2021 Florida Statutes (Including 2021B Session)
39.701 Judicial review.—
(1) GENERAL PROVISIONS.—
(a) The court shall have continuing jurisdiction in accordance with this section and shall review the status of the child at least every 6 months as required by this subsection or more frequently if the court deems it necessary or desirable.
(b)1. The court shall retain jurisdiction over a child returned to his or her parents for a minimum period of 6 months following the reunification, but, at that time, based on a report of the social service agency and the guardian ad litem, if one has been appointed, and any other relevant factors, the court shall make a determination as to whether supervision by the department and the court’s jurisdiction shall continue or be terminated.
2. Notwithstanding subparagraph 1., the court must retain jurisdiction over a child if the child is placed in the home with a parent or caregiver with an in-home safety plan and such safety plan remains necessary for the child to reside safely in the home.
(c)1. The court shall review the status of the child and shall hold a hearing as provided in this part at least every 6 months until the child reaches permanency status. The court may dispense with the attendance of the child at the hearing, but may not dispense with the hearing or the presence of other parties to the review unless before the review a hearing is held before a citizen review panel.
2. Citizen review panels may conduct hearings to review the status of a child. The court shall select the cases appropriate for referral to the citizen review panels and may order the attendance of the parties at the review panel hearings. However, any party may object to the referral of a case to a citizen review panel. Whenever such an objection has been filed with the court, the court shall review the substance of the objection and may conduct the review itself or refer the review to a citizen review panel. All parties retain the right to take exception to the findings or recommended orders of a citizen review panel in accordance with Rule 1.490(h), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
3. Notice of a hearing by a citizen review panel must be provided as set forth in paragraph (f). At the conclusion of a citizen review panel hearing, each party may propose a recommended order to the chairperson of the panel. Thereafter, the citizen review panel shall submit its report, copies of the proposed recommended orders, and a copy of the panel’s recommended order to the court. The citizen review panel’s recommended order must be limited to the dispositional options available to the court in paragraph (2)(d). Each party may file exceptions to the report and recommended order of the citizen review panel in accordance with Rule 1.490, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
(d)1. The initial judicial review hearing must be held no later than 90 days after the date of the disposition hearing or after the date of the hearing at which the court approves the case plan, whichever comes first, but in no event shall the review be held later than 6 months after the date the child was removed from the home. Citizen review panels may not conduct more than two consecutive reviews without the child and the parties coming before the court for a judicial review.
2. If the citizen review panel recommends extending the goal of reunification for any case plan beyond 12 months from the date the child was removed from the home, the case plan was adopted, or the child was adjudicated dependent, whichever date came first, the court must schedule a judicial review hearing to be conducted by the court within 30 days after receiving the recommendation from the citizen review panel.
3. If the child is placed in the custody of the department or a licensed child-placing agency for the purpose of adoptive placement, judicial reviews must be held at least every 6 months until the adoption is finalized.
4. If the department and the court have established a formal agreement that includes specific authorization for particular cases, the department may conduct administrative reviews instead of the judicial reviews for children in out-of-home care. Notices of such administrative reviews must be provided to all parties. However, an administrative review may not be substituted for the first judicial review, and in every case the court must conduct a judicial review at least every 6 months. Any party dissatisfied with the results of an administrative review may petition for a judicial review.
5. The clerk of the circuit court shall schedule judicial review hearings in order to comply with the mandated times cited in this section.
6. In each case in which a child has been voluntarily placed with the licensed child-placing agency, the agency shall notify the clerk of the court in the circuit where the child resides of such placement within 5 working days. Notification of the court is not required for any child who will be in out-of-home care no longer than 30 days unless that child is placed in out-of-home care a second time within a 12-month period. If the child is returned to the custody of the parents before the scheduled review hearing or if the child is placed for adoption, the child-placing agency shall notify the court of the child’s return or placement within 5 working days, and the clerk of the court shall cancel the review hearing.
(e) The court shall schedule the date, time, and location of the next judicial review during the judicial review hearing and shall list same in the judicial review order.
