Florida Senate - 2021                                    SB 1100
       By Senator Book
       32-00628-21                                           20211100__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to child welfare; amending s. 39.4085,
    3         F.S.; providing legislative findings and intent;
    4         specifying the rights of children and young adults in
    5         out-of-home care; providing roles and responsibilities
    6         of the Department of Children and Families, community
    7         based care lead agencies, and other agency staff;
    8         providing roles and responsibilities of caregivers;
    9         requiring the department to adopt certain rules;
   10         providing applicability; creating s. 39.4088, F.S.;
   11         requiring the Florida Children’s Ombudsman to serve as
   12         an autonomous entity within the department for certain
   13         purposes; providing general roles and responsibilities
   14         of the ombudsman; requiring the ombudsman to collect
   15         certain data; requiring the ombudsman, in consultation
   16         with the department and other specified entities and
   17         by a specified date, to develop standardized
   18         information explaining the rights of children and
   19         young adults placed in out-of-home care; requiring the
   20         department, community-based care lead agencies, and
   21         agency staff to use the information provided by the
   22         ombudsman in carrying out specified responsibilities;
   23         requiring the department to establish a statewide
   24         toll-free telephone number for the ombudsman;
   25         requiring the department to adopt certain rules;
   26         amending s. 39.6011, F.S.; requiring that a case plan
   27         be developed in a face-to-face conference with a
   28         caregiver of a child under certain circumstances;
   29         providing additional requirements for the content of a
   30         case plan; providing additional requirements for a
   31         case plan when a child is 14 years of age or older or
   32         is of an appropriate age and capacity; requiring the
   33         department to provide a copy of the case plan to the
   34         caregiver of a child placed in a licensed foster home;
   35         amending s. 39.604, F.S.; requiring a caseworker to
   36         provide specified information relating to subsidies
   37         that early learning coalitions provide to caregivers
   38         of certain children; amending s. 39.701, F.S.;
   39         providing additional requirements for social study
   40         reports for judicial review; amending s. 409.1415,
   41         F.S.; providing additional requirements for
   42         caregivers; amending s. 409.175, F.S.; providing
   43         additional requirements for the licensure and
   44         operation of family foster homes, residential child
   45         caring agencies, and child-placing agencies; amending
   46         s. 409.1753, F.S.; requiring a lead agency, rather
   47         than the department, to provide caregivers with a
   48         telephone number when the caseworker is unavailable;
   49         amending s. 409.988, F.S.; requiring lead agencies to
   50         recruit and retain foster homes; amending s. 39.6013,
   51         F.S.; conforming a cross-reference; providing an
   52         effective date.
   54  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   56         Section 1. Section 39.4085, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   57  read:
   58         (Substantial rewording of section. See
   59         s. 39.4085, F.S., for present text.)
   60         39.4085Foster Children’s Bill of Rights.—
   62         (a) The Legislature finds that children in, and young
   63  adults leaving, out-of-home care face more developmental,
   64  psychosocial, and economic challenges than their peers outside
   65  of the child welfare system; are more likely to be unemployed,
   66  undereducated, homeless, and dependent upon public assistance;
   67  and more likely to experience early parenthood and to suffer
   68  from substance abuse and mental health disorders.
   69         (b)The Legislature also finds that emotional trauma,
   70  separation from family, frequent changes in placement, and
   71  frequent changes in school enrollment, as well as being
   72  dependent upon the state to make decisions regarding current and
   73  future life options, may contribute to feelings of limited
   74  control over life circumstances for children and young adults in
   75  out-of-home care.
   76         (c)The Legislature also recognizes that there are basic
   77  human rights guaranteed to everyone by the United States
   78  Constitution, but children and young adults in out-of-home care
   79  have additional rights that they should be aware of in order to
   80  better advocate for themselves.
   81         (d) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to
   82  empower these children and young adults by helping them become
   83  better informed of their rights so they can become stronger
   84  self-advocates.
