Florida Senate - 2023                                     SB 906
       By Senator Powell
       24-01951A-23                                           2023906__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to regional counsel representation for
    3         child welfare matters; amending s. 27.511, F.S.;
    4         providing circumstances under which the regional
    5         counsel may represent indigent parents; amending s.
    6         39.301, F.S.; requiring the child protective
    7         investigator to provide to subjects of an
    8         investigation specified information relating to the
    9         rights of a parent or legal custodian; providing an
   10         effective date.
   12  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   14         Section 1. Paragraph (d) of subsection (6) of section
   15  27.511, Florida Statutes, is amended, and paragraph (e) is added
   16  to that subsection, to read:
   17         27.511 Offices of criminal conflict and civil regional
   18  counsel; legislative intent; qualifications; appointment;
   19  duties.—
   20         (6)
   21         (d) Except as provided in paragraph (e), the regional
   22  counsel may not represent any plaintiff in a civil action
   23  brought under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal
   24  Rules of Civil Procedure, or federal statutes, and may not
   25  represent a petitioner in a rule challenge under chapter 120,
   26  unless specifically authorized by law.
   27         (e)In child welfare matters, the regional counsel may
   28  provide preventative, prepetition legal representation to
   29  indigent parents who are the subject of child protective
   30  investigations conducted pursuant to s. 39.301. If such matters
   31  are related to the circumstances of the investigation and to the
   32  efforts by the parents to safely maintain the care and custody
   33  of their children, the regional counsel may appear in or
   34  initiate civil actions for such injunctions for protection
   35  against domestic violence, residential tenancies and housing,
   36  and determination of parentage. In prepetition matters, the
   37  regional counsel will determine, within 5 days of initial
   38  contact by a parent subject to investigation, whether the parent
   39  is indigent using the best available evidence. In determining
   40  indigency, the regional counsel will use the application form
   41  and indigency criteria used by the clerk of court pursuant to s.
   42  27.52 and the regional counsel will maintain documentation of
   43  the indigency determination in its files. If at any time after
   44  an initial determination of indigency is made, the regional
   45  counsel later determines that a person is not indigent, the
   46  regional counsel will cease to provide representation to the
   47  nonindigent person and will withdraw from any legal action in
   48  which the regional counsel has appeared.
   49         Section 2. Paragraph (a) of subsection (5) and paragraph
   50  (a) of subsection (10) of section 39.301, Florida Statutes, are
   51  amended to read:
   52         39.301 Initiation of protective investigations.—
   53         (5)(a) Upon commencing an investigation under this part,
   54  the child protective investigator shall inform any subject of
   55  the investigation of the following:
   56         1. The names of the investigators and identifying
   57  credentials from the department.
   58         2. The purpose of the investigation and how the information
   59  provided by the subject may be used.
   60         3. The right of the parent or legal custodian to obtain his
   61  or her own attorney and, if he or she cannot afford an attorney,
   62  the investigator shall inform the parent or legal custodian that
   63  he or she may choose to be represented by the office of criminal
   64  conflict and civil regional counsel during the investigation and
   65  the investigator shall provide the contact information for the
   66  local regional counsel office which offers representation before
   67  a petition is filed, if locally available, and ways that the
   68  information provided by the subject may be used.
   69         4. The possible outcomes and services of the department’s
   70  response.
   71         5. The right of the parent or legal custodian to be engaged
   72  to the fullest extent possible in determining the nature of the
   73  allegation and the nature of any identified problem and the
   74  remedy.
   75         6. The duty of the parent or legal custodian to report any
   76  change in the residence or location of the child to the
   77  investigator and that the duty to report continues until the
   78  investigation is closed.
   79         (10)(a) The department’s training program for staff
   80  responsible for responding to reports accepted by the central
   81  abuse hotline must also ensure that child protective responders:
   82         1. Know how to fully inform parents or legal custodians of
   83  their rights and options, including their right to legal counsel
   84  and the availability to indigent parents or legal custodians of
   85  the opportunity to be represented by the office of criminal
   86  conflict and civil regional counsel, if locally available, and
   87  the opportunities for audio or video recording of child
   88  protective responder interviews with parents or legal custodians
   89  or children.
   90         2. Know how and when to use the injunction process under s.
   91  39.504 or s. 741.30 to remove a perpetrator of domestic violence
   92  from the home as an intervention to protect the child.
   93         3. Know how to explain to the parent, legal custodian, or
   94  person who is alleged to have caused the abuse, neglect, or
   95  abandonment the results of the investigation and to provide
   96  information about his or her right to access confidential
   97  reports in accordance with s. 39.202, prior to closing the case.
   98         Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2023.