Florida Senate - 2020                             CS for SB 1324
       By the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs; and
       Senator Simpson
       586-02285A-20                                         20201324c1
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to child welfare; amending s. 25.385,
    3         F.S.; requiring the Florida Court Educational Council
    4         to establish certain standards for instruction of
    5         circuit and county court judges for dependency cases;
    6         requiring the council to provide such instruction on a
    7         periodic and timely basis; creating s. 39.01304, F.S.;
    8         providing legislative intent; providing a purpose;
    9         authorizing circuit courts to create early childhood
   10         court programs; requiring that early childhood court
   11         programs have certain components; defining the term
   12         “therapeutic jurisprudence”; providing requirements
   13         and guidelines for the Office of the State Courts
   14         Administrator when hiring community coordinators and a
   15         statewide training specialist; requiring the
   16         Department of Children and Families to contract with
   17         certain university-based centers; requiring the
   18         university-based centers to hire a clinical director;
   19         amending s. 39.0138, F.S.; requiring the department to
   20         complete background screenings within a specified
   21         timeframe; providing an exception; amending s. 39.301,
   22         F.S.; requiring the department to notify the court of
   23         certain reports; authorizing the department to file
   24         specified petitions under certain circumstances;
   25         amending s. 39.522, F.S.; requiring the court to
   26         consider specified factors when making a certain
   27         determination; authorizing the court or any party to
   28         the case to file a petition to place a child in out
   29         of-home care under certain circumstances; requiring
   30         the court to consider specified factors when
   31         determining whether the child should be placed in out
   32         of-home care; requiring the court to evaluate and
   33         change a child’s permanency goal under certain
   34         circumstances; amending s. 39.6011, F.S.; revising and
   35         providing requirements for case plan descriptions;
   36         amending s. 39.701, F.S.; requiring the court to
   37         retain jurisdiction over a child under certain
   38         circumstances; requiring specified parties to disclose
   39         certain information to the court; providing for
   40         certain caregiver recommendations to the court;
   41         requiring the court and citizen review panel to
   42         determine whether certain parties have developed a
   43         productive relationship; amending s. 63.092, F.S.;
   44         providing a deadline for completion of a preliminary
   45         home study; creating s. 63.093, F.S.; providing
   46         requirements and processes for the adoption of
   47         children from the child welfare system; creating s.
   48         409.1415, F.S.; providing legislative findings and
   49         intent; requiring the department and community-based
   50         care lead agencies to develop and support
   51         relationships between certain foster families and
   52         legal parents of children; providing responsibilities
   53         for foster parents, birth parents, the department,
   54         community-based care lead agency staff, and other
   55         agency staff; defining the term “excellent parenting”;
   56         requiring caregivers employed by residential group
   57         homes to meet specified requirements; requiring the
   58         department to adopt rules; amending s. 409.145, F.S.;
   59         conforming provisions to changes made by the act;
   60         amending s. 409.175, F.S.; revising requirements for
   61         the licensure of family foster homes; requiring the
   62         department to issue determinations for family foster
   63         home licenses within a specified timeframe; providing
   64         an exception; amending s. 409.988, F.S.; authorizing a
   65         lead agency to provide more than 35 percent of all
   66         child welfare services under certain conditions;
   67         requiring a specified local community alliance, or
   68         specified representatives in certain circumstances, to
   69         review and recommend approval or denial of the lead
   70         agency’s request for a specified exemption; amending
   71         ss. 39.302, 39.6225, 393.065, and 409.1451, F.S.;
   72         conforming cross-references; providing an effective
   73         date.
   75  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   77         Section 1. Section 25.385, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   78  read:
   79         25.385 Standards for instruction of circuit and county
   80  court judges in handling domestic violence cases.—
   81         (1) The Florida Court Educational Council shall establish
   82  standards for instruction of circuit and county court judges who
   83  have responsibility for domestic violence cases, and the council
   84  shall provide such instruction on a periodic and timely basis.
   85         (2) As used in this subsection, section:
   86         (a) the term “domestic violence” has the meaning set forth
   87  in s. 741.28.
   88         (b) “Family or household member” has the meaning set forth
   89  in s. 741.28.
   90         (2) The Florida Court Educational Council shall establish
   91  standards for instruction of circuit and county court judges who
   92  have responsibility for dependency cases regarding the benefits
   93  of a secure attachment with a primary caregiver, the importance
   94  of a stable placement, and the impact of trauma on child
   95  development. The council shall provide such instruction to the
   96  circuit and county court judges handling dependency cases on a
   97  periodic and timely basis.
   98         Section 2. Section 39.01304, Florida Statutes, is created
   99  to read:
  100         39.01304 Early childhood court programs.—
  101         (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage the
  102  department, the Department of Health, the Association of Early
  103  Learning Coalitions, and other such agencies; local governments;
  104  interested public or private entities; and individuals to
  105  support the creation and establishment of early childhood court
  106  programs. The purpose of an early childhood court program is to
  107  address the root cause of court involvement through specialized
  108  dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment, and
  109  the use of a nonadversarial approach. Such programs depend on
  110  the leadership of a judge or magistrate who is educated about
  111  the science of early childhood development and who requires
  112  rigorous efforts to heal children physically and emotionally in
  113  the context of a broad collaboration among professionals from
  114  different systems working directly in the court as a team,
  115  recognizing that the parent-child relationship is the foundation
  116  of child well-being.
  117         (2) A circuit court may create an early childhood court
  118  program to serve the needs of infants and toddlers in dependency
  119  court. An early childhood court program must have all of the
  120  following components:
  121         (a) Therapeutic jurisprudence, which must drive every
  122  aspect of judicial practice. The judge or magistrate must
  123  support the therapeutic needs of the parent and child in a
  124  nonadversarial manner. As used in this paragraph, the term
  125  “therapeutic jurisprudence” means the study of how the law may
  126  be used as a therapeutic agent and focuses on how laws impact
  127  emotional and psychological well-being.
  128         (b)A procedure for coordinating services and resources for
  129  families who have a case on the court docket. To meet this
  130  requirement, the court may create and fill at least one
  131  community coordinator position pursuant to paragraph (3)(a).
  132         (c) A multidisciplinary team made up of key community
  133  stakeholders who commit to work with the judge or magistrate to
  134  restructure the way the community responds to the needs of
  135  maltreated children. The team may include, but is not limited
  136  to, early intervention specialists; mental health and infant
  137  mental health professionals; attorneys representing children,
  138  parents, and the child welfare system; children’s advocates;
  139  early learning coalitions and child care providers; substance
  140  abuse program providers; primary health care providers; domestic
  141  violence advocates; and guardians ad litem. The
  142  multidisciplinary team must address the need for children in an
  143  early childhood court program to receive medical care in a
  144  medical home, a screening for developmental delays conducted by
  145  the local agency responsible for complying with part C of the
  146  federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and quality
  147  child care.
  148         (d)A continuum of mental health services which includes a
  149  focus on the parent-child relationship and is appropriate for
  150  each child and family served.
  151         (3) Contingent upon an annual appropriation by the
  152  Legislature, and subject to available resources:
  153         (a) The Office of the State Courts Administrator shall
  154  coordinate with each participating circuit court to create and
  155  fill at least one community coordinator position for the
  156  circuit’s early childhood court program. Each community
  157  coordinator shall provide direct support to the program by
  158  coordinating between the multidisciplinary team and the
  159  judiciary, coordinating the responsibilities of the
  160  participating agencies and service providers, and managing the
  161  collection of data for program evaluation and accountability.
  162  The Office of State Courts Administrator may hire a statewide
  163  training specialist to provide training to the participating
  164  court teams.
  165         (b) The department shall contract with one or more
  166  university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental
  167  health, and such university-based centers shall hire a clinical
  168  director charged with ensuring the quality, accountability, and
  169  fidelity of the program’s evidence-based treatment, including,
  170  but not limited to, training and technical assistance related to
  171  clinical services, clinical consultation and guidance for
  172  difficult cases, and ongoing clinical training for court teams.
