2021 Florida Statutes (Including 2021B Session)
Permanency determination by the court.
Permanency determination by the court.
39.621 Permanency determination by the court.—
(1) Time is of the essence for permanency of children in the dependency system. A permanency hearing must be held no later than 12 months after the date the child was removed from the home or within 30 days after a court determines that reasonable efforts to return a child to either parent are not required, whichever occurs first. The purpose of the permanency hearing is to determine when the child will achieve the permanency goal or whether modifying the current goal is in the best interest of the child. A permanency hearing must be held at least every 12 months for any child who continues to be supervised by the department or awaits adoption.
(2) The permanency goal of maintaining and strengthening the placement with a parent may be used in all of the following circumstances:
(a) If a child has not been removed from a parent, even if adjudication of dependency is withheld, the court may leave the child in the current placement with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
(b) If a child has been removed from a parent and is placed with the parent from whom the child was not removed, the court may leave the child in the placement with the parent from whom the child was not removed with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
(c) If a child has been removed from a parent and is subsequently reunified with that parent, the court may leave the child with that parent with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
(3) The permanency goals available under this chapter, listed in order of preference, are:
(b) Adoption, if a petition for termination of parental rights has been or will be filed;
(c) Permanent guardianship of a dependent child under s. 39.6221;
(d) Permanent placement with a fit and willing relative under s. 39.6231; or
(e) Placement in another planned permanent living arrangement under s. 39.6241.
(4)(a) At least 3 business days before the permanency hearing, the department shall file its judicial review social services report with the court and serve copies of the report on all parties. The report must include a recommended permanency goal for the child, suggest changes to the case plan, if needed, and describe why the recommended goal is in the best interest of the child.
(b) Before the permanency hearing, the department shall advise the child and the individuals with whom the child will be placed about the availability of more permanent and legally secure placements and what type of financial assistance is associated with each placement.
(5) At the permanency hearing, the court shall determine:
(a) Whether the current permanency goal for the child is appropriate or should be changed;
(b) When the child will achieve one of the permanency goals;
(c) Whether the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan currently in effect; and
(d) Whether the frequency, duration, manner, and level of engagement of the parent or legal guardian’s visitation with the child meets the case plan requirements.
(6) The best interest of the child is the primary consideration in determining the permanency goal for the child. The court must also consider:
(a) The reasonable preference of the child if the court has found the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference; and
(b) Any recommendation of the guardian ad litem.
(7) If a child will not be reunited with a parent, adoption, under chapter 63, is the primary permanency option. If the child is placed with a relative or with a relative of the child’s half-brother or half-sister as a permanency option, the court may recognize the permanency of this placement without requiring the relative to adopt the child. If the court approves a permanency goal of permanent guardianship of a dependent child, placement with a fit and willing relative, or another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall make findings as to why this permanent placement is established without adoption of the child to follow. If the court approves a permanency goal of another planned permanent living arrangement, the court shall document the compelling reasons for choosing this goal.
(8) The findings of the court regarding reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan must be explicitly documented, made on a case-by-case basis, and stated in the court order.
(9) The case plan must list the tasks necessary to finalize the permanency placement and shall be updated at the permanency hearing if necessary. If a concurrent case plan is in place, the court may choose between the permanency goal options presented and shall approve the goal that is in the child’s best interest.
(10) The permanency placement is intended to continue until the child reaches the age of majority and may not be disturbed absent a finding by the court that the circumstances of the permanency placement are no longer in the best interest of the child.
(a) If, after a child is residing in the permanent placement approved at the permanency hearing, a parent who has not had his or her parental rights terminated makes a motion for reunification or increased contact with the child, the court shall hold a hearing to determine whether the dependency case should be reopened and whether there should be a modification of the order.
(b) At the hearing, the parent must demonstrate that the safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child is not endangered by the modification.
(c) The court shall base its decision concerning any motion by a parent for reunification or increased contact with a child on the effect of the decision on the safety, well-being, and physical and emotional health of the child. Factors that must be considered and addressed in the findings of fact of the order on the motion must include:
1. The compliance or noncompliance of the parent with the case plan;
2. The circumstances which caused the child’s dependency and whether those circumstances have been resolved;
3. The stability and longevity of the child’s placement;
4. The preferences of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and understanding to express a preference;
5. The recommendation of the current custodian; and
6. The recommendation of the guardian ad litem, if one has been appointed.
(11) Placement of a child in a permanent guardianship, with a fit and willing relative, or in another planned permanent living arrangement does not terminate the parent-child relationship, including, but not limited to:
(a) The right of the child to inherit from his or her parents;
(b) The parents’ right to consent to the child’s adoption; or
(c) The parents’ responsibility to provide financial, medical, and other support for the child as ordered by the court.
History.—s. 28, ch. 2000-139; s. 19, ch. 2006-86; s. 12, ch. 2012-178; s. 18, ch. 2017-151; s. 8, ch. 2018-103; s. 10, ch. 2019-128.