings and declaration of intent for goals for dependent children.
Section 39.4085, Florida Statutes 2004

39.4085  Legislative findings and declaration of intent for goals for dependent children.--The Legislature finds and declares that the design and delivery of child welfare services should be directed by the principle that the health and safety of children should be of paramount concern and, therefore, establishes the following goals for children in shelter or foster care:

(1)  To receive a copy of this act and have it fully explained to them when they are placed in the custody of the department.

(2)  To enjoy individual dignity, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and the protection of their civil and legal rights as persons in the custody of the state.

(3)  To have their privacy protected, have their personal belongings secure and transported with them, and, unless otherwise ordered by the court, have uncensored communication, including receiving and sending unopened communications and having access to a telephone.

(4)  To have personnel providing services who are sufficiently qualified and experienced to assess the risk children face prior to removal from their homes and to meet the needs of the children once they are in the custody of the department.

(5)  To remain in the custody of their parents or legal custodians unless and until there has been a determination by a qualified person exercising competent professional judgment that removal is necessary to protect their physical, mental, or emotional health or safety.

(6)  To have a full risk, health, educational, medical and psychological screening and, if needed, assessment and testing upon adjudication into foster care; and to have their photograph and fingerprints included in their case management file.

(7)  To be referred to and receive services, including necessary medical, emotional, psychological, psychiatric, and educational evaluations and treatment, as soon as practicable after identification of the need for such services by the screening and assessment process.

(8)  To be placed in a home with no more than one other child, unless they are part of a sibling group.

(9)  To be placed away from other children known to pose a threat of harm to them, either because of their own risk factors or those of the other child.

(10)  To be placed in a home where the shelter or foster caregiver is aware of and understands the child's history, needs, and risk factors.

(11)  To be the subject of a plan developed by the counselor and the shelter or foster caregiver to deal with identified behaviors that may present a risk to the child or others.

(12)  To be involved and incorporated, where appropriate, in the development of the case plan, to have a case plan which will address their specific needs, and to object to any of the provisions of the case plan.

(13)  To receive meaningful case management and planning that will quickly return the child to his or her family or move the child on to other forms of permanency.

(14)  To receive regular communication with a caseworker, at least once a month, which shall include meeting with the child alone and conferring with the shelter or foster caregiver.

(15)  To enjoy regular visitation, at least once a week, with their siblings unless the court orders otherwise.

(16)  To enjoy regular visitation with their parents, at least once a month, unless the court orders otherwise.

(17)  To receive a free and appropriate education; minimal disruption to their education and retention in their home school, if appropriate; referral to the child study team; all special educational services, including, where appropriate, the appointment of a parent surrogate; the sharing of all necessary information between the school board and the department, including information on attendance and educational progress.

(18)  To be able to raise grievances with the department over the care they are receiving from their caregivers, caseworkers, or other service providers.

(19)  To be heard by the court, if appropriate, at all review hearings.

(20)  To have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent, within reason, their best interests and, where appropriate, an attorney ad litem appointed to represent their legal interests; the guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem shall have immediate and unlimited access to the children they represent.

(21)  To have all their records available for review by their guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem if they deem such review necessary.

(22)  To organize as a group for purposes of ensuring that they receive the services and living conditions to which they are entitled and to provide support for one another while in the custody of the department.

(23)  To be afforded prompt access to all available state and federal programs, including, but not limited to: Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Testing (EPSDT) services, developmental services programs, Medicare and supplemental security income, Children's Medical Services, and programs for severely emotionally disturbed children.

The provisions of this section establish goals and not rights. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as requiring the delivery of any particular service or level of service in excess of existing appropriations. No person shall have a cause of action against the state or any of its subdivisions, agencies, contractors, subcontractors, or agents, based upon the adoption of or failure to provide adequate funding for the achievement of these goals by the Legislature. Nothing herein shall require the expenditure of funds to meet the goals established herein except funds specifically appropriated for such purpose.

History.--s. 5, ch. 99-206.