  173         Section 3. Subsection (1) of section 39.0138, Florida
  174  Statutes, is amended to read
  175         39.0138 Criminal history and other records checks; limit on
  176  placement of a child.—
  177         (1) The department shall conduct a records check through
  178  the State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS)
  179  and a local and statewide criminal history records check on all
  180  persons, including parents, being considered by the department
  181  for placement of a child under this chapter, including all
  182  nonrelative placement decisions, and all members of the
  183  household, 12 years of age and older, of the person being
  184  considered. For purposes of this section, a criminal history
  185  records check may include, but is not limited to, submission of
  186  fingerprints to the Department of Law Enforcement for processing
  187  and forwarding to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for state
  188  and national criminal history information, and local criminal
  189  records checks through local law enforcement agencies of all
  190  household members 18 years of age and older and other visitors
  191  to the home. Background screenings must be completed within 14
  192  business days after the department receives the criminal history
  193  results, unless additional information regarding the criminal
  194  history is required to complete processing. An out-of-state
  195  criminal history records check must be initiated for any person
  196  18 years of age or older who resided in another state if that
  197  state allows the release of such records. The department shall
  198  establish by rule standards for evaluating any information
  199  contained in the automated system relating to a person who must
  200  be screened for purposes of making a placement decision.
  201         Section 4. Subsection (1) and paragraph (a) of subsection
  202  (9) of section 39.301, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
  203         39.301 Initiation of protective investigations.—
  204         (1)(a) Upon receiving a report of known or suspected child
  205  abuse, abandonment, or neglect, or that a child is in need of
  206  supervision and care and has no parent, legal custodian, or
  207  responsible adult relative immediately known and available to
  208  provide supervision and care, the central abuse hotline shall
  209  determine if the report requires an immediate onsite protective
  210  investigation. For reports requiring an immediate onsite
  211  protective investigation, the central abuse hotline shall
  212  immediately notify the department’s designated district staff
  213  responsible for protective investigations to ensure that an
  214  onsite investigation is promptly initiated. For reports not
  215  requiring an immediate onsite protective investigation, the
  216  central abuse hotline shall notify the department’s designated
  217  district staff responsible for protective investigations in
  218  sufficient time to allow for an investigation. At the time of
  219  notification, the central abuse hotline shall also provide
  220  information to district staff on any previous report concerning
  221  a subject of the present report or any pertinent information
  222  relative to the present report or any noted earlier reports.
  223         (b) The department shall promptly notify the court of any
  224  report to the central abuse hotline that is accepted for a
  225  protective investigation and involves a child over whom the
  226  court has jurisdiction.
  227         (9)(a) For each report received from the central abuse
  228  hotline and accepted for investigation, the department or the
  229  sheriff providing child protective investigative services under
  230  s. 39.3065, shall perform the following child protective
  231  investigation activities to determine child safety:
  232         1. Conduct a review of all relevant, available information
  233  specific to the child and family and alleged maltreatment;
  234  family child welfare history; local, state, and federal criminal
  235  records checks; and requests for law enforcement assistance
  236  provided by the abuse hotline. Based on a review of available
  237  information, including the allegations in the current report, a
  238  determination shall be made as to whether immediate consultation
  239  should occur with law enforcement, the Child Protection Team, a
  240  domestic violence shelter or advocate, or a substance abuse or
  241  mental health professional. Such consultations should include
  242  discussion as to whether a joint response is necessary and
  243  feasible. A determination shall be made as to whether the person
  244  making the report should be contacted before the face-to-face
  245  interviews with the child and family members.
  246         2. Conduct face-to-face interviews with the child; other
  247  siblings, if any; and the parents, legal custodians, or
  248  caregivers.
  249         3. Assess the child’s residence, including a determination
  250  of the composition of the family and household, including the
  251  name, address, date of birth, social security number, sex, and
  252  race of each child named in the report; any siblings or other
  253  children in the same household or in the care of the same
  254  adults; the parents, legal custodians, or caregivers; and any
  255  other adults in the same household.
  256         4. Determine whether there is any indication that any child
  257  in the family or household has been abused, abandoned, or
  258  neglected; the nature and extent of present or prior injuries,
  259  abuse, or neglect, and any evidence thereof; and a determination
  260  as to the person or persons apparently responsible for the
  261  abuse, abandonment, or neglect, including the name, address,
  262  date of birth, social security number, sex, and race of each
  263  such person.
  264         5. Complete assessment of immediate child safety for each
  265  child based on available records, interviews, and observations
  266  with all persons named in subparagraph 2. and appropriate
  267  collateral contacts, which may include other professionals. The
  268  department’s child protection investigators are hereby
  269  designated a criminal justice agency for the purpose of
  270  accessing criminal justice information to be used for enforcing
  271  this state’s laws concerning the crimes of child abuse,
  272  abandonment, and neglect. This information shall be used solely
  273  for purposes supporting the detection, apprehension,
  274  prosecution, pretrial release, posttrial release, or
  275  rehabilitation of criminal offenders or persons accused of the
  276  crimes of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and may not be
  277  further disseminated or used for any other purpose.
  278         6. Document the present and impending dangers to each child
  279  based on the identification of inadequate protective capacity
  280  through utilization of a standardized safety assessment
  281  instrument. If present or impending danger is identified, the
  282  child protective investigator must implement a safety plan or
  283  take the child into custody. If present danger is identified and
  284  the child is not removed, the child protective investigator
  285  shall create and implement a safety plan before leaving the home
  286  or the location where there is present danger. If impending
  287  danger is identified, the child protective investigator shall
  288  create and implement a safety plan as soon as necessary to
  289  protect the safety of the child. The child protective
  290  investigator may modify the safety plan if he or she identifies
  291  additional impending danger.
  292         a. If the child protective investigator implements a safety
  293  plan, the plan must be specific, sufficient, feasible, and
  294  sustainable in response to the realities of the present or
  295  impending danger. A safety plan may be an in-home plan or an
  296  out-of-home plan, or a combination of both. A safety plan may
  297  include tasks or responsibilities for a parent, caregiver, or
  298  legal custodian. However, a safety plan may not rely on
  299  promissory commitments by the parent, caregiver, or legal
  300  custodian who is currently not able to protect the child or on
  301  services that are not available or will not result in the safety
  302  of the child. A safety plan may not be implemented if for any
  303  reason the parents, guardian, or legal custodian lacks the
  304  capacity or ability to comply with the plan. If the department
  305  is not able to develop a plan that is specific, sufficient,
  306  feasible, and sustainable, the department shall file a shelter
  307  petition. A child protective investigator shall implement
  308  separate safety plans for the perpetrator of domestic violence,
  309  if the investigator, using reasonable efforts, can locate the
  310  perpetrator to implement a safety plan, and for the parent who
  311  is a victim of domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28.
  312  Reasonable efforts to locate a perpetrator include, but are not
  313  limited to, a diligent search pursuant to the same requirements
  314  as in s. 39.503. If the perpetrator of domestic violence is not
  315  the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of any child in the
  316  home and if the department does not intend to file a shelter
  317  petition or dependency petition that will assert allegations
  318  against the perpetrator as a parent of a child in the home, the
  319  child protective investigator shall seek issuance of an
  320  injunction authorized by s. 39.504 to implement a safety plan
  321  for the perpetrator and impose any other conditions to protect
  322  the child. The safety plan for the parent who is a victim of
  323  domestic violence may not be shared with the perpetrator. If any
  324  party to a safety plan fails to comply with the safety plan
  325  resulting in the child being unsafe, the department shall file a
  326  shelter petition.
  327         b. The child protective investigator shall collaborate with
  328  the community-based care lead agency in the development of the
  329  safety plan as necessary to ensure that the safety plan is
  330  specific, sufficient, feasible, and sustainable. The child
  331  protective investigator shall identify services necessary for
  332  the successful implementation of the safety plan. The child
  333  protective investigator and the community-based care lead agency
  334  shall mobilize service resources to assist all parties in
  335  complying with the safety plan. The community-based care lead
  336  agency shall prioritize safety plan services to families who
  337  have multiple risk factors, including, but not limited to, two
  338  or more of the following:
  339         (I) The parent or legal custodian is of young age;
  340         (II) The parent or legal custodian, or an adult currently
  341  living in or frequently visiting the home, has a history of
  342  substance abuse, mental illness, or domestic violence;
  343         (III) The parent or legal custodian, or an adult currently
  344  living in or frequently visiting the home, has been previously
  345  found to have physically or sexually abused a child;
  346         (IV) The parent or legal custodian or an adult currently
  347  living in or frequently visiting the home has been the subject
  348  of multiple allegations by reputable reports of abuse or
  349  neglect;
  350         (V) The child is physically or developmentally disabled; or
  351         (VI) The child is 3 years of age or younger.
  352         c. The child protective investigator shall monitor the
  353  implementation of the plan to ensure the child’s safety until
  354  the case is transferred to the lead agency at which time the
  355  lead agency shall monitor the implementation.