   85         (2) BILL OF RIGHTS.—The department’s child welfare system
   86  shall operate with the understanding that the rights of children
   87  and young adults in out-of-home care are critical to their
   88  safety, permanence, and well-being and shall work with all
   89  stakeholders to help such children and young adults become
   90  knowledgeable about their rights and the resources available to
   91  them. A child should be able to remain in the custody of his or
   92  her parents or legal custodians unless a qualified person
   93  exercising competent professional judgment determines that
   94  removal is necessary to protect the child’s physical, mental, or
   95  emotional health or safety. Except as otherwise provided in this
   96  chapter, the rights of a child placed in out-of-home care are:
   97         (a) To live in a safe, healthful, and comfortable home
   98  where he or she is treated with respect and provided with
   99  healthful food, appropriate clothing, and adequate storage space
  100  for personal use and where the caregiver is aware of and
  101  understands the child’s history, needs, and risk factors and
  102  respects the child’s preferences for attending religious
  103  services and activities.
  104         (b)To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other
  105  abuse or corporal punishment. This includes the child’s right to
  106  be placed away from other children or young adults who are known
  107  to pose a threat of harm to him or her because of his or her own
  108  risk factors or those of the other child or young adult.
  109         (c)To receive medical, dental, vision, and mental health
  110  services as needed; to be free of the administration of
  111  psychotropic medication or chemical substances unless authorized
  112  by a parent or the court; and not to be locked in any room,
  113  building, or facility unless placed in a residential treatment
  114  center by court order.
  115         (d)To be able to have contact and visitation with his or
  116  her parents, other family members, and fictive kin and to be
  117  placed with his or her siblings and, if not placed together with
  118  his or her siblings, to have frequent visitation and ongoing
  119  contact with his or her siblings, unless prohibited by court
  120  order.
  121         (e)To be able to contact the Florida Children’s Ombudsman,
  122  as described in s. 39.4088, regarding violations of rights; to
  123  speak to the ombudsman confidentially; and to be free from
  124  threats or punishment for making complaints.
  125         (f)To maintain a bank account and manage personal income,
  126  consistent with his or her age and developmental level, unless
  127  prohibited by the case plan, and to be informed about any funds
  128  being held in the master trust on behalf of the child.
  129         (g)To attend school and participate in extracurricular,
  130  cultural, and personal enrichment activities consistent with his
  131  or her age and developmental level and to have social contact
  132  with people outside of the foster care system, such as teachers,
  133  church members, mentors, and friends.
  134         (h)To attend independent living program classes and
  135  activities if he or she meets the age requirements and to work
  136  and develop job skills at an age-appropriate level that is
  137  consistent with state law.
  138         (i) To attend all court hearings and address the court.
  139         (j)To have fair and equal access to all available
  140  services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits and not to be
  141  subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, national
  142  origin, color, religion, sex, mental or physical disability,
  143  age, or pregnancy.
  144         (k)If he or she is 14 years of age or older or, if
  145  younger, is of an appropriate age and capacity, to participate
  146  in creating and reviewing his or her case plan, to receive
  147  information about his or her out-of-home placement and case
  148  plan, including being told of changes to the plan, and to have
  149  the ability to object to provisions of the case plan.
  150         (l) If he or she is 16 years of age or older, to have
  151  access to existing information regarding the educational and
  152  financial assistance options available to him or her, including,
  153  but not limited to, the coursework necessary for vocational and
  154  postsecondary educational programs, postsecondary educational
  155  services and support, the Keys to Independence program, and the
  156  tuition waiver available under s. 1009.25.
  157         (m) Not to be removed from an out-of-home placement by the
  158  department or a community-based care lead agency unless the
  159  caregiver becomes unable to care for the child, the child
  160  achieves permanency, or the move is otherwise in the child’s
  161  best interest and, if moved, the right to a transition that
  162  respects his or her relationships and personal belongings under
  163  s. 409.1415.
  164         (n) To have a guardian ad litem appointed to represent his
  165  or her best interest and, if appropriate, an attorney appointed
  166  to represent his or her legal interests.
  169         (a)The department shall develop training related to the
  170  rights of children and young adults in out-of-home care under
  171  this section. All child protective investigators, case managers,
  172  and other appropriate staff must complete annual training
  173  relating to these rights.
  174         (b) The department shall provide a copy of this bill of
  175  rights to all children and young adults entering out-of-home
  176  care, and the department shall explain the bill of rights to the
  177  child or young adult in a manner the child or young adult can
  178  understand. Such explanation must occur in a manner that is the
  179  most effective for each individual and must use words and
  180  terminology that make sense to the child or young adult. If a
  181  child or young adult has cognitive, physical, or behavioral
  182  challenges that would prevent him or her from fully
  183  comprehending the bill of rights as presented, such information
  184  must be documented in the case record.
