Florida Senate - 2020 SB 236 By Senator Book 32-00048-20 2020236__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to early childhood courts; creating s. 3 39.01304, F.S.; providing legislative intent; 4 providing a purpose; authorizing circuit courts to 5 create early childhood court programs; requiring that 6 early childhood court programs have certain 7 components; defining the term “therapeutic 8 jurisprudence”; providing requirements and guidelines 9 for the Office of the State Courts Administrator when 10 hiring community coordinators and a statewide training 11 specialist; authorizing the Trial Court Budget 12 Commission to provide funding to circuit courts that 13 choose to establish a coordination system in lieu of 14 creating a community coordinator position; requiring 15 the Department of Children and Families to contract 16 with certain university-based centers; requiring the 17 university-based centers to hire a clinical director; 18 requiring the Florida Institute for Child Welfare to 19 submit certain status reports to the Governor and the 20 Legislature by specified dates; requiring the 21 institute, in consultation with the department, the 22 office, and the contracted university-based centers, 23 to conduct an evaluation of the court programs’ 24 impact; requiring the evaluation to include the 25 analysis of certain data and recommendations; 26 requiring the institute to submit the results of its 27 evaluation to the Governor and the Legislature by a 28 specified date; providing an effective date. 29 30 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 31 32 Section 1. Section 39.01304, Florida Statutes, is created 33 to read: 34 39.01304 Early childhood court programs.— 35 (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage the 36 department, the Department of Health, the Association of Early 37 Learning Coalitions, and other such agencies, local governments, 38 interested public or private entities, and individuals to 39 support the creation and establishment of early childhood court 40 programs. The purpose of an early childhood court program is to 41 address the root cause of court involvement through specialized 42 dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment, and 43 the use of a nonadversarial approach. Such programs depend on 44 the leadership of a judge or magistrate who is educated about 45 the science of early childhood development and who requires 46 rigorous efforts to heal children physically and emotionally in 47 the context of a broad collaboration among professionals from 48 different systems working directly in the court as a team, 49 recognizing that the parent-child relationship is the foundation 50 of child well-being. 51 (2) A circuit court may create an early childhood court 52 program to serve the needs of infants and toddlers in dependency 53 court. An early childhood court program must have all of the 54 following components: 55 (a) Therapeutic jurisprudence, which must drive every 56 aspect of judicial practice. The judge or magistrate must 57 support the therapeutic needs of the parent and child in a 58 nonadversarial manner. As used in this paragraph, the term 59 “therapeutic jurisprudence” means the study of how the law may 60 be used as a therapeutic agent and focuses on how laws impact 61 emotional and psychological well-being. 62 (b) A procedure for coordinating services and resources for 63 families who have a case on the court docket. To meet this 64 requirement, the court may create and fill at least one 65 community coordinator position pursuant to paragraph (3)(a) or 66 the court may use a coordination system that implements a 67 progression of services. 68 (c) A multidisciplinary team made up of key community 69 stakeholders who commit to work with the judge or magistrate to 70 restructure the way the community responds to the needs of 71 maltreated children. The team may include, but is not limited 72 to, early intervention specialists; mental health and infant 73 mental health professionals; attorneys representing children, 74 parents, and the child welfare system; children’s advocates; 75 early learning coalitions and child care providers; substance 76 abuse program providers; primary health care providers; domestic 77 violence advocates; and guardians ad litem. The 78 multidisciplinary team must address the need for children in an 79 early childhood court program to receive medical care in a 80 medical home, a screening for developmental delays conducted by 81 the local agency responsible for complying with part C of the 82 federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and quality 83 child care. 84 (d) A continuum of mental health services that includes a 85 focus on the parent-child relationship and that must be 86 appropriate for each child and family served. 87 (3) Contingent upon an annual appropriation by the 88 Legislature, and subject to available resources: 89 (a) The Office of the State Courts Administrator shall 90 coordinate with each participating circuit court to create and 91 fill at least one community coordinator position for the 92 circuit’s early childhood court program unless the court chooses 93 to establish a coordination system in lieu of creating a 94 community coordinator position. Each community coordinator shall 95 provide direct support to the program by providing coordination 96 between the multidisciplinary team and the judiciary, 97 coordinating the responsibilities of the participating agencies 98 and service providers, and managing the collection of data for 99 program evaluation and accountability. If a circuit court 100 establishes a coordination system in lieu of creating a 101 community coordinator position, the Trial Court Budget 102 Commission may provide funding equivalent in value to a 103 community coordinator position to the court for case 104 coordination functions. The Office of State Courts Administrator 105 may hire a statewide training specialist to provide training to 106 the participating court teams. 107 (b) The department shall contract with one or more 108 university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental 109 health, and such university-based centers shall hire a clinical 110 director charged with ensuring the quality, accountability, and 111 fidelity of the program’s evidence-based treatment, including, 112 but not limited to, training and technical assistance related to 113 clinical services, clinical consultation and guidance for 114 difficult cases, and ongoing clinical training for court teams. 115 (c) By December 1 of 2021 and 2022, the Florida Institute 116 for Child Welfare shall provide a status report on the level of 117 implementation and site characteristics of each early childhood 118 court to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the 119 Speaker of the House of Representatives. 120 (d) In consultation with the department, the Office of the 121 State Courts Administrator, and each center, the Florida 122 Institute for Child Welfare shall evaluate the impact of the 123 early childhood court programs on children and families in the 124 state’s child welfare system. The evaluation must include the 125 analysis of data collected by the Office of the State Courts 126 Administrator and measurable outcomes, including, but not 127 limited to, the impact of the early childhood court program on 128 the future incidence of maltreatment of children, timely 129 permanency, reunification of families, and incidents of children 130 reentering the child welfare system. The evaluation must provide 131 recommendations as to whether and how the programs should be 132 expanded, the projected costs of any such expansion, and the 133 projected savings to the state resulting from the programs. 134 After providing the status reports pursuant to paragraph (c), 135 and by October 1, 2023, the institute shall provide a report on 136 the results of the evaluation to the Governor, the President of 137 the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. 138 Section 2. This act shall take effect January 1, 2020.