  356         d. The department may file a petition for shelter or
  357  dependency without a new child protective investigation or the
  358  concurrence of the child protective investigator if the child is
  359  unsafe but for the use of a safety plan and the parent or
  360  caregiver has not sufficiently increased protective capacities
  361  within 90 days after the transfer of the safety plan to the lead
  362  agency.
  363         Section 5. Subsection (1) of section 39.522, Florida
  364  Statutes, is amended, and subsection (4) is added to that
  365  section, to read:
  366         39.522 Postdisposition change of custody.—The court may
  367  change the temporary legal custody or the conditions of
  368  protective supervision at a postdisposition hearing, without the
  369  necessity of another adjudicatory hearing.
  370         (1)(a) At any time before a child is residing in the
  371  permanent placement approved at the permanency hearing, a child
  372  who has been placed in the child’s own home under the protective
  373  supervision of an authorized agent of the department, in the
  374  home of a relative, in the home of a legal custodian, or in some
  375  other place may be brought before the court by the department or
  376  by any other interested person, upon the filing of a motion
  377  alleging a need for a change in the conditions of protective
  378  supervision or the placement. If the parents or other legal
  379  custodians deny the need for a change, the court shall hear all
  380  parties in person or by counsel, or both. Upon the admission of
  381  a need for a change or after such hearing, the court shall enter
  382  an order changing the placement, modifying the conditions of
  383  protective supervision, or continuing the conditions of
  384  protective supervision as ordered. The standard for changing
  385  custody of the child shall be the best interests interest of the
  386  child. When determining whether a change of legal custody or
  387  placement is in applying this standard, the court shall consider
  388  the continuity of the child’s placement in the same out-of-home
  389  residence as a factor when determining the best interests of the
  390  child, the court shall consider:
  391         1. The child’s age.
  392         2. The physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to
  393  the child by remaining in his or her current placement or moving
  394  to the proposed placement.
  395         3. The stability and longevity of the child’s current
  396  placement.
  397         4. The established bonded relationship between the child
  398  and the current or proposed caregiver.
  399         5. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court has
  400  found that the child is of sufficient intelligence,
  401  understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  402         6. The recommendation of the child’s current caregiver.
  403         7. The recommendation of the child’s guardian ad litem, if
  404  one has been appointed.
  405         8. The child’s previous and current relationship with a
  406  sibling, if the change of legal custody or placement will
  407  separate or reunite siblings.
  408         9. The likelihood of the child attaining permanency in the
  409  current or proposed placement.
  410         10. Any other relevant factors.
  411         (b) If the child is not placed in foster care, then the new
  412  placement for the child must meet the home study criteria and
  413  court approval under pursuant to this chapter.
  414         (4)(a) The court or any party to the case may file a
  415  petition to place a child in out-of-home care after the child
  416  was placed in the child’s own home with an in-home safety plan
  417  or the child was reunified with a parent or caregiver with an
  418  in-home safety plan if:
  419         1. The child has again been abused, neglected, or abandoned
  420  by the parent or caregiver, or is suffering from or is in
  421  imminent danger of illness or injury as a result of abuse,
  422  neglect, or abandonment that has reoccurred; or
  423         2. The parent or caregiver has materially violated a
  424  condition of placement imposed by the court, including, but not
  425  limited to, not complying with the in-home safety plan or case
  426  plan.
  427         (b) If a child meets the criteria in paragraph (a) to be
  428  removed and placed in out-of-home care, the court must consider,
  429  at a minimum, the following in making its determination to
  430  remove the child and place the child in out-of-home care:
  431         1. The circumstances that caused the child’s dependency and
  432  other subsequently identified issues.
  433         2. The length of time the child has been placed in the home
  434  with an in-home safety plan.
  435         3. The parent’s or caregiver’s current level of protective
  436  capacities.
  437         4. The level of increase, if any, in the parent’s or
  438  caregiver’s protective capacities since the child’s placement in
  439  the home based on the length of time the child has been placed
  440  in the home.
  441         (c) The court shall evaluate the child’s permanency goal
  442  and change the permanency goal as needed if doing so would be in
  443  the best interests of the child.
  444         Section 6. Subsection (5) of section 39.6011, Florida
  445  Statutes, is amended to read:
  446         39.6011 Case plan development.—
  447         (5) The case plan must describe all of the following:
  448         (a) The role of the foster parents or caregivers legal
  449  custodians when developing the services that are to be provided
  450  to the child, foster parents, or caregivers. legal custodians;
  451         (b) The responsibility of the parents and caregivers to
  452  work together to successfully implement the case plan, how the
  453  case manager will assist the parents and caregivers in
  454  developing a productive relationship that includes meaningful
  455  communication and mutual support, and the ability of the parents
  456  or caregivers to notify the court or the case manager if
  457  ineffective communication takes place that negatively impacts
  458  the child.
  459         (c)(b) The responsibility of the case manager to forward a
  460  relative’s request to receive notification of all proceedings
  461  and hearings submitted under pursuant to s. 39.301(14)(b) to the
  462  attorney for the department.;
  463         (d)(c) The minimum number of face-to-face meetings to be
  464  held each month between the parents and the department’s family
  465  services counselors to review the progress of the plan, to
  466  eliminate barriers to progress, and to resolve conflicts or
  467  disagreements between parents and caregivers, service providers,
  468  or any other professional assisting the parents in the
  469  completion of the case plan.; and
  470         (e)(d) The parent’s responsibility for financial support of
  471  the child, including, but not limited to, health insurance and
  472  child support. The case plan must list the costs associated with
  473  any services or treatment that the parent and child are expected
  474  to receive which are the financial responsibility of the parent.
  475  The determination of child support and other financial support
  476  shall be made independently of any determination of indigency
  477  under s. 39.013.
  478         Section 7. Paragraph (b) of subsection (1) and paragraphs
  479  (a) and (c) of subsection (2) of section 39.701, Florida
  480  Statutes, are amended to read:
  481         39.701 Judicial review.—
  482         (1) GENERAL PROVISIONS.—
  483         (b)1. The court shall retain jurisdiction over a child
  484  returned to his or her parents for a minimum period of 6 months
  485  following the reunification, but, at that time, based on a
  486  report of the social service agency and the guardian ad litem,
  487  if one has been appointed, and any other relevant factors, the
  488  court shall make a determination as to whether supervision by
  489  the department and the court’s jurisdiction shall continue or be
  490  terminated.
  491         2. Notwithstanding subparagraph 1., the court must retain
  492  jurisdiction over a child if the child is placed in the home
  493  with a parent or caregiver with an in-home safety plan and such
  494  safety plan remains necessary for the child to reside safely in
  495  the home.
  497  AGE.—
  498         (a) Social study report for judicial review.—Before every
  499  judicial review hearing or citizen review panel hearing, the
  500  social service agency shall make an investigation and social
  501  study concerning all pertinent details relating to the child and
  502  shall furnish to the court or citizen review panel a written
  503  report that includes, but is not limited to:
  504         1. A description of the type of placement the child is in
  505  at the time of the hearing, including the safety of the child
  506  and the continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the
  507  placement.
  508         2. Documentation of the diligent efforts made by all
  509  parties to the case plan to comply with each applicable
  510  provision of the plan.
  511         3. The amount of fees assessed and collected during the
  512  period of time being reported.
  513         4. The services provided to the foster family or caregiver
  514  legal custodian in an effort to address the needs of the child
  515  as indicated in the case plan.
  516         5. A statement that either:
  517         a. The parent, though able to do so, did not comply
  518  substantially with the case plan, and the agency
  519  recommendations;
  520         b. The parent did substantially comply with the case plan;
  521  or
  522         c. The parent has partially complied with the case plan,
  523  with a summary of additional progress needed and the agency
  524  recommendations.
  525         6. A statement from the foster parent or caregiver legal
  526  custodian providing any material evidence concerning the well
  527  being of the child, the impact of any services provided to the
  528  child, the working relationship between the parents and
  529  caregivers, and the return of the child to the parent or
  530  parents.
  531         7. A statement concerning the frequency, duration, and
  532  results of the parent-child visitation, if any, and the agency
  533  and caregiver recommendations for an expansion or restriction of
  534  future visitation.
  535         8. The number of times a child has been removed from his or
  536  her home and placed elsewhere, the number and types of
  537  placements that have occurred, and the reason for the changes in
  538  placement.