  185         (c)The caseworker or other appropriate agency staff shall
  186  document in court reports and case notes the date he or she
  187  reviewed the bill of rights in age-appropriate language with the
  188  child or young adult.
  189         (d)The bill of rights must be reviewed with the child or
  190  young adult by appropriate staff upon entry into out-of-home
  191  care and must be subsequently reviewed with the child or young
  192  adult every 6 months until the child leaves care and upon every
  193  change in placement. Each child or young adult must be given the
  194  opportunity to ask questions about any of the rights that he or
  195  she does not clearly understand.
  196         (e) Facilities licensed to care for six or more children
  197  and young adults in out-of-home care must post information about
  198  the rights of these individuals in a prominent place in the
  199  facility.
  201  caregivers shall ensure that a child or young adult in their
  202  care is aware of and understands his or her rights under this
  203  section and must assist the child or young adult in contacting
  204  the Florida Children’s Ombudsman, if necessary.
  205         (5) RULEMAKING.The department shall adopt rules to
  206  implement this section.
  207         (6)APPLICABILITY.—This section may not be used for any
  208  purpose in any civil or administrative action and does not
  209  expand or limit any rights or remedies provided under any other
  210  law.
  211         Section 2. Section 39.4088, Florida Statutes, is created to
  212  read:
  213         39.4088Florida Children’s Ombudsman.—The Florida
  214  Children’s Ombudsman shall serve as an autonomous entity within
  215  the department for the purpose of providing children and young
  216  adults who are placed in out-of-home care with a means to
  217  resolve issues related to their care, placement, or services
  218  without fear of retribution. The ombudsman shall have access to
  219  any record of a state or local agency which is necessary to
  220  carry out his or her responsibilities and may meet or
  221  communicate with any child or young adult in the child or young
  222  adult’s placement or elsewhere.
  224  The ombudsman shall:
  225         (a)Disseminate information on the rights of children and
  226  young adults in out-of-home care under s. 39.4085 and the
  227  services provided by the ombudsman.
  228         (b)Attempt to resolve a complaint informally.
  229         (c)Conduct whatever investigation he or she determines is
  230  necessary to resolve a complaint.
  231         (d)Update the complainant on the progress of the
  232  investigation and notify the complainant of the final outcome.
  234  The ombudsman may not investigate, challenge, or overturn court
  235  ordered decisions.
  236         (2) DATA COLLECTION.The ombudsman shall:
  237         (a)Document the number, source, origin, location, and
  238  nature of all complaints.
  239         (b)Compile all data collected over the course of the year,
  240  including, but not limited to, the number of contacts to the
  241  Florida Children’s Ombudsman toll-free telephone number; the
  242  number of complaints made, including the type and source of
  243  those complaints; the number of investigations performed by the
  244  ombudsman; the trends and issues that arose in the course of
  245  investigating complaints; the number of referrals made; and the
  246  number of pending complaints.
  247         (c)Post the compiled data on the department’s website.
  249         (a) By January 1, 2022, the ombudsman, in consultation with
  250  the department, children’s advocacy and support groups, and
  251  current or former children and young adults in out-of-home care,
  252  shall develop standardized information explaining the rights
  253  granted under s. 39.4085. The information must be age
  254  appropriate, reviewed and updated by the ombudsman annually, and
  255  made available through a variety of formats.
  256         (b)The department, community-based care lead agencies, and
  257  other agency staff must use the information provided by the
  258  ombudsman to carry out their responsibilities to inform children
  259  and young adults in out-of-home care of their rights pursuant to
  260  the duties established under s. 409.1415.
  261         (c)The department shall establish the statewide Florida
  262  Children’s Ombudsman toll-free telephone number and post the
  263  number on the homepage of the department’s website.
  264         (4) RULEMAKING.The department shall adopt rules to
  265  implement this section.
  266         Section 3. Present subsections (4) through (9) of section
  267  39.6011, Florida Statutes, are redesignated as subsections (5)
  268  through (10), respectively, paragraph (f) is added to subsection
  269  (2) of that section and a new subsection (4) is added to that
  270  section, and paragraph (a) of subsection (1) and paragraph (c)
  271  of present subsection (7) of that section are amended, to read:
  272         39.6011 Case plan development.—
  273         (1) The department shall prepare a draft of the case plan
  274  for each child receiving services under this chapter. A parent
  275  of a child may not be threatened or coerced with the loss of
  276  custody or parental rights for failing to admit in the case plan
  277  of abusing, neglecting, or abandoning a child. Participating in
  278  the development of a case plan is not an admission to any
  279  allegation of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and it is not a
  280  consent to a finding of dependency or termination of parental
  281  rights. The case plan shall be developed subject to the
  282  following requirements:
  283         (a) The case plan must be developed in a face-to-face
  284  conference with the parent of the child, any court-appointed
  285  guardian ad litem, and, if appropriate, the child and the
  286  temporary custodian or caregiver of the child.
