What is dependency?

The State of Florida has a commitment to the best interest and protection of children that reside, even temporarily, in the State. To further that commitment, the Florida Legislature has enacted Fla Sta. 39, Proceedings Related to Children.

Under Chapter 39, the State of Florida, through The Department of Children and Families (The Department), has the ability to insure the safety and well being of children in this state if it is suspected that those children are victims of “abuse, abandonment or neglect” as a result of the conduct of their parents, guardians or legal custodians, and therefore dependant on the State for assistance.. Fla. Stat. 30.01(44) defines failure to provide medical treatment to a child as neglect and a grounds for Dependency.

To trigger the State’s involvement, an abuse report must be made to The Department. It is mandatory that The Department investigate each report and initiate a Protective Services Investigation by sending a Child Protective Investigator (CPI) to interview the child, usually at the child’s residence. Depending upon the severity of the allegation, law enforcement may accompany the CPI on the investigation. The CPI will make an assessment of the allegation as to its truthfulness and, upon making the determination as to the risk to the child, may determine if the reported acts or omissions rise to the level of possible dependency. At that time the CPI may offer the parent a Safety Plan (voluntary services) that may be provided by the State or its community based child care organizations that will correct or resolve the underlying allegations contained in the abuse report.

If the parent refuses to accept the offer of voluntary services, or if no services can correct or resolve the basis for the abuse report, the CPI would take the findings of their investigation to an attorney with The Department’s Children’s Legal Services to determine if probable cause existed to exert the State’s jurisdiction over the child and parent. Based upon that determination, The Department may remove the child from the parent’s custody and place into the State’s protective custody (Shelter) or initiate a Non-Shelter Petition requiring the parent to accept the Safety Plan.

In the case of medical neglect, the analysis of what direction The Department chooses to go in would be determined by the actual medical condition and the risk of not receiving treatment. Not taking your child to the doctor for common cold symptoms probably would not result