  539         9. The number of times a child’s educational placement has
  540  been changed, the number and types of educational placements
  541  which have occurred, and the reason for any change in placement.
  542         10. If the child has reached 13 years of age but is not yet
  543  18 years of age, a statement from the caregiver on the progress
  544  the child has made in acquiring independent living skills.
  545         11. Copies of all medical, psychological, and educational
  546  records that support the terms of the case plan and that have
  547  been produced concerning the parents or any caregiver since the
  548  last judicial review hearing.
  549         12. Copies of the child’s current health, mental health,
  550  and education records as identified in s. 39.6012.
  551         (c) Review determinations.—The court and any citizen review
  552  panel shall take into consideration the information contained in
  553  the social services study and investigation and all medical,
  554  psychological, and educational records that support the terms of
  555  the case plan; testimony by the social services agency, the
  556  parent, the foster parent or caregiver legal custodian, the
  557  guardian ad litem or surrogate parent for educational
  558  decisionmaking if one has been appointed for the child, and any
  559  other person deemed appropriate; and any relevant and material
  560  evidence submitted to the court, including written and oral
  561  reports to the extent of their probative value. These reports
  562  and evidence may be received by the court in its effort to
  563  determine the action to be taken with regard to the child and
  564  may be relied upon to the extent of their probative value, even
  565  though not competent in an adjudicatory hearing. In its
  566  deliberations, the court and any citizen review panel shall seek
  567  to determine:
  568         1. If the parent was advised of the right to receive
  569  assistance from any person or social service agency in the
  570  preparation of the case plan.
  571         2. If the parent has been advised of the right to have
  572  counsel present at the judicial review or citizen review
  573  hearings. If not so advised, the court or citizen review panel
  574  shall advise the parent of such right.
  575         3. If a guardian ad litem needs to be appointed for the
  576  child in a case in which a guardian ad litem has not previously
  577  been appointed or if there is a need to continue a guardian ad
  578  litem in a case in which a guardian ad litem has been appointed.
  579         4. Who holds the rights to make educational decisions for
  580  the child. If appropriate, the court may refer the child to the
  581  district school superintendent for appointment of a surrogate
  582  parent or may itself appoint a surrogate parent under the
  583  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and s. 39.0016.
  584         5. The compliance or lack of compliance of all parties with
  585  applicable items of the case plan, including the parents’
  586  compliance with child support orders.
  587         6. The compliance or lack of compliance with a visitation
  588  contract between the parent and the social service agency for
  589  contact with the child, including the frequency, duration, and
  590  results of the parent-child visitation and the reason for any
  591  noncompliance.
  592         7. The frequency, kind, and duration of contacts among
  593  siblings who have been separated during placement, as well as
  594  any efforts undertaken to reunite separated siblings if doing so
  595  is in the best interests interest of the child.
  596         8. The compliance or lack of compliance of the parent in
  597  meeting specified financial obligations pertaining to the care
  598  of the child, including the reason for failure to comply, if
  599  applicable.
  600         9. Whether the child is receiving safe and proper care
  601  according to s. 39.6012, including, but not limited to, the
  602  appropriateness of the child’s current placement, including
  603  whether the child is in a setting that is as family-like and as
  604  close to the parent’s home as possible, consistent with the
  605  child’s best interests and special needs, and including
  606  maintaining stability in the child’s educational placement, as
  607  documented by assurances from the community-based care lead
  608  agency provider that:
  609         a. The placement of the child takes into account the
  610  appropriateness of the current educational setting and the
  611  proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the
  612  time of placement.
  613         b. The community-based care lead agency has coordinated
  614  with appropriate local educational agencies to ensure that the
  615  child remains in the school in which the child is enrolled at
  616  the time of placement.
  617         10. A projected date likely for the child’s return home or
  618  other permanent placement.
  619         11. When appropriate, the basis for the unwillingness or
  620  inability of the parent to become a party to a case plan. The
  621  court and the citizen review panel shall determine if the
  622  efforts of the social service agency to secure party
  623  participation in a case plan were sufficient.
  624         12. For a child who has reached 13 years of age but is not
  625  yet 18 years of age, the adequacy of the child’s preparation for
  626  adulthood and independent living. For a child who is 15 years of
  627  age or older, the court shall determine if appropriate steps are
  628  being taken for the child to obtain a driver license or
  629  learner’s driver license.
  630         13. If amendments to the case plan are required. Amendments
  631  to the case plan must be made under s. 39.6013.
  632         14. If the parents and caregivers have developed a
  633  productive relationship that includes meaningful communication
  634  and mutual support.
  635         Section 8. Subsection (3) of section 63.092, Florida
  636  Statutes, is amended to read:
  637         63.092 Report to the court of intended placement by an
  638  adoption entity; at-risk placement; preliminary study.—
  639         (3) PRELIMINARY HOME STUDY.—Before placing the minor in the
  640  intended adoptive home, a preliminary home study must be
  641  performed by a licensed child-placing agency, a child-caring
  642  agency registered under s. 409.176, a licensed professional, or
  643  an agency described in s. 61.20(2), unless the adoptee is an
  644  adult or the petitioner is a stepparent or a relative. If the
  645  adoptee is an adult or the petitioner is a stepparent or a
  646  relative, a preliminary home study may be required by the court
  647  for good cause shown. The department is required to perform the
  648  preliminary home study only if there is no licensed child
  649  placing agency, child-caring agency registered under s. 409.176,
  650  licensed professional, or agency described in s. 61.20(2), in
  651  the county where the prospective adoptive parents reside. The
  652  preliminary home study must be made to determine the suitability
  653  of the intended adoptive parents and may be completed prior to
  654  identification of a prospective adoptive minor. Preliminary home
  655  studies initiated for identified prospective adoptive minors
  656  that are in the custody of the department must be completed
  657  within 30 days of initiation. A favorable preliminary home study
  658  is valid for 1 year after the date of its completion. Upon its
  659  completion, a signed copy of the home study must be provided to
  660  the intended adoptive parents who were the subject of the home
  661  study. A minor may not be placed in an intended adoptive home
  662  before a favorable preliminary home study is completed unless
  663  the adoptive home is also a licensed foster home under s.
  664  409.175. The preliminary home study must include, at a minimum:
  665         (a) An interview with the intended adoptive parents;
  666         (b) Records checks of the department’s central abuse
  667  registry, which the department shall provide to the entity
  668  conducting the preliminary home study, and criminal records
  669  correspondence checks under s. 39.0138 through the Department of
  670  Law Enforcement on the intended adoptive parents;
  671         (c) An assessment of the physical environment of the home;
  672         (d) A determination of the financial security of the
  673  intended adoptive parents;
  674         (e) Documentation of counseling and education of the
  675  intended adoptive parents on adoptive parenting, as determined
  676  by the entity conducting the preliminary home study. The
  677  training specified in s. 409.175(14) shall only be required for
  678  persons who adopt children from the department;
  679         (f) Documentation that information on adoption and the
  680  adoption process has been provided to the intended adoptive
  681  parents;
  682         (g) Documentation that information on support services
  683  available in the community has been provided to the intended
  684  adoptive parents; and
  685         (h) A copy of each signed acknowledgment of receipt of
  686  disclosure required by s. 63.085.
  688  If the preliminary home study is favorable, a minor may be
  689  placed in the home pending entry of the judgment of adoption. A
  690  minor may not be placed in the home if the preliminary home
  691  study is unfavorable. If the preliminary home study is
  692  unfavorable, the adoption entity may, within 20 days after
  693  receipt of a copy of the written recommendation, petition the
  694  court to determine the suitability of the intended adoptive
  695  home. A determination as to suitability under this subsection
  696  does not act as a presumption of suitability at the final
  697  hearing. In determining the suitability of the intended adoptive
  698  home, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances
  699  in the home. A minor may not be placed in a home in which there
  700  resides any person determined by the court to be a sexual
  701  predator as defined in s. 775.21 or to have been convicted of an
  702  offense listed in s. 63.089(4)(b)2.
  703         Section 9. Section 63.093, Florida Statutes, is created to
  704  read:
  705         63.093 Adoption of a child from the child welfare system.
  706  The adoption of a child from Florida’s foster care system is a
  707  process that typically includes an orientation session, an in
  708  depth training program to help prospective parents determine if
  709  adoption is right for the family, a home study, and a background
  710  check. Once the process has been completed, prospective parents
  711  are ready to be matched with a child available for adoption.