  287         (2) The case plan must be written simply and clearly in
  288  English and, if English is not the principal language of the
  289  child’s parent, to the extent possible in the parent’s principal
  290  language. Each case plan must contain:
  291         (f) If the child has attained 14 years of age or is
  292  otherwise of an appropriate age and capacity:
  293         1. A document that describes the rights of the child under
  294  s. 39.4085 and the right to be provided with the documents
  295  pursuant to s. 39.701.
  296         2.A signed acknowledgment by the child or young adult, or
  297  the caregiver if the child is too young or otherwise unable to
  298  sign, that the child has been provided with a copy of the
  299  document and that the rights contained in the document have been
  300  explained to the child in a way that the child understands.
  301         3. Documentation that a consumer credit report for the
  302  child was requested from all three credit reporting agencies
  303  pursuant to federal law at no charge to the child and that any
  304  results were provided to the child. The case plan must include
  305  documentation of any barriers to obtaining the credit reports.
  306  If the consumer credit report reveals any accounts, the case
  307  plan must detail how the department ensured the child received
  308  assistance with interpreting the credit report and resolving any
  309  inaccuracies, including any referrals made for such assistance.
  310         (4)If the child has attained 14 years of age or, if
  311  younger, is of an appropriate age and capacity, the child must:
  312         (a) Be consulted on the development of the case plan; have
  313  the opportunity to attend a face-to-face conference, if
  314  appropriate; have the opportunity to express a placement
  315  preference; and have the option to choose two members for the
  316  case planning team who are not a foster parent or caseworker for
  317  the child.
  318         1.An individual selected by a child to be a member of the
  319  case planning team may be rejected at any time if there is good
  320  cause to believe that the individual would not act in the best
  321  interest of the child. One individual selected by a child to be
  322  a member of the child’s case planning team may be designated to
  323  act as the child’s advisor and, as necessary, advocate with
  324  respect to applying the reasonable and prudent parent standard
  325  to the child.
  326         2.The child may not be included in any aspect of case plan
  327  development if information could be revealed or discussed which
  328  is of a nature that would best be presented to the child in a
  329  therapeutic setting.
  330         (b) Sign the case plan, unless there is reason to waive the
  331  child’s signature.
  332         (c) Receive an explanation of the provisions of the case
  333  plan from the department.
  334         (d) After the case plan is agreed on and signed by all
  335  parties, and after jurisdiction attaches and the case plan is
  336  filed with the court, be provided a copy of the case plan within
  337  72 hours before the disposition hearing.
  338         (8)(7) After the case plan has been developed, the
  339  department shall adhere to the following procedural
  340  requirements:
  341         (c) After the case plan has been agreed upon and signed by
  342  the parties, a copy of the plan must be given immediately to the
  343  parties, including the child if appropriate, to the caregiver if
  344  the child is placed in a licensed foster home, and to other
  345  persons as directed by the court.
  346         1. A case plan must be prepared, but need not be submitted
  347  to the court, for a child who will be in care no longer than 30
  348  days unless that child is placed in out-of-home care a second
  349  time within a 12-month period.
  350         2. In each case in which a child has been placed in out-of
  351  home care, a case plan must be prepared within 60 days after the
  352  department removes the child from the home and shall be
  353  submitted to the court before the disposition hearing for the
  354  court to review and approve.
  355         3. After jurisdiction attaches, all case plans must be
  356  filed with the court, and a copy provided to all the parties
  357  whose whereabouts are known, not less than 3 business days
  358  before the disposition hearing. The department shall file with
  359  the court, and provide copies to the parties, all case plans
  360  prepared before jurisdiction of the court attached.
