There are many reasons why the state might take action to remove children from their homes, which fall into three major categories: abuse, neglect or abandonment. The department works with many agencies including the Broward Sheriff's Office, who assign child protective investigators. Anyone can call 1-800-96-ABUSE and get the ball rolling on anyone, whether the allegations are fiction or otherwise. The next thing you know, there is a knock at your door with one or more individuals asking questions; one of the individuals may be dressed in a Broward Sheriff's Office uniform. The scary part is that those individuals have the right to remove your children from your care, custody and control, right there and then. If they do, you've just entered the legal maze known as Dependency Court. If the state removes your children, there will be what's called a shelter hearing immediately, at which point the state need only show that they had probable cause to remove the children.
The bad news is that the dependency process is tiring with hearing after hearing. The good news is that the general intention of the Department of Children and Families is to reunite the family. The process goes on for a minimum of six months. There are exceptions, for example, when the department agrees to what is known as voluntary services. In that event, the department proceeds to protect the children, but on a voluntary basis with the parents.
There are different kinds of abuse: physical, sexual or psychological and neglect and abandonment may include many, many situations. For example, if there has been domestic between parents in the presence of the child it is considered domestic violence as to that child, or, if you get charged with DUI with your child in your car, you just crossed the threshold for DCF to enter your life. The possibilities which may bring the DCF into your life are endless.
Certain individuals in the state of Florida have an affirmative duty to report what they perceive as child abuse. Those include teachers, doctors etc.
If your children are taken by the state, it has an affirmative duty to avoid placing the children in foster care with complete strangers. That is always the last resort. Generally if your children are taken, they are placed with relatives during the dependency proceedings and generally visitation is arranged between parents and children. While the case is going on, the parents are generally required to complete courses such as parenting, batterers intervention, family counseling, substance abuse and whatever else DCF deems appropriate. You have the right to contest the department's allegation in a trial, and if successful, the state no longer has any say as to how you raise your children.
Robert S. Hannan would pleased to discuss your case either over the telephone or in person,
please call 321-361-0753 for a consultation with Mr. Hannan.