  712         (1) The prospective adoptive parents’ initial inquiry to
  713  the department or to the community-based care lead agency or
  714  subcontractor staff, whether written or verbal, must receive a
  715  written response or a telephone call from the department or
  716  agency or subcontractor staff, as applicable, within 7 business
  717  days after receipt of the inquiry. Prospective adoptive parents
  718  who indicate an interest in adopting children in the custody of
  719  the department must be referred by the department or agency or
  720  subcontractor staff to a department-approved adoptive parent
  721  training program as prescribed in rule.
  722         (2) An application to adopt must be made on the “Adoptive
  723  Home Application” published by the department.
  724         (3) An adoptive home study that includes observation,
  725  screening, and evaluation of the child and adoptive applicants
  726  must be completed by a staff person with the community-based
  727  care lead agency, the subcontractor agency, or another licensed
  728  child-placing agency prior to the adoptive placement of the
  729  child. The purpose of this evaluation is to select families who
  730  will be able to meet the physical, emotional, social,
  731  educational, and financial needs of a child, while safeguarding
  732  the child from further loss and separation from siblings and
  733  significant adults. The adoptive home study is valid for 12
  734  months from the approval date.
  735         (4) In addition to other required documentation, an
  736  adoptive parent application file must include the adoptive home
  737  study and verification that all background screening
  738  requirements have been met.
  739         (5) The department-approved adoptive parent training must
  740  be provided to and successfully completed by all prospective
  741  adoptive parents except licensed foster parents and relative and
  742  nonrelative caregivers who previously attended the training
  743  within the last 5 years, as prescribed in rule, or have the
  744  child currently placed in their home for 6 months or longer, and
  745  been determined to understand the challenges and parenting
  746  skills needed to successfully parent the children available for
  747  adoption from foster care.
  748         (6) At the conclusion of the preparation and study process,
  749  the counselor and supervisor shall make a decision about the
  750  family’s appropriateness to adopt. The decision to approve or
  751  not to approve will be reflected in the final recommendation
  752  included in the home study. If the recommendation is for
  753  approval, the adoptive parent application file must be submitted
  754  to the community-based lead agency or subcontractor agency for
  755  approval, which must be made within 14 business days.
  756         Section 10. Section 409.1415, Florida Statutes, is created
  757  to read:
  758         409.1415 Parenting partnerships for children in out-of-home
  759  care.—
  761         (a)The Legislature finds that reunification is the most
  762  common outcome for children in out-of-home care and that foster
  763  parents are one of the most important resources to help children
  764  reunify with their families.
  765         (b)The Legislature further finds that the most successful
  766  foster parents understand that their role goes beyond supporting
  767  the children in their care to supporting the children’s
  768  families, as a whole, and that children and their families
  769  benefit when foster and birth parents are supported by an agency
  770  culture that encourages a meaningful partnership between them
  771  and provides quality support.
  772         (c)Therefore, in keeping with national trends, it is the
  773  intent of the Legislature to bring birth parents and foster
  774  parents together in order to build strong relationships that
  775  lead to more successful reunifications and more stability for
  776  children being fostered in out-of-home care.
  778         (a)General provisions.—In order to ensure that children in
  779  out-of-home care achieve legal permanency as soon as possible,
  780  to reduce the likelihood that they will re-enter care or that
  781  other children in the family are abused or neglected or enter
  782  out-of-home care, and to ensure that families are fully prepared
  783  to resume custody of their children, the department and
  784  community-based care lead agencies shall develop and support
  785  relationships between foster families and the legal parents of
  786  children in out-of-home care to the extent that it is safe and
  787  in the child’s best interest, by:
  788         1. Facilitating telephone communication between the foster
  789  parent and the birth or legal parent as soon as possible after
  790  the child is placed in the home.
  791         2. Facilitating and attending an in-person meeting between
  792  the foster parent and the birth or legal parent within 2 weeks
  793  after placement.
  794         3. Developing and supporting a plan for birth or legal
  795  parents to participate in medical appointments, educational and
  796  extracurricular activities, and other events involving the
  797  child.
  798         4.Facilitating participation by the foster parent in
  799  visitation between the birth parent and the child.
  800         5.Involving the foster parent in planning meetings with
  801  the birth parent.
  802         6.Developing and implementing effective transition plans
  803  for the child’s return home or placement in any other living
  804  environment.
  805         7.Supporting continued contact between the foster family
  806  and the child after the child returns home or moves to another
  807  permanent living arrangement.
  808         8. Supporting continued connection with the birth parent
  809  after adoption.
  810         (b)Responsibilities.—To ensure that a child in out-of-home
  811  care receives support for healthy development which gives him or
  812  her the best possible opportunity for success, foster parents,
  813  birth parents, the department, community-based care lead agency
  814  staff, and other agency staff, as applicable, shall work
  815  cooperatively in a respectful partnership by adhering to the
  816  following requirements:
  817         1. All members of the partnership must interact and
  818  communicate professionally with one another, must share all
  819  relevant information promptly, and must respect the
  820  confidentiality of all information related to a child and his or
  821  her family.
  822         2.Caregivers, the family, the department, community-based
  823  care lead agency staff, and other agency staff must participate
  824  in developing a case plan for the child and family, and all
  825  members of the team must work together to implement the plan.
  826  Caregivers must participate in all team meetings or court
  827  hearings related to the child’s care and future plans. The
  828  department, community-based care lead agency staff, and other
  829  agency staff must support and facilitate caregiver participation
  830  through timely notification of such meetings and hearings and an
  831  inclusive process, and by providing alternative methods for
  832  participation for caregivers who cannot be physically present at
  833  a meeting or hearing.
  834         3.Excellent parenting is a reasonable expectation of
  835  caregivers. Caregivers must provide, and the department,
  836  community-based care lead agency staff, and other agency staff
  837  must support, excellent parenting. As used in this subparagraph,
  838  the term “excellent parenting” means a loving commitment to the
  839  child and the child’s safety and well-being; appropriate
  840  supervision and positive methods of discipline; encouragement of
  841  the child’s strengths; respect for the child’s individuality and
  842  likes and dislikes; providing opportunities for the child to
  843  develop interests and skills; being aware of the impact of
  844  trauma on behavior; facilitating equal participation of the
  845  child in family life; involving the child within his or her
  846  community; and a commitment to enable the child to lead a normal
  847  life.
  848         4.Children in out-of-home care may be placed only with a
  849  caregiver who has the ability to care for the child; is willing
  850  to accept responsibility for providing care; and is willing and
  851  able to learn about and be respectful of the child’s culture,
  852  religion, and ethnicity, his or her special physical or
  853  psychological needs, any circumstances unique to the child, and
  854  family relationships. The department, the community-based care
  855  lead agency, and other agencies must provide a caregiver with
  856  all available information necessary to assist the caregiver in
  857  determining whether he or she is able to appropriately care for
  858  a particular child.
  859         5.A caregiver must have access to and take advantage of
  860  all training that he or she needs to improve his or her skills
  861  in parenting a child who has experienced trauma due to neglect,
  862  abuse, or separation from home; to meet the child’s special
  863  needs; and to work effectively with child welfare agencies, the
  864  courts, the schools, and other community and governmental
  865  agencies.
  866         6.The department, community-based care lead agency staff,
  867  and other agency staff must provide caregivers with the services
  868  and support they need to enable them to provide quality care for
  869  the child.
  870         7.Once a family accepts the responsibility of caring for a
  871  child, the child may be removed from that family only if the
  872  family is clearly unable to care for him or her safely or
  873  legally, when the child and his or her biological family are
  874  reunified, when the child is being placed in a legally permanent
  875  home in accordance with a case plan or court order, or when the
  876  removal is demonstrably in the best interests of the child.
  877         8.If a child must leave the caregiver’s home for one of
  878  the reasons stated in subparagraph 7., and in the absence of an
  879  unforeseeable emergency, the transition must be accomplished
  880  according to a plan that involves cooperation and sharing of
  881  information among all persons involved, respects the child’s
  882  developmental stage and psychological needs, ensures the child
  883  has all of his or her belongings, allows for a gradual
  884  transition from the caregiver’s home, and, if possible, allows
  885  for continued contact with the caregiver after the child leaves.
  886         9.When the plan for a child includes reunification,
  887  caregivers and agency staff must work together to assist the
  888  biological parents in improving their ability to care for and
  889  protect their children and to provide continuity for the child.