  361         Section 4. Paragraph (c) is added to subsection (3) of
  362  section 39.604, Florida Statutes, to read:
  363         39.604 Rilya Wilson Act; short title; legislative intent;
  364  child care; early education; preschool.—
  365         (3) REQUIREMENTS.—
  366         (c) For children placed in a licensed foster home and who
  367  are required to be enrolled in an early education or a child
  368  care program under this section, the caseworker shall inform the
  369  caregiver of the amount of the subsidy provided by an early
  370  learning coalition, that this amount may not be sufficient to
  371  pay the full cost of the services, and that the caregiver will
  372  be responsible for paying the difference between the subsidy and
  373  the full cost charged by the early education or child care
  374  program.
  375         Section 5. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2) and paragraph
  376  (a) of subsection (3) of section 39.701, Florida Statutes, are
  377  amended to read:
  378         39.701 Judicial review.—
  380  AGE.—
  381         (a) Social study report for judicial review.—Before every
  382  judicial review hearing or citizen review panel hearing, the
  383  social service agency shall make an investigation and social
  384  study concerning all pertinent details relating to the child and
  385  shall furnish to the court or citizen review panel a written
  386  report that includes, but is not limited to:
  387         1. A description of the type of placement the child is in
  388  at the time of the hearing, including the safety of the child
  389  and the continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the
  390  placement.
  391         2. Documentation of the diligent efforts made by all
  392  parties to the case plan to comply with each applicable
  393  provision of the plan.
  394         3. The amount of fees assessed and collected during the
  395  period of time being reported.
  396         4. The services provided to the foster family or caregiver
  397  in an effort to address the needs of the child as indicated in
  398  the case plan.
  399         5. A statement that either:
  400         a. The parent, though able to do so, did not comply
  401  substantially with the case plan, and the agency
  402  recommendations;
  403         b. The parent did substantially comply with the case plan;
  404  or
  405         c. The parent has partially complied with the case plan,
  406  with a summary of additional progress needed and the agency
  407  recommendations.
  408         6. A statement from the foster parent or caregiver
  409  providing any material evidence concerning the well-being of the
  410  child, the impact of any services provided to the child, the
  411  working relationship between the parents and caregivers, and the
  412  return of the child to the parents.
  413         7. A statement concerning the frequency, duration, and
  414  results of the parent-child visitation, if any, and the agency
  415  and caregiver recommendations for an expansion or restriction of
  416  future visitation.
  417         8. The number of times a child has been removed from his or
  418  her home and placed elsewhere, the number and types of
  419  placements that have occurred, and the reason for the changes in
  420  placement.
  421         9. The number of times a child’s educational placement has
  422  been changed, the number and types of educational placements
  423  which have occurred, and the reason for any change in placement.
  424         10. If the child has reached 13 years of age but is not yet
  425  18 years of age, a statement from the caregiver on the progress
  426  the child has made in acquiring independent living skills.
  427         11. Copies of all medical, psychological, and educational
  428  records that support the terms of the case plan and that have
  429  been produced concerning the parents or any caregiver since the
  430  last judicial review hearing.
  431         12. Copies of the child’s current health, mental health,
  432  and education records as identified in s. 39.6012.
  433         13. Documentation that the Foster Children’s Bill of
  434  Rights, as described in s. 39.4085, has been provided to and
  435  reviewed with the child.
  436         14. A signed acknowledgment by the child, or the caregiver
  437  if the child is too young or otherwise unable to sign, stating
  438  that the child has been provided an explanation of the rights
  439  under s. 39.4085.
  441         (a) In addition to the review and report required under
  442  paragraphs (1)(a) and (2)(a), respectively, the court shall hold
  443  a judicial review hearing within 90 days after a child’s 17th
  444  birthday. The court shall also issue an order, separate from the
  445  order on judicial review, that the disability of nonage of the
  446  child has been removed pursuant to ss. 743.044, 743.045,
  447  743.046, and 743.047, and for any of these disabilities that the
  448  court finds is in the child’s best interest to remove. The court
  449  shall continue to hold timely judicial review hearings. If
  450  necessary, the court may review the status of the child more
  451  frequently during the year before the child’s 18th birthday. At
  452  each review hearing held under this subsection, in addition to
  453  any information or report provided to the court by the foster
  454  parent, legal custodian, or guardian ad litem, the child shall
  455  be given the opportunity to address the court with any
  456  information relevant to the child’s best interest, particularly
  457  in relation to independent living transition services. The
  458  department shall include in the social study report for judicial
  459  review written verification that the child has:
  460         1. A current Medicaid card and all necessary information
  461  concerning the Medicaid program sufficient to prepare the child
  462  to apply for coverage upon reaching the age of 18, if such
  463  application is appropriate.
