Florida Senate - 2020 CS for SB 1324
By the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs; and
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
75 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
77 Section 1. Section 25.385, Florida Statutes, is amended to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
496 (2) REVIEW HEARINGS FOR CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 18 YEARS OF
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
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
520 b. The parent did substantially comply with the case plan;
522 c. The parent has partially complied with the case plan,
523 with a summary of additional progress needed and the agency
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
760 (1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.—
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.
777 (2) PARENTING PARTNERSHIPS.—
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
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
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
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
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
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
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”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1037 10. Work to enable the child in the caregiver’s care to
1038 establish and maintain naturally occurring mentoring
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
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
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
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
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.
1113 (2) (3) REASONABLE AND PRUDENT PARENT STANDARD.—
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
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.—
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
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
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.—
1380 (2) POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION SERVICES AND SUPPORT.—
1381 (b) The amount of the financial assistance shall be as
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.
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.