  890         10.A caregiver must respect and support the child’s ties
  891  to his or her biological family, including parents, siblings,
  892  and extended family members, and must assist the child in
  893  visitation and other forms of communication. The department,
  894  community-based care lead agency staff, and other agency staff
  895  must provide caregivers with the information, guidance,
  896  training, and support necessary for fulfilling this
  897  responsibility.
  898         11.A caregiver must work in partnership with the
  899  department, community-based care lead agency staff, and other
  900  agency staff to obtain and maintain records that are important
  901  to the child’s well-being including, but not limited to, child
  902  resource records, medical records, school records, photographs,
  903  and records of special events and achievements.
  904         12.A caregiver must effectively advocate for a child in
  905  his or her care with the child welfare system, the court, and
  906  community agencies, including schools, child care providers,
  907  health and mental health providers, and employers. The
  908  department, community-based care lead agency staff, and other
  909  agency staff must support a caregiver in effectively advocating
  910  for a child and may not retaliate against the caregiver as a
  911  result of this advocacy.
  912         13.A caregiver must be as fully involved in the child’s
  913  medical, psychological, and dental care as he or she would be
  914  for his or her biological child. Agency staff must support and
  915  facilitate such participation. Caregivers, the department,
  916  community-based care lead agency staff, and other agency staff
  917  must share information with each other about the child’s health
  918  and well-being.
  919         14.A caregiver must support a child’s school success,
  920  including, when possible, maintaining school stability by
  921  participating in school activities and meetings, including
  922  individual education plan meetings; assisting with school
  923  assignments; supporting tutoring programs; meeting with teachers
  924  and working with an educational surrogate, if one has been
  925  appointed; and encouraging the child’s participation in
  926  extracurricular activities. Agency staff must facilitate this
  927  participation and must be kept informed of the child’s progress
  928  and needs.
  929         15.Caseworkers and caseworker supervisors must mediate
  930  disagreements that occur between foster parents and birth
  931  parents.
  932         (c)Residential group homes.—All caregivers employed by
  933  residential group homes must meet the same education, training,
  934  and background and other screening requirements as foster
  935  parents and must adhere to the requirements in paragraph (b).
  936         (3)RULEMAKING.—The department shall adopt by rule
  937  procedures to administer this section.
  938         Section 11. Section 409.145, Florida Statutes, is amended
  939  to read:
  940         409.145 Care of children; quality parenting; “reasonable
  941  and prudent parent” standard.—The child welfare system of the
  942  department shall operate as a coordinated community-based system
  943  of care which empowers all caregivers for children in foster
  944  care to provide quality parenting, including approving or
  945  disapproving a child’s participation in activities based on the
  946  caregiver’s assessment using the “reasonable and prudent parent”
  947  standard.
  948         (1) SYSTEM OF CARE.—The department shall develop,
  949  implement, and administer a coordinated community-based system
  950  of care for children who are found to be dependent and their
  951  families. This system of care must be directed toward the
  952  following goals:
  953         (a) Prevention of separation of children from their
  954  families.
  955         (b) Intervention to allow children to remain safely in
  956  their own homes.
  957         (c) Reunification of families who have had children removed
  958  from their care.
  959         (d) Safety for children who are separated from their
  960  families by providing alternative emergency or longer-term
  961  parenting arrangements.
  962         (e) Focus on the well-being of children through emphasis on
  963  maintaining educational stability and providing timely health
  964  care.
  965         (f) Permanency for children for whom reunification with
  966  their families is not possible or is not in the best interest of
  967  the child.
  968         (g) The transition to independence and self-sufficiency for
  969  older children who remain in foster care through adolescence.
  970         (2) QUALITY PARENTING.—A child in foster care shall be
  971  placed only with a caregiver who has the ability to care for the
  972  child, is willing to accept responsibility for providing care,
  973  and is willing and able to learn about and be respectful of the
  974  child’s culture, religion and ethnicity, special physical or
  975  psychological needs, any circumstances unique to the child, and
  976  family relationships. The department, the community-based care
  977  lead agency, and other agencies shall provide such caregiver
  978  with all available information necessary to assist the caregiver
  979  in determining whether he or she is able to appropriately care
  980  for a particular child.
  981         (a) Roles and responsibilities of caregivers.—A caregiver
  982  shall:
  983         1. Participate in developing the case plan for the child
  984  and his or her family and work with others involved in his or
  985  her care to implement this plan. This participation includes the
  986  caregiver’s involvement in all team meetings or court hearings
  987  related to the child’s care.
  988         2. Complete all training needed to improve skills in
  989  parenting a child who has experienced trauma due to neglect,
  990  abuse, or separation from home, to meet the child’s special
  991  needs, and to work effectively with child welfare agencies, the
  992  court, the schools, and other community and governmental
  993  agencies.
  994         3. Respect and support the child’s ties to members of his
  995  or her biological family and assist the child in maintaining
  996  allowable visitation and other forms of communication.
  997         4. Effectively advocate for the child in the caregiver’s
  998  care with the child welfare system, the court, and community
  999  agencies, including the school, child care, health and mental
 1000  health providers, and employers.
 1001         5. Participate fully in the child’s medical, psychological,
 1002  and dental care as the caregiver would for his or her biological
 1003  child.
 1004         6. Support the child’s educational success by participating
 1005  in activities and meetings associated with the child’s school or
 1006  other educational setting, including Individual Education Plan
 1007  meetings and meetings with an educational surrogate if one has
 1008  been appointed, assisting with assignments, supporting tutoring
 1009  programs, and encouraging the child’s participation in
 1010  extracurricular activities.
 1011         a. Maintaining educational stability for a child while in
 1012  out-of-home care by allowing the child to remain in the school
 1013  or educational setting that he or she attended before entry into
 1014  out-of-home care is the first priority, unless not in the best
 1015  interest of the child.
 1016         b. If it is not in the best interest of the child to remain
 1017  in his or her school or educational setting upon entry into out
 1018  of-home care, the caregiver must work with the case manager,
 1019  guardian ad litem, teachers and guidance counselors, and
 1020  educational surrogate if one has been appointed to determine the
 1021  best educational setting for the child. Such setting may include
 1022  a public school that is not the school of origin, a private
 1023  school pursuant to s. 1002.42, a virtual instruction program
 1024  pursuant to s. 1002.45, or a home education program pursuant to
 1025  s. 1002.41.
 1026         7. Work in partnership with other stakeholders to obtain
 1027  and maintain records that are important to the child’s well
 1028  being, including child resource records, medical records, school
 1029  records, photographs, and records of special events and
 1030  achievements.
 1031         8. Ensure that the child in the caregiver’s care who is
 1032  between 13 and 17 years of age learns and masters independent
 1033  living skills.
 1034         9. Ensure that the child in the caregiver’s care is aware
 1035  of the requirements and benefits of the Road-to-Independence
 1036  Program.
 1037         10. Work to enable the child in the caregiver’s care to
 1038  establish and maintain naturally occurring mentoring
 1039  relationships.
 1040         (b) Roles and responsibilities of the department, the
 1041  community-based care lead agency, and other agency staff.—The
 1042  department, the community-based care lead agency, and other
 1043  agency staff shall:
 1044         1. Include a caregiver in the development and
 1045  implementation of the case plan for the child and his or her
 1046  family. The caregiver shall be authorized to participate in all
 1047  team meetings or court hearings related to the child’s care and
 1048  future plans. The caregiver’s participation shall be facilitated
 1049  through timely notification, an inclusive process, and
 1050  alternative methods for participation for a caregiver who cannot
 1051  be physically present.
 1052         2. Develop and make available to the caregiver the
 1053  information, services, training, and support that the caregiver
 1054  needs to improve his or her skills in parenting children who
 1055  have experienced trauma due to neglect, abuse, or separation
 1056  from home, to meet these children’s special needs, and to
 1057  advocate effectively with child welfare agencies, the courts,
 1058  schools, and other community and governmental agencies.
 1059         3. Provide the caregiver with all information related to
 1060  services and other benefits that are available to the child.
 1061         4. Show no prejudice against a caregiver who desires to
 1062  educate at home a child placed in his or her home through the
 1063  child welfare system.
 1064         (c) Transitions.
 1065         1. Once a caregiver accepts the responsibility of caring
 1066  for a child, the child will be removed from the home of that
 1067  caregiver only if:
 1068         a. The caregiver is clearly unable to safely or legally
 1069  care for the child;
 1070         b. The child and his or her biological family are
 1071  reunified;
 1072         c. The child is being placed in a legally permanent home
 1073  pursuant to the case plan or a court order; or
 1074         d. The removal is demonstrably in the child’s best
 1075  interest.