  464         2. A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate and,
  465  if the child does not have a valid driver license, a Florida
  466  identification card issued under s. 322.051.
  467         3. A social security card and information relating to
  468  social security insurance benefits if the child is eligible for
  469  those benefits. If the child has received such benefits and they
  470  are being held in trust for the child, a full accounting of
  471  these funds must be provided and the child must be informed as
  472  to how to access those funds.
  473         4. All relevant information related to the Road-to
  474  Independence Program, including, but not limited to, eligibility
  475  requirements, information on participation, and assistance in
  476  gaining admission to the program. If the child is eligible for
  477  the Road-to-Independence Program, he or she must be advised that
  478  he or she may continue to reside with the licensed family home
  479  or group care provider with whom the child was residing at the
  480  time the child attained his or her 18th birthday, in another
  481  licensed family home, or with a group care provider arranged by
  482  the department.
  483         5. An open bank account or the identification necessary to
  484  open a bank account and to acquire essential banking and
  485  budgeting skills.
  486         6. Information on public assistance and how to apply for
  487  public assistance.
  488         7. A clear understanding of where he or she will be living
  489  on his or her 18th birthday, how living expenses will be paid,
  490  and the educational program or school in which he or she will be
  491  enrolled.
  492         8. Information related to the ability of the child to
  493  remain in care until he or she reaches 21 years of age under s.
  494  39.013.
  495         9. A letter providing the dates that the child is under the
  496  jurisdiction of the court.
  497         10. A letter stating that the child is in compliance with
  498  financial aid documentation requirements.
  499         11. The child’s educational records.
  500         12. The child’s entire health and mental health records.
  501         13. The process for accessing his or her case file.
  502         14. A statement encouraging the child to attend all
  503  judicial review hearings occurring after the child’s 17th
  504  birthday.
  505         15. Information on how to obtain a driver license or
  506  learner’s driver license.
  507         16.Been provided with the Foster Children’s Bill of
  508  Rights, as described in s. 39.0485, and that the rights have
  509  been reviewed with the child.
  510         17.Signed an acknowledgment stating that he or she has
  511  been provided an explanation of the rights or, if the child is
  512  too young or otherwise unable to sign, that such acknowledgment
  513  has been signed by the child’s caregiver.
  514         Section 6. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section
  515  409.1415, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  516         409.1415 Parenting partnerships for children in out-of-home
  517  care.—
  518         (2) PARENTING PARTNERSHIPS.—
  519         (b) To ensure that a child in out-of-home care receives
  520  support for healthy development which gives the child the best
  521  possible opportunity for success, caregivers, birth or legal
  522  parents, the department, and the community-based care lead
  523  agency shall work cooperatively in a respectful partnership by
  524  adhering to the following requirements:
  525         1. All members of the partnership must interact and
  526  communicate professionally with one another, must share all
  527  relevant information promptly, and must respect the
  528  confidentiality of all information related to the child and his
  529  or her family.
  530         2. The caregiver; the birth or legal parent; the child, if
  531  appropriate; the department; and the community-based care lead
  532  agency must participate in developing a case plan for the child
  533  and the birth or legal parent. All members of the team must work
  534  together to implement the case plan. The caregiver must have the
  535  opportunity to participate in all team meetings or court
  536  hearings related to the child’s care and future plans. The
  537  department and community-based care lead agency must support and
  538  facilitate caregiver participation through timely notification
  539  of such meetings and hearings and provide alternative methods
  540  for participation for a caregiver who cannot be physically
  541  present at a meeting or hearing.
  542         3. A caregiver must strive to provide, and the department
  543  and community-based care lead agency must support, excellent
  544  parenting, which includes:
  545         a. A loving commitment to the child and the child’s safety
  546  and well-being.
  547         b. Appropriate supervision and positive methods of
  548  discipline.
  549         c. Encouragement of the child’s strengths.
  550         d. Respect for the child’s individuality and likes and
  551  dislikes.
  552         e. Providing opportunities to develop the child’s interests
  553  and skills.
  554         f. Being aware of the impact of trauma on behavior.
  555         g. Facilitating equal participation of the child in family
  556  life.
  557         h. Involving the child within his or her community.
