Florida Senate - 2014 SB 906 By Senator Detert 28-00708-14 2014906__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to children in out-of-home care; 3 creating s. 39.4095, F.S.; providing legislative 4 findings and intent; providing that children in out 5 of-home care have a right to safe, stable, and 6 nurturing relationships; providing requirements for a 7 child in out-of-home care to maintain a relationship 8 with his or her siblings and kith and kin; prohibiting 9 communication and visits with siblings or kith and kin 10 from being withheld as punishment; authorizing a court 11 to limit communication or visits with siblings or kith 12 and kin under certain circumstances; requiring the 13 Department of Children and Families to give parents 14 who are working toward reunification with their child 15 certain resources to assist them in providing a safe, 16 stable, and nurturing relationship; requiring the 17 department to offer a child in out-of-home care 18 assistance in locating and communicating with his or 19 her parents after a certain time; authorizing the 20 court to limit or restrict communication or visitation 21 with parents under certain circumstances; requiring 22 the department to provide a child in out-of-home care 23 with a caregiver who can provide safe, stable, and 24 nurturing relationships; requiring the department to 25 evaluate caregivers and offer services if necessary; 26 prohibiting a child from being placed in a group home 27 unless all alternatives are exhausted; requiring the 28 department to review a decision to place a child in a 29 group home every 30 days; amending s. 39.6012, F.S.; 30 requiring that a case plan include a description of 31 services designed to assist parents in providing safe, 32 stable, and nurturing relationships for their 33 children; providing an effective date. 34 35 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 36 37 Section 1. Section 39.4095, Florida Statutes, is created to 38 read: 39 39.4095 Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.— 40 (1) FINDINGS AND INTENT.— 41 (a) The Legislature finds that children who enter out-of 42 home care need safe, stable, and nurturing relationships in 43 order to ensure their health and well-being. The federal Centers 44 for Disease Control and Prevention has identified the promotion 45 of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships as a key strategy 46 in public health initiatives to prevent child maltreatment. 47 (b) The Legislature further finds that children enter out 48 of-home care with existing relationships and it is incumbent on 49 the out-of-home system of care to recognize the importance of 50 relationships to children, to support healthy relationships, and 51 to provide services and support needed to improve unhealthy 52 relationships. The Legislature further finds that the 53 termination of a parent’s legal rights does not sever the 54 emotional connection between a child and his or her parents. It 55 is the intent of the Legislature that the system of care respect 56 the needs and desires of children who seek continued 57 relationships or future communication with their parents. It is 58 the further intent of the Legislature that, when the state 59 provides substitute care for children, it select caregivers who 60 will provide safe, stable, and nurturing relationships. By their 61 very nature, group homes are unable to provide these 62 relationships. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature 63 that group homes be used only as a last resort. 64 (2) SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS.—A child in out-of-home care has 65 the right to maintain a relationship with his or her siblings. 66 (a) The department shall promptly advise a child as to the 67 location of and contact information for his or her siblings, 68 including any siblings who are currently unknown to the child. 69 If the existence or location of or contact information for a 70 child’s siblings is not known, the department shall make 71 reasonable efforts to ascertain such information. 72 (b) A child’s caregiver shall allow the child to have 73 frequent communication and at least weekly visits with his or 74 her siblings. Visits shall also be allowed on holidays, 75 birthdays, and other special occasions. Communication or 76 visitation may not be withheld as a punishment. 77 (c) If a child’s sibling is also in out-of-home care and 78 such sibling leaves out-of-home care for any reason, including, 79 but not limited to, emancipation, adoption, or reunification 80 with his or her parents or guardian, the child has a right to 81 continued communication with his or her sibling under this 82 subsection. 83 (d) The court may limit or restrict communication or 84 visitation under this subsection only upon a finding by clear 85 and convincing evidence that the communication or visitation is 86 harmful to the child. If the court makes such a finding, it 87 shall direct the department to immediately provide services to 88 ameliorate the harm so that communication and visitation may be 89 restored as soon as possible. 90 (3) KITH AND KIN RELATIONSHIPS.—A child in out-of-home care 91 has the right to maintain a relationship with persons who are 92 significant to him or her because of a familial relationship or 93 social bond. 94 (a) A child’s caregiver shall allow the child to 95 communicate and, if possible, visit with persons whom the child 96 identifies as being important to him or her. If necessary, the 97 caregiver shall provide the child assistance in locating such 98 persons. Communication or visitation may not be withheld as a 99 punishment. 100 (b) If a child is preverbal or nonverbal, the child’s 101 caregiver shall make an effort to allow communication and 102 visitation with identified persons with whom the child has a 103 relationship. 104 (c) The court may limit or restrict communication or 105 visitation with kith and kin only upon a finding by a 106 preponderance of the evidence that the communication or 107 visitation is harmful to the child. If the court makes such a 108 finding, it shall direct the department to immediately provide 109 services to ameliorate the harm so that communication and 110 visitation may be restored. 111 (4) PARENTAL RELATIONSHIPS.—A child in out-of-home care has 112 the right to maintain a relationship with a parent whose 113 parental rights have been terminated. 114 (a) The department shall give parents working toward 115 reunification access to evidence-based services that are 116 tailored to their individual needs which will allow them to 117 provide safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with their 118 children. 119 (b) The department shall offer to a child in out-of-home 120 care longer than 12 months after parental rights were terminated 121 assistance in locating and communicating with his or her 122 parents. The department shall renew such offer of assistance at 123 least every 6 months. 124 (c) The court may limit or restrict communication or 125 visitation only upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence 126 that the communication or visitation is harmful to the child. If 127 the court makes such a finding, it shall direct the department 128 to immediately provide services to ameliorate the harm so that 129 communication or visitation may be restored as soon as possible. 130 (5) OUT-OF-HOME CAREGIVER RELATIONSHIPS.—The department 131 shall provide a child in out-of-home care with a caregiver who 132 can provide safe, stable, and nurturing relationships. The 133 department shall evaluate the ability of relatives and 134 nonrelative caregivers to provide safe, stable, and nurturing 135 relationships and, if needed, shall offer services and support 136 to caregivers to strengthen their ability to provide such 137 relationships. 138 (6) GROUP HOMES.—A child may be placed in a group home only 139 if every other option has been exhausted. The decision to place 140 a child in a group home must be reviewed by the department every 141 30 days to determine whether placement with a family is 142 practicable. 143 Section 2. Paragraph (e) is added to subsection (3) of 144 section 39.6012, Florida Statutes, to read: 145 39.6012 Case plan tasks; services.— 146 (3) In addition to any other requirement, if the child is 147 in an out-of-home placement, the case plan must include: 148 (e) A written description of services designed to assist 149 parents in providing safe, stable, and nurturing relationships 150 for their children. Such services must be evidence-based. 151 Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2014.