 1076         2. In the absence of an emergency, if a child leaves the
 1077  caregiver’s home for a reason provided under subparagraph 1.,
 1078  the transition must be accomplished according to a plan that
 1079  involves cooperation and sharing of information among all
 1080  persons involved, respects the child’s developmental stage and
 1081  psychological needs, ensures the child has all of his or her
 1082  belongings, allows for a gradual transition from the caregiver’s
 1083  home and, if possible, for continued contact with the caregiver
 1084  after the child leaves.
 1085         (d) Information sharing.—Whenever a foster home or
 1086  residential group home assumes responsibility for the care of a
 1087  child, the department and any additional providers shall make
 1088  available to the caregiver as soon as is practicable all
 1089  relevant information concerning the child. Records and
 1090  information that are required to be shared with caregivers
 1091  include, but are not limited to:
 1092         1. Medical, dental, psychological, psychiatric, and
 1093  behavioral history, as well as ongoing evaluation or treatment
 1094  needs;
 1095         2. School records;
 1096         3. Copies of his or her birth certificate and, if
 1097  appropriate, immigration status documents;
 1098         4. Consents signed by parents;
 1099         5. Comprehensive behavioral assessments and other social
 1100  assessments;
 1101         6. Court orders;
 1102         7. Visitation and case plans;
 1103         8. Guardian ad litem reports;
 1104         9. Staffing forms; and
 1105         10. Judicial or citizen review panel reports and
 1106  attachments filed with the court, except confidential medical,
 1107  psychiatric, and psychological information regarding any party
 1108  or participant other than the child.
 1109         (e) Caregivers employed by residential group homes.—All
 1110  caregivers in residential group homes shall meet the same
 1111  education, training, and background and other screening
 1112  requirements as foster parents.
 1114         (a) Definitions.—As used in this subsection, the term:
 1115         1. “Age-appropriate” means an activity or item that is
 1116  generally accepted as suitable for a child of the same
 1117  chronological age or level of maturity. Age appropriateness is
 1118  based on the development of cognitive, emotional, physical, and
 1119  behavioral capacity which is typical for an age or age group.
 1120         2. “Caregiver” means a person with whom the child is placed
 1121  in out-of-home care, or a designated official for a group care
 1122  facility licensed by the department under s. 409.175.
 1123         3. “Reasonable and prudent parent” standard means the
 1124  standard of care used by a caregiver in determining whether to
 1125  allow a child in his or her care to participate in
 1126  extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities. This
 1127  standard is characterized by careful and thoughtful parental
 1128  decisionmaking that is intended to maintain a child’s health,
 1129  safety, and best interest while encouraging the child’s
 1130  emotional and developmental growth.
 1131         (b) Application of standard of care.—
 1132         1. Every child who comes into out-of-home care pursuant to
 1133  this chapter is entitled to participate in age-appropriate
 1134  extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities.
 1135         2. Each caregiver shall use the reasonable and prudent
 1136  parent standard in determining whether to give permission for a
 1137  child living in out-of-home care to participate in
 1138  extracurricular, enrichment, or social activities. When using
 1139  the reasonable and prudent parent standard, the caregiver must
 1140  consider:
 1141         a. The child’s age, maturity, and developmental level to
 1142  maintain the overall health and safety of the child.
 1143         b. The potential risk factors and the appropriateness of
 1144  the extracurricular, enrichment, or social activity.
 1145         c. The best interest of the child, based on information
 1146  known by the caregiver.
 1147         d. The importance of encouraging the child’s emotional and
 1148  developmental growth.
 1149         e. The importance of providing the child with the most
 1150  family-like living experience possible.
 1151         f. The behavioral history of the child and the child’s
 1152  ability to safely participate in the proposed activity.
 1153         (c) Verification of services delivered.—The department and
 1154  each community-based care lead agency shall verify that private
 1155  agencies providing out-of-home care services to dependent
 1156  children have policies in place which are consistent with this
 1157  section and that these agencies promote and protect the ability
 1158  of dependent children to participate in age-appropriate
 1159  extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities.
 1160         (d) Limitation of liability.—A caregiver is not liable for
 1161  harm caused to a child who participates in an activity approved
 1162  by the caregiver, provided that the caregiver has acted in
 1163  accordance with the reasonable and prudent parent standard. This
 1164  paragraph may not be interpreted as removing or limiting any
 1165  existing liability protection afforded by law.
 1166         (3)(4) FOSTER CARE ROOM AND BOARD RATES.—
 1167         (a) Effective July 1, 2018, room and board rates shall be
 1168  paid to foster parents as follows:
 1170                       Monthly Foster Care Rate                      
 1171       0-5 YearsAge         6-12 YearsAge         13-21 YearsAge    
 1172         $457.95               $469.68               $549.74        
 1173         (b) Each January, foster parents shall receive an annual
 1174  cost of living increase. The department shall calculate the new
 1175  room and board rate increase equal to the percentage change in
 1176  the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, U.S. City
 1177  Average, All Items, not seasonally adjusted, or successor
 1178  reports, for the preceding December compared to the prior
 1179  December as initially reported by the United States Department
 1180  of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The department shall make
 1181  available the adjusted room and board rates annually.
 1182         (c) Effective July 1, 2019, foster parents of level I
 1183  family foster homes, as defined in s. 409.175(5)(a) shall
 1184  receive a room and board rate of $333.
 1185         (d) Effective July 1, 2019, the foster care room and board
 1186  rate for level II family foster homes as defined in s.
 1187  409.175(5)(a) shall be the same as the new rate established for
 1188  family foster homes as of January 1, 2019.
 1189         (e) Effective January 1, 2020, paragraph (b) shall only
 1190  apply to level II through level V family foster homes, as
 1191  defined in s. 409.175(5)(a).
 1192         (f) The amount of the monthly foster care room and board
 1193  rate may be increased upon agreement among the department, the
 1194  community-based care lead agency, and the foster parent.
 1195         (g) From July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, community
 1196  based care lead agencies providing care under contract with the
 1197  department shall pay a supplemental room and board payment to
 1198  foster care parents of all family foster homes, on a per-child
 1199  basis, for providing independent life skills and normalcy
 1200  supports to children who are 13 through 17 years of age placed
 1201  in their care. The supplemental payment shall be paid monthly to
 1202  the foster care parents in addition to the current monthly room
 1203  and board rate payment. The supplemental monthly payment shall
 1204  be based on 10 percent of the monthly room and board rate for
 1205  children 13 through 21 years of age as provided under this
 1206  section and adjusted annually. Effective July 1, 2019, such
 1207  supplemental payments shall only be paid to foster parents of
 1208  level II through level V family foster homes.
 1209         (4)(5) RULEMAKING.—The department shall adopt by rule
 1210  procedures to administer this section.
 1211         Section 12. Paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of section
 1212  409.175, Florida Statutes, is amended, and paragraph (d) is
 1213  added to that subsection, to read:
 1214         409.175 Licensure of family foster homes, residential
 1215  child-caring agencies, and child-placing agencies; public
 1216  records exemption.—
 1217         (6)
 1218         (b) Upon application for licensure, the department shall
 1219  conduct a licensing study based on its licensing rules; shall
 1220  inspect the home or the agency and the records, including
 1221  financial records, of the applicant or agency; and shall
 1222  interview the applicant. The department may authorize a licensed
 1223  child-placing agency to conduct the licensing study of a family
 1224  foster home to be used exclusively by that agency and to verify
 1225  to the department that the home meets the licensing requirements
 1226  established by the department. A licensing study of a family
 1227  foster home must be completed by the department or an authorized
 1228  licensed child-placing agency within 30 days of initiation. The
 1229  department shall post on its website a list of the agencies
 1230  authorized to conduct such studies.
 1231         1. The complete application file shall be submitted in
 1232  accordance with the traditional or attestation model for
 1233  licensure as prescribed in rule. In addition to other required
 1234  documentation, a traditional licensing application file must
 1235  include a completed licensing study and verification of
 1236  background screening requirements.
 1237         2. The department regional licensing authority shall ensure
 1238  that the licensing application file is complete and that all
 1239  licensing requirements are met for the issuance of the license.