  558         i. A commitment to enable the child to lead a normal life.
  559         4. A child in out-of-home care must be placed with a
  560  caregiver who has the ability to care for the child, is willing
  561  to accept responsibility for providing care, and is willing and
  562  able to learn about and be respectful of the child’s culture,
  563  religion, and ethnicity; special physical or psychological
  564  needs; circumstances unique to the child; and family
  565  relationships. The department, the community-based care lead
  566  agency, and other agencies must provide a caregiver with all
  567  available information necessary to assist the caregiver in
  568  determining whether he or she is able to appropriately care for
  569  a particular child.
  570         5. A caregiver must have access to and take advantage of
  571  all training that he or she needs to improve his or her skills
  572  in parenting a child who has experienced trauma due to neglect,
  573  abuse, or separation from home; to meet the child’s special
  574  needs; and to work effectively with child welfare agencies, the
  575  courts, the schools, and other community and governmental
  576  agencies.
  577         6. The department and community-based care lead agency must
  578  provide a caregiver with the services and support they need to
  579  enable them to provide quality care for the child.
  580         7. Once a caregiver accepts the responsibility of caring
  581  for a child, the child may be removed from the home of the
  582  caregiver only if:
  583         a. The caregiver is clearly unable to safely or legally
  584  care for the child;
  585         b. The child and the birth or legal parent are reunified;
  586         c. The child is being placed in a legally permanent home in
  587  accordance with a case plan or court order; or
  588         d. The removal is demonstrably in the best interests of the
  589  child.
  590         8. If a child must leave the caregiver’s home for one of
  591  the reasons stated in subparagraph 7., and in the absence of an
  592  unforeseeable emergency, the transition must be accomplished
  593  according to a plan that involves cooperation and sharing of
  594  information among all persons involved, respects the child’s
  595  developmental stage and psychological needs, ensures the child
  596  has all of his or her belongings, allows for a gradual
  597  transition from the caregiver’s home, and, if possible, allows
  598  for continued contact with the caregiver after the child leaves.
  599         9. When the case plan for a child includes reunification,
  600  the caregiver, the department, and the community-based care lead
  601  agency must work together to assist the birth or legal parent in
  602  improving his or her ability to care for and protect the child
  603  and to provide continuity for the child.
  604         10. A caregiver must respect and support the child’s ties
  605  to his or her birth or legal family, including parents,
  606  siblings, and extended family members, and must assist the child
  607  in maintaining allowable visitation and other forms of
  608  communication. The department and community-based care lead
  609  agency must provide a caregiver with the information, guidance,
  610  training, and support necessary for fulfilling this
  611  responsibility.
  612         11. A caregiver must work in partnership with the
  613  department and community-based care lead agency to obtain and
  614  maintain records that are important to the child’s well-being,
  615  including, but not limited to, child resource records, medical
  616  records, school records, photographs, and records of special
  617  events and achievements.
  618         12. A caregiver must advocate for a child in his or her
  619  care with the child welfare system, the court, and community
  620  agencies, including schools, child care providers, health and
  621  mental health providers, and employers. The department and
  622  community-based care lead agency must support a caregiver in
  623  advocating for a child and may not retaliate against the
  624  caregiver as a result of this advocacy.
  625         13. A caregiver must be as fully involved in the child’s
  626  medical, psychological, and dental care as he or she would be
  627  for his or her biological child. The department and community
  628  based care lead agency must support and facilitate such
  629  participation. The caregiver, the department, and the community
  630  based care lead agency must share information with each other
  631  about the child’s health and well-being.
  632         14. A caregiver must support a child’s school success,
  633  including, when possible, maintaining school stability by
  634  participating in school activities and meetings. The department
  635  and community-based care lead agency must facilitate this
  636  participation and be informed of the child’s progress and needs.
  637         15. A caregiver must ensure that a child in his or her care
  638  who is between 13 and 17 years of age learns and masters
  639  independent living skills.
  640         16. A caregiver must pay the difference between the subsidy
  641  from an early learning coalition and the full cost charged by an
  642  early education or child care program.
  643         17. A caregiver must ensure that the child in the
  644  caregiver’s care is aware of and understands his or her rights
  645  under s. 39.4085.
  646         18. A caregiver must assist the child in contacting the
  647  Florida Children’s Ombudsman, if necessary.
  648         19. The case manager and case manager supervisor must
  649  mediate disagreements that occur between a caregiver and the
  650  birth or legal parent.