(f) Notice of a judicial review hearing or a citizen review panel hearing, and a copy of the motion for judicial review, if any, must be served by the clerk of the court upon all of the following persons, if available to be served, regardless of whether the person was present at the previous hearing at which the date, time, and location of the hearing was announced:
1. The social service agency charged with the supervision of care, custody, or guardianship of the child, if that agency is not the movant.
2. The foster parent or legal custodian in whose home the child resides.
3. The parents.
4. The guardian ad litem for the child, or the representative of the guardian ad litem program if the program has been appointed.
5. The attorney for the child.
6. The child, if the child is 13 years of age or older.
7. Any preadoptive parent.
8. Such other persons as the court may direct.
(g) The attorney for the department shall notify a relative who submits a request for notification of all proceedings and hearings pursuant to s. 39.301(14)(b). The notice shall include the date, time, and location of the next judicial review hearing.
(h) If a child is born into a family that is under the court’s jurisdiction or a child moves into a home that is under the court’s jurisdiction, the department shall assess the child’s safety and provide notice to the court.
1. The department shall complete an assessment to determine how the addition of a child will impact family functioning. The assessment must be completed at least 30 days before a child is expected to be born or to move into a home, or within 72 hours after the department learns of the pregnancy or addition if the child is expected to be born or to move into the home in less than 30 days. The assessment shall be filed with the court.
2. Once a child is born into a family or a child moves into the home, the department shall complete a progress update and file it with the court.
3. The court has the discretion to hold a hearing on the progress update filed by the department.
(2) REVIEW HEARINGS FOR CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 18 YEARS OF AGE.—
(a) Social study report for judicial review.—Before every judicial review hearing or citizen review panel hearing, the social service agency shall make an investigation and social study concerning all pertinent details relating to the child and shall furnish to the court or citizen review panel a written report that includes, but is not limited to:
1. A description of the type of placement the child is in at the time of the hearing, including the safety of the child and the continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the placement.
2. Documentation of the diligent efforts made by all parties to the case plan to comply with each applicable provision of the plan.
3. The amount of fees assessed and collected during the period of time being reported.
4. The services provided to the foster family or caregiver in an effort to address the needs of the child as indicated in the case plan.
5. A statement that either:
a. The parent, though able to do so, did not comply substantially with the case plan, and the agency recommendations;
b. The parent did substantially comply with the case plan; or
c. The parent has partially complied with the case plan, with a summary of additional progress needed and the agency recommendations.
6. A statement from the foster parent or caregiver providing any material evidence concerning the well-being of the child, the impact of any services provided to the child, the working relationship between the parents and caregivers, and the return of the child to the parents.
7. A statement concerning the frequency, duration, and results of the parent-child visitation, if any, and the agency and caregiver recommendations for an expansion or restriction of future visitation.
8. The number of times a child has been removed from his or her home and placed elsewhere, the number and types of placements that have occurred, and the reason for the changes in placement.
9. The number of times a child’s educational placement has been changed, the number and types of educational placements which have occurred, and the reason for any change in placement.
10. If the child has reached 13 years of age but is not yet 18 years of age, a statement from the caregiver on the progress the child has made in acquiring independent living skills.
11. Copies of all medical, psychological, and educational records that support the terms of the case plan and that have been produced concerning the parents or any caregiver since the last judicial review hearing.
12. Copies of the child’s current health, mental health, and education records as identified in s. 39.6012.
(b) Submission and distribution of reports.—
1. A copy of the social service agency’s written report and the written report of the guardian ad litem must be served on all parties whose whereabouts are known; to the foster parents or legal custodians; and to the citizen review panel, at least 72 hours before the judicial review hearing or citizen review panel hearing. The requirement for providing parents with a copy of the written report does not apply to those parents who have voluntarily surrendered their child for adoption or who have had their parental rights to the child terminated.
2. In a case in which the child has been permanently placed with the social service agency, the agency shall furnish to the court a written report concerning the progress being made to place the child for adoption. If the child cannot be placed for adoption, a report on the progress made by the child towards alternative permanency goals or placements, including, but not limited to, guardianship, long-term custody, long-term licensed custody, or independent living, must be submitted to the court. The report must be submitted to the court at least 72 hours before each scheduled judicial review.
