Florida Senate - 2021                                    SB 1812
       By Senator Powell
       30-01624B-21                                          20211812__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to the representation provided by the
    3         offices of criminal conflict and civil regional
    4         counsel in child welfare matters; amending s. 27.511,
    5         F.S.; authorizing the regional counsel to provide pre
    6         petition legal representation to indigent parents in
    7         certain child welfare matters; authorizing the
    8         regional counsel to initiate or appear in specified
    9         civil actions; providing a mechanism for determining
   10         indigency by a regional counsel; specifying procedures
   11         to be used if a regional counsel determines that a
   12         parent is not indigent; amending s. 39.301, F.S.;
   13         requiring child protective investigators to provide
   14         information regarding the right of certain persons to
   15         representation by the regional counsel; requiring
   16         child protective responders to know how to inform
   17         parents and legal custodians about the right of
   18         certain parents to representation by the office;
   19         providing an effective date.
   21  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   23         Section 1. Paragraph (d) of subsection (6) of section
   24  27.511, Florida Statutes, is amended, and paragraph (e) is added
   25  to that subsection, to read:
   26         27.511 Offices of criminal conflict and civil regional
   27  counsel; legislative intent; qualifications; appointment;
   28  duties.—
   29         (6)
   30         (d) Except as provided in paragraph (e), the regional
   31  counsel may not represent any plaintiff in a civil action
   32  brought under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal
   33  Rules of Civil Procedure, or federal statutes, and may not
   34  represent a petitioner in a rule challenge under chapter 120,
   35  unless specifically authorized by law.
   36         (e)In any child welfare matter, the regional counsel is
   37  expressly authorized to provide preventative, pre-petition legal
   38  representation to an indigent parent who is the subject of a
   39  child protective investigation under s. 39.301. If the pre
   40  petition legal representation is related to the investigation
   41  and to the efforts by the parents to safely maintain the care
   42  and custody of their children, the regional counsel may appear
   43  in, or initiate, any civil action, including requesting an
   44  injunction to protect against domestic violence, to defend the
   45  right to residential tenancy or housing, and to determine
   46  parentage. In pre-petition matters, the regional counsel must
   47  determine, within 5 days after initial contact by a parent who
   48  is the subject of an investigation, whether the parent is
   49  indigent, using the best available evidence. In determining
   50  indigency, the regional counsel must use the application form
   51  and indigency criteria used by the clerk of court under s. 27.52
   52  and must maintain documentation of the determination in its
   53  files. If, at any time after an initial determination of
   54  indigency is made, the regional counsel determines that a parent
   55  is not indigent, the regional counsel must cease to provide
   56  representation to the nonindigent parent and must withdraw from
   57  any legal action in which the regional counsel has appeared.
   58         Section 2. Paragraph (a) of subsection (5) and paragraph
   59  (a) of subsection (10) of section 39.301, Florida Statutes, are
   60  amended to read:
   61         39.301 Initiation of protective investigations.—
   62         (5)(a) Upon commencing an investigation under this part,
   63  the child protective investigator shall inform any subject of
   64  the investigation of the following:
   65         1. The names of the investigators and identifying
   66  credentials from the department.
   67         2. The purpose of the investigation.
   68         3. The right of any subject of the investigation to obtain
   69  his or her own attorney. The investigator shall inform each
   70  parent who is a subject of the investigation that any parent who
   71  is unable to afford to hire an attorney may choose to be
   72  represented by the office of criminal conflict and civil
   73  regional counsel during the investigation, and the investigator
   74  shall provide the contact information for the local regional
   75  counsel office that offers pre-petition representation, if
   76  locally available and ways that the information provided by the
   77  subject may be used.
   78         4. The possible outcomes and services of the department’s
   79  response.
   80         5. The right of the parent or legal custodian to be engaged
   81  to the fullest extent possible in determining the nature of the
   82  allegation and the nature of any identified problem and the
   83  remedy.
   84         6. The duty of the parent or legal custodian to report any
   85  change in the residence or location of the child to the
   86  investigator and that the duty to report continues until the
   87  investigation is closed.
   88         (10)(a) The department’s training program for staff
   89  responsible for responding to reports accepted by the central
   90  abuse hotline must also ensure that child protective responders:
   91         1. Know how to fully inform parents or legal custodians of
   92  their rights and options, including opportunities for audio or
   93  video recording of child protective responder interviews with
   94  parents or legal custodians or children.
   95         2. Know how and when to use the injunction process under s.
   96  39.504 or s. 741.30 to remove a perpetrator of domestic violence
   97  from the home as an intervention to protect the child.
   98         3. Know how to explain to the parent, legal custodian, or
   99  person who is alleged to have caused the abuse, neglect, or
  100  abandonment the results of the investigation and to provide
  101  information about his or her right to access confidential
  102  reports in accordance with s. 39.202, prior to closing the case.
  103         4.Know how to inform the parents or legal custodians of
  104  their right to legal counsel and that indigent parents have the
  105  right to be represented by the office of criminal conflict and
  106  civil regional counsel, if locally available.
  107         Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.