  651         Section 7. Paragraph (b) of subsection (5) of section
  652  409.175, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  653         409.175 Licensure of family foster homes, residential
  654  child-caring agencies, and child-placing agencies; public
  655  records exemption.—
  656         (5) The department shall adopt and amend rules for the
  657  levels of licensed care associated with the licensure of family
  658  foster homes, residential child-caring agencies, and child
  659  placing agencies. The rules may include criteria to approve
  660  waivers to licensing requirements when applying for a child
  661  specific license.
  662         (b) The requirements for licensure and operation of family
  663  foster homes, residential child-caring agencies, and child
  664  placing agencies shall include:
  665         1. The operation, conduct, and maintenance of these homes
  666  and agencies and the responsibility which they assume for
  667  children served and the evidence of need for that service.
  668         2. The provision of food, clothing, educational
  669  opportunities, services, equipment, and individual supplies to
  670  assure the healthy physical, emotional, and mental development
  671  of the children served.
  672         3. The appropriateness, safety, cleanliness, and general
  673  adequacy of the premises, including fire prevention and health
  674  standards, to provide for the physical comfort, care, and well
  675  being of the children served.
  676         4. The ratio of staff to children required to provide
  677  adequate care and supervision of the children served and, in the
  678  case of family foster homes, the maximum number of children in
  679  the home.
  680         5. The good moral character based upon screening,
  681  education, training, and experience requirements for personnel
  682  and family foster homes.
  683         6. The department may grant exemptions from
  684  disqualification from working with children or the
  685  developmentally disabled as provided in s. 435.07.
  686         7. The provision of preservice and inservice training for
  687  all foster parents and agency staff.
  688         8. Satisfactory evidence of financial ability to provide
  689  care for the children in compliance with licensing requirements.
  690         9. The maintenance by the agency of records pertaining to
  691  admission, progress, health, and discharge of children served,
  692  including written case plans and reports to the department.
  693         10. The provision for parental involvement to encourage
  694  preservation and strengthening of a child’s relationship with
  695  the family.
  696         11. The transportation safety of children served.
  697         12. The provisions for safeguarding the cultural,
  698  religious, and ethnic values of a child.
  699         13. Provisions to safeguard the legal rights of children
  700  served, as well as the rights of children established under s.
  701  39.4085.
  702         Section 8. Section 409.1753, Florida Statutes, is amended
  703  to read:
  704         409.1753 Foster care; duties.—The department shall ensure
  705  that each lead agency provides, within each district, each
  706  foster home with is given a telephone number for the foster
  707  parent to call during normal working hours whenever immediate
  708  assistance is needed and the child’s caseworker is unavailable.
  709  This number must be staffed and answered by individuals
  710  possessing the knowledge and authority necessary to assist
  711  foster parents.
  712         Section 9. Paragraph (m) is added to subsection (1) of
  713  section 409.988, Florida Statutes, to read:
  714         409.988 Lead agency duties; general provisions.—
  715         (1) DUTIES.—A lead agency:
  716         (m) Shall recruit and retain foster homes. In performing
  717  such duty, a lead agency shall:
  718         1. Develop a plan to recruit and retain foster homes using
  719  best practices identified by the department and specify how the
  720  lead agency complies with s. 409.1753.
  721         2. Annually submit such plan to the department for
  722  approval.
  723         3. Provide to the department a quarterly report detailing
  724  the number of licensed foster homes and beds and occupancy rate.
  725         4. Conduct exit interviews with foster parents who
  726  voluntarily give up their license to determine the reasons for
  727  giving up their license and identify suggestions for how to
  728  better recruit and retain foster homes, and provide a quarterly
  729  summary of the exit interviews to the department.
  730         Section 10. Subsection (8) of section 39.6013, Florida
  731  Statutes, is amended to read:
  732         39.6013 Case plan amendments.—
  733         (8) Amendments must include service interventions that are
  734  the least intrusive into the life of the parent and child, must
  735  focus on clearly defined objectives, and must provide the most
  736  efficient path to quick reunification or permanent placement
  737  given the circumstances of the case and the child’s need for
  738  safe and proper care. A copy of the amended plan must be
  739  immediately given to the persons identified in s. 39.6011(8)(c)
  740  s. 39.6011(7)(c).
  741         Section 11. This act shall take effect October 1, 2021.