3. In addition to or in lieu of any written statement provided to the court, the foster parent or legal custodian, or any preadoptive parent, shall be given the opportunity to address the court with any information relevant to the best interests of the child at any judicial review hearing.
(c) Review determinations.—The court and any citizen review panel shall take into consideration the information contained in the social services study and investigation and all medical, psychological, and educational records that support the terms of the case plan; testimony by the social services agency, the parent, the foster parent or caregiver, the guardian ad litem or surrogate parent for educational decisionmaking if one has been appointed for the child, and any other person deemed appropriate; and any relevant and material evidence submitted to the court, including written and oral reports to the extent of their probative value. These reports and evidence may be received by the court in its effort to determine the action to be taken with regard to the child and may be relied upon to the extent of their probative value, even though not competent in an adjudicatory hearing. In its deliberations, the court and any citizen review panel shall seek to determine:
1. If the parent was advised of the right to receive assistance from any person or social service agency in the preparation of the case plan.
2. If the parent has been advised of the right to have counsel present at the judicial review or citizen review hearings. If not so advised, the court or citizen review panel shall advise the parent of such right.
3. If a guardian ad litem needs to be appointed for the child in a case in which a guardian ad litem has not previously been appointed or if there is a need to continue a guardian ad litem in a case in which a guardian ad litem has been appointed.
4. Who holds the rights to make educational decisions for the child. If appropriate, the court may refer the child to the district school superintendent for appointment of a surrogate parent or may itself appoint a surrogate parent under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and s. 39.0016.
5. The compliance or lack of compliance of all parties with applicable items of the case plan, including the parents’ compliance with child support orders.
6. The compliance or lack of compliance with a visitation contract between the parent and the social service agency for contact with the child, including the frequency, duration, and results of the parent-child visitation and the reason for any noncompliance.
7. The frequency, kind, and duration of contacts among siblings who have been separated during placement, as well as any efforts undertaken to reunite separated siblings if doing so is in the best interests of the child.
8. The compliance or lack of compliance of the parent in meeting specified financial obligations pertaining to the care of the child, including the reason for failure to comply, if applicable.
9. Whether the child is receiving safe and proper care according to s. 39.6012, including, but not limited to, the appropriateness of the child’s current placement, including whether the child is in a setting that is as family-like and as close to the parent’s home as possible, consistent with the child’s best interests and special needs, and including maintaining stability in the child’s educational placement, as documented by assurances from the community-based care lead agency that:
a. The placement of the child takes into account the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.
b. The community-based care lead agency has coordinated with appropriate local educational agencies to ensure that the child remains in the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement.
10. A projected date likely for the child’s return home or other permanent placement.
11. When appropriate, the basis for the unwillingness or inability of the parent to become a party to a case plan. The court and the citizen review panel shall determine if the efforts of the social service agency to secure party participation in a case plan were sufficient.
12. For a child who has reached 13 years of age but is not yet 18 years of age, the adequacy of the child’s preparation for adulthood and independent living. For a child who is 15 years of age or older, the court shall determine if appropriate steps are being taken for the child to obtain a driver license or learner’s driver license.
13. If amendments to the case plan are required. Amendments to the case plan must be made under s. 39.6013.
14. If the parents and caregivers have developed a productive relationship that includes meaningful communication and mutual support.
1. Based upon the criteria set forth in paragraph (c) and the recommended order of the citizen review panel, if any, the court shall determine whether the social service agency shall initiate proceedings to have a child declared a dependent child, return the child to the parent, continue the child in out-of-home care for a specified period of time, or initiate termination of parental rights proceedings for subsequent placement in an adoptive home. Amendments to the case plan must be prepared as provided in s. 39.6013. If the court finds that the prevention or reunification efforts of the department will allow the child to remain safely at home or be safely returned to the home, the court shall allow the child to remain in or return to the home after making a specific finding of fact that the reasons for the creation of the case plan have been remedied to the extent that the child’s safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health will not be endangered.
2. The court shall return the child to the custody of his or her parents at any time it determines that the circumstances that caused the out-of-home placement, and any issues subsequently identified, have been remedied to the extent that returning the child to the home with an in-home safety plan prepared or approved by the department will not be detrimental to the child’s safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health.
