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.
   30  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   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.