 1240  If the child-placing agency is contracted with a community-based
 1241  care lead agency, the licensing application file must contain
 1242  documentation of a review by the community-based care lead
 1243  agency and the regional licensing authority and a recommendation
 1244  for approval or denial by the community-based care lead agency
 1245  Upon certification by a licensed child-placing agency that a
 1246  family foster home meets the licensing requirements and upon
 1247  receipt of a letter from a community-based care lead agency in
 1248  the service area where the home will be licensed which indicates
 1249  that the family foster home meets the criteria established by
 1250  the lead agency, the department shall issue the license. A
 1251  letter from the lead agency is not required if the lead agency
 1252  where the proposed home is located is directly supervising
 1253  foster homes in the same service area.
 1254         3. An application file must be approved or denied within 10
 1255  business days after receipt by the regional licensing authority.
 1256  If the application file is approved, a license must be issued to
 1257  the applicant. The must shall include the name and address of
 1258  the caregiver, the name of the supervising agency, the licensed
 1259  capacity, and the dates for which the license is valid. The
 1260  department regional managing director or designee within upper
 1261  level management shall sign the license. Any limitations must be
 1262  displayed on the license.
 1263         4. The regional licensing authority shall provide a copy of
 1264  the license to the community-based care lead agency or
 1265  supervising agency. The community-based care lead agency or
 1266  supervising agency shall ensure that the license is sent to the
 1267  foster parent.
 1268         (d) The department shall issue a determination regarding an
 1269  application for a family foster home license within 100 days of
 1270  completion of orientation as provided in s. 409.175(14)(b)1.
 1271  Licenses that require additional certifications pursuant to s.
 1272  409.175(5)(a) may be given additional time to issue a
 1273  determination.
 1274         Section 13. Paragraph (j) of subsection (1) of section
 1275  409.988, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
 1276         409.988 Lead agency duties; general provisions.—
 1277         (1) DUTIES.—A lead agency:
 1278         (j) May subcontract for the provision of services required
 1279  by the contract with the lead agency and the department;
 1280  however, the subcontracts must specify how the provider will
 1281  contribute to the lead agency meeting the performance standards
 1282  established pursuant to the child welfare results-oriented
 1283  accountability system required by s. 409.997. The lead agency
 1284  shall directly provide no more than 35 percent of all child
 1285  welfare services provided unless it can demonstrate a need,
 1286  within the lead agency’s geographic service area, to exceed this
 1287  threshold. The local community alliance in the geographic
 1288  service area in which the lead agency is seeking to exceed the
 1289  threshold shall review the lead agency’s justification for need
 1290  and recommend to the department whether the department should
 1291  approve or deny the lead agency’s request for an exemption from
 1292  the services threshold. If there is not a community alliance
 1293  operating in the geographic service area in which the lead
 1294  agency is seeking to exceed the threshold, such review and
 1295  recommendation shall be made by representatives of local
 1296  stakeholders, including at least one representative from each of
 1297  the following:
 1298         1. The department.
 1299         2. The county government.
 1300         3. The school district.
 1301         4. The county United Way.
 1302         5. The county sheriff’s office.
 1303         6. The circuit court corresponding to the county.
 1304         7. The county children’s board, if one exists.
 1305         Section 14. Paragraph (b) of subsection (7) of section
 1306  39.302, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
 1307         39.302 Protective investigations of institutional child
 1308  abuse, abandonment, or neglect.—
 1309         (7) When an investigation of institutional abuse, neglect,
 1310  or abandonment is closed and a person is not identified as a
 1311  caregiver responsible for the abuse, neglect, or abandonment
 1312  alleged in the report, the fact that the person is named in some
 1313  capacity in the report may not be used in any way to adversely
 1314  affect the interests of that person. This prohibition applies to
 1315  any use of the information in employment screening, licensing,
 1316  child placement, adoption, or any other decisions by a private
 1317  adoption agency or a state agency or its contracted providers.
 1318         (b) Likewise, if a person is employed as a caregiver in a
 1319  residential group home licensed pursuant to s. 409.175 and is
 1320  named in any capacity in three or more reports within a 5-year
 1321  period, the department may review all reports for the purposes
 1322  of the employment screening required pursuant to s.
 1323  409.1415(2)(c) s. 409.145(2)(e).
 1324         Section 15. Paragraph (d) of subsection (5) of section
 1325  39.6225, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
 1326         39.6225 Guardianship Assistance Program.—
 1327         (5) A guardian with an application approved pursuant to
 1328  subsection (2) who is caring for a child placed with the
 1329  guardian by the court pursuant to this part may receive
 1330  guardianship assistance payments based on the following
 1331  criteria:
 1332         (d) The department shall provide guardianship assistance
 1333  payments in the amount of $4,000 annually, paid on a monthly
 1334  basis, or in an amount other than $4,000 annually as determined
 1335  by the guardian and the department and memorialized in a written
 1336  agreement between the guardian and the department. The agreement
 1337  shall take into consideration the circumstances of the guardian
 1338  and the needs of the child. Changes may not be made without the
 1339  concurrence of the guardian. However, in no case shall the
 1340  amount of the monthly payment exceed the foster care maintenance
 1341  payment that would have been paid during the same period if the
 1342  child had been in licensed care at his or her designated level
 1343  of care at the rate established in s. 409.145(3) s. 409.145(4).
 1344         Section 16. Paragraph (b) of subsection (5) of section
 1345  393.065, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
 1346         393.065 Application and eligibility determination.—
 1347         (5) The agency shall assign and provide priority to clients
 1348  waiting for waiver services in the following order:
 1349         (b) Category 2, which includes individuals on the waiting
 1350  list who are:
 1351         1. From the child welfare system with an open case in the
 1352  Department of Children and Families’ statewide automated child
 1353  welfare information system and who are either:
 1354         a. Transitioning out of the child welfare system at the
 1355  finalization of an adoption, a reunification with family
 1356  members, a permanent placement with a relative, or a
 1357  guardianship with a nonrelative; or
 1358         b. At least 18 years but not yet 22 years of age and who
 1359  need both waiver services and extended foster care services; or
 1360         2. At least 18 years but not yet 22 years of age and who
 1361  withdrew consent pursuant to s. 39.6251(5)(c) to remain in the
 1362  extended foster care system.
 1364  For individuals who are at least 18 years but not yet 22 years
 1365  of age and who are eligible under sub-subparagraph 1.b., the
 1366  agency shall provide waiver services, including residential
 1367  habilitation, and the community-based care lead agency shall
 1368  fund room and board at the rate established in s. 409.145(3) s.
 1369  409.145(4) and provide case management and related services as
 1370  defined in s. 409.986(3)(e). Individuals may receive both waiver
 1371  services and services under s. 39.6251. Services may not
 1372  duplicate services available through the Medicaid state plan.
 1374  Within categories 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, the agency shall maintain a
 1375  waiting list of clients placed in the order of the date that the
 1376  client is determined eligible for waiver services.
 1377         Section 17. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section
 1378  409.1451, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
 1379         409.1451 The Road-to-Independence Program.—
 1381         (b) The amount of the financial assistance shall be as
 1382  follows:
 1383         1. For a young adult who does not remain in foster care and
 1384  is attending a postsecondary school as provided in s. 1009.533,
 1385  the amount is $1,256 monthly.
 1386         2. For a young adult who remains in foster care, is
 1387  attending a postsecondary school, as provided in s. 1009.533,
 1388  and continues to reside in a licensed foster home, the amount is
 1389  the established room and board rate for foster parents. This
 1390  takes the place of the payment provided for in s. 409.145(3) s.
 1391  409.145(4).
 1392         3. For a young adult who remains in foster care, but
 1393  temporarily resides away from a licensed foster home for
 1394  purposes of attending a postsecondary school as provided in s.
 1395  1009.533, the amount is $1,256 monthly. This takes the place of
 1396  the payment provided for in s. 409.145(3) s. 409.145(4).
 1397         4. For a young adult who remains in foster care, is
 1398  attending a postsecondary school as provided in s. 1009.533, and
 1399  continues to reside in a licensed group home, the amount is
 1400  negotiated between the community-based care lead agency and the
 1401  licensed group home provider.
 1402         5. For a young adult who remains in foster care, but
 1403  temporarily resides away from a licensed group home for purposes
 1404  of attending a postsecondary school as provided in s. 1009.533,
 1405  the amount is $1,256 monthly. This takes the place of a
 1406  negotiated room and board rate.
 1407         6. A young adult is eligible to receive financial
 1408  assistance during the months when he or she is enrolled in a
 1409  postsecondary educational institution.
 1410         Section 18. This act shall take effect July 1, 2020.