3. If, in the opinion of the court, the social service agency has not complied with its obligations as specified in the written case plan, the court may find the social service agency in contempt, shall order the social service agency to submit its plans for compliance with the agreement, and shall require the social service agency to show why the child could not safely be returned to the home of the parents.
4. If, at any judicial review, the court finds that the parents have failed to substantially comply with the case plan to the degree that further reunification efforts are without merit and not in the best interest of the child, on its own motion, the court may order the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights, regardless of whether the time period as contained in the case plan for substantial compliance has expired.
5. Within 6 months after the date that the child was placed in shelter care, the court shall conduct a judicial review hearing to review the child’s permanency goal as identified in the case plan. At the hearing the court shall make findings regarding the likelihood of the child’s reunification with the parent or legal custodian. In making such findings, the court shall consider the level of the parent or legal custodian’s compliance with the case plan and demonstrated change in protective capacities compared to that necessary to achieve timely reunification within 12 months after the removal of the child from the home. The court shall also consider the frequency, duration, manner, and level of engagement of the parent or legal custodian’s visitation with the child in compliance with the case plan. If the court makes a written finding that it is not likely that the child will be reunified with the parent or legal custodian within 12 months after the child was removed from the home, the department must file with the court, and serve on all parties, a motion to amend the case plan under s. 39.6013 and declare that it will use concurrent planning for the case plan. The department must file the motion within 10 business days after receiving the written finding of the court. The department must attach the proposed amended case plan to the motion. If concurrent planning is already being used, the case plan must document the efforts the department is taking to complete the concurrent goal.
6. The court may issue a protective order in assistance, or as a condition, of any other order made under this part. In addition to the requirements included in the case plan, the protective order may set forth requirements relating to reasonable conditions of behavior to be observed for a specified period of time by a person or agency who is before the court; and the order may require any person or agency to make periodic reports to the court containing such information as the court in its discretion may prescribe.
7. If, at any judicial review, the court determines that the child shall remain in out-of-home care in a placement other than with a parent, the court shall order that the department has placement and care responsibility for the child.
(3) REVIEW HEARINGS FOR CHILDREN 16 AND 17 YEARS OF AGE.—At each review hearing held under this subsection, the court shall give the child the opportunity to address the court and provide any information relevant to the child’s best interest, particularly in relation to independent living transition services. The foster parent, legal custodian, or guardian ad litem may also provide any information relevant to the child’s best interest to the court. In addition to the review and report required under paragraphs (1)(a) and (2)(a), respectively, the court shall:
(a) Inquire about the life skills the child has acquired and whether those services are age appropriate, at the first judicial review hearing held subsequent to the child’s 16th birthday. At the judicial review hearing, the department shall provide the court with a report that includes specific information related to the life skills that the child has acquired since the child’s 13th birthday or since the date the child came into foster care, whichever came later. For any child who may meet the requirements for appointment of a guardian advocate under s. 393.12 or a guardian under chapter 744, the updated case plan must be developed in a face-to-face conference with the child, if appropriate; the child’s attorney; any court-appointed guardian ad litem; the temporary custodian of the child; and the parent of the child, if the parent’s rights have not been terminated.
(b) The court shall hold a judicial review hearing within 90 days after a child’s 17th birthday. The court shall issue an order, separate from the order on judicial review, that the disability of nonage of the child has been removed under ss. 743.044, 743.045, 743.046, and 743.047, for any disability that the court finds is in the child’s best interest to remove. The department shall include in the social study report for the first judicial review that occurs after the child’s 17th birthday written verification that the child has:
1. A current Medicaid card and all necessary information concerning the Medicaid program sufficient to prepare the child to apply for coverage upon reaching the age of 18, if such application is appropriate.
2. A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate and, if the child does not have a valid driver license, a Florida identification card issued under s. 322.051.
3. A social security card and information relating to social security insurance benefits if the child is eligible for those benefits. If the child has received such benefits and they are being held in trust for the child, a full accounting of these funds must be provided and the child must be informed as to how to access those funds.
4. All relevant information related to the Road-to-Independence Program under s. 409.1451, including, but not limited to, eligibility requirements, information on participation, and assistance in gaining admission to the program. If the child is eligible for the Road-to-Independence Program, he or she must be advised that he or she may continue to reside with the licensed family home or group care provider with whom the child was residing at the time the child attained his or her 18th birthday, in another licensed family home, or with a group care provider arranged by the department.
5. An open bank account or the identification necessary to open a bank account and to acquire essential banking and budgeting skills.
6. Information on public assistance and how to apply for public assistance.
7. A clear understanding of where he or she will be living on his or her 18th birthday, how living expenses will be paid, and the educational program or school in which he or she will be enrolled.
8. Information related to the ability of the child to remain in care until he or she reaches 21 years of age under s. 39.013.
9. A letter providing the dates that the child is under the jurisdiction of the court.
10. A letter stating that the child is in compliance with financial aid documentation requirements.
11. The child’s educational records.
12. The child’s entire health and mental health records.
13. The process for accessing the child’s case file.
14. A statement encouraging the child to attend all judicial review hearings.
15. Information on how to obtain a driver license or learner’s driver license.
(c) At the first judicial review hearing held subsequent to the child’s 17th birthday, if the court determines pursuant to chapter 744 that there is a good faith basis to believe that the child qualifies for appointment of a guardian advocate, limited guardian, or plenary guardian for the child and that no less restrictive decisionmaking assistance will meet the child’s needs:
1. The department shall complete a multidisciplinary report which must include, but is not limited to, a psychosocial evaluation and educational report if such a report has not been completed within the previous 2 years.
2. The department shall identify one or more individuals who are willing to serve as the guardian advocate under s. 393.12 or as the plenary or limited guardian under chapter 744. Any other interested parties or participants may make efforts to identify such a guardian advocate, limited guardian, or plenary guardian. The child’s biological or adoptive family members, including the child’s parents if the parents’ rights have not been terminated, may not be considered for service as the plenary or limited guardian unless the court enters a written order finding that such an appointment is in the child’s best interests.
3. Proceedings may be initiated within 180 days after the child’s 17th birthday for the appointment of a guardian advocate, plenary guardian, or limited guardian for the child in a separate proceeding in the court division with jurisdiction over guardianship matters and pursuant to chapter 744. The Legislature encourages the use of pro bono representation to initiate proceedings under this section.
4. In the event another interested party or participant initiates proceedings for the appointment of a guardian advocate, plenary guardian, or limited guardian for the child, the department shall provide all necessary documentation and information to the petitioner to complete a petition under s. 393.12 or chapter 744 within 45 days after the first judicial review hearing after the child’s 17th birthday.
5. Any proceedings seeking appointment of a guardian advocate or a determination of incapacity and the appointment of a guardian must be conducted in a separate proceeding in the court division with jurisdiction over guardianship matters and pursuant to chapter 744.
(d) If the court finds at the judicial review hearing after the child’s 17th birthday that the department has not met its obligations to the child as stated in this part, in the written case plan, or in the provision of independent living services, the court may issue an order directing the department to show cause as to why it has not done so. If the department cannot justify its noncompliance, the court may give the department 30 days within which to comply. If the department fails to comply within 30 days, the court may hold the department in contempt.
(e) If necessary, the court may review the status of the child more frequently during the year before the child’s 18th birthday. At the last review hearing before the child reaches 18 years of age, and in addition to the requirements of subsection (2), the court shall:
1. Address whether the child plans to remain in foster care, and, if so, ensure that the child’s transition plan includes a plan for meeting one or more of the criteria specified in s. 39.6251.
2. Ensure that the transition plan includes a supervised living arrangement under s. 39.6251.
3. Ensure the child has been informed of:
a. The right to continued support and services from the department and the community-based care lead agency.
b. The right to request termination of dependency jurisdiction and be discharged from foster care.
c. The opportunity to reenter foster care under s. 39.6251.
4. Ensure that the child, if he or she requests termination of dependency jurisdiction and discharge from foster care, has been informed of:
a. Services or benefits for which the child may be eligible based on his or her former placement in foster care, including, but not limited to, the assistance of the Office of Continuing Care under s. 414.56.
b. Services or benefits that may be lost through termination of dependency jurisdiction.
c. Other federal, state, local, or community-based services or supports available to him or her.
(4) REVIEW HEARINGS FOR YOUNG ADULTS IN FOSTER CARE.—During each period of time that a young adult remains in foster care, the court shall review the status of the young adult at least every 6 months and must hold a permanency review hearing at least annually.
(a) The department and community-based care lead agency shall prepare and submit to the court a report, developed in collaboration with the young adult, which addresses the young adult’s progress in meeting the goals in the case plan. The report must include progress information related to the young adult’s independent living plan and transition plan, if applicable, and shall propose modifications as necessary to further the young adult’s goals.
(b) The court shall attempt to determine whether the department and any service provider under contract with the department are providing the appropriate services as provided in the case plan.
(c) If the court believes that the young adult is entitled under department policy or under a contract with a service provider to additional services to achieve the goals enumerated in the case plan, it may order the department to take action to ensure that the young adult receives the identified services.
(d) The young adult or any other party to the dependency case may request an additional hearing or judicial review.
(e) Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, if a young adult has chosen to remain in extended foster care after he or she has reached 18 years of age, the department may not close a case and the court may not terminate jurisdiction until the court finds, following a hearing, that the following criteria have been met:
1. Attendance of the young adult at the hearing; or
2. Findings by the court that:
a. The young adult has been informed by the department of his or her right to attend the hearing and has provided written consent to waive this right; and
b. The young adult has been informed of the potential negative effects of early termination of care, the option to reenter care before reaching 21 years of age, the procedure for, and limitations on, reentering care, and the availability of alternative services, and has signed a document attesting that he or she has been so informed and understands these provisions; or
c. The young adult has voluntarily left the program, has not signed the document in sub-subparagraph b., and is unwilling to participate in any further court proceeding.
3. In all permanency hearings or hearings regarding the transition of the young adult from care to independent living, the court shall consult with the young adult regarding the proposed permanency plan, case plan, and individual education plan for the young adult and ensure that he or she has understood the conversation.
(f) If the young adult elects to voluntarily leave extended foster care for the sole purpose of ending a removal episode and immediately thereafter executes a voluntary placement agreement with the department to reenroll in extended foster care, the court shall enter an order finding that the prior removal episode has ended. Under these circumstances, the court maintains jurisdiction and a petition to reinstate jurisdiction as provided in s. 39.6251(6)(b) is not required.
(g)1. When a young adult enters extended foster care by executing a voluntary placement agreement, the court shall enter an order within 180 days after execution of the agreement that determines whether the placement is in the best interest of the young adult. For purposes of this paragraph, a placement may include a licensed foster home, licensed group home, college dormitory, shared housing, apartment, or another housing arrangement, if the arrangement is approved by the community-based care lead agency and is acceptable to the young adult.
2. When a young adult is in extended foster care, each judicial review order shall provide that the department has placement and care responsibility for the young adult.
3. When a young adult is in extended foster care, the court shall enter an order at least every 12 months that includes a finding of whether the department has made reasonable efforts to finalize the permanency plan currently in effect.
History.—s. 9, ch. 87-289; s. 11, ch. 90-306; s. 3, ch. 90-309; s. 3, ch. 91-183; s. 49, ch. 92-58; s. 6, ch. 92-158; s. 27, ch. 94-164; s. 78, ch. 98-403; s. 38, ch. 99-193; s. 32, ch. 2000-139; s. 2, ch. 2004-362; s. 7, ch. 2005-2; s. 2, ch. 2005-179; s. 23, ch. 2006-86; s. 8, ch. 2006-194; s. 14, ch. 2008-245; s. 4, ch. 2009-35; s. 13, ch. 2009-43; s. 13, ch. 2012-178; s. 6, ch. 2013-178; s. 7, ch. 2014-17; s. 1, ch. 2014-166; s. 17, ch. 2014-224; s. 3, ch. 2015-112; s. 3, ch. 2016-10; s. 3, ch. 2017-8; s. 20, ch. 2017-151; s. 12, ch. 2018-103; s. 10, ch. 2019-142; s. 7, ch. 2020-138; s. 13, ch. 2021-169.
Note.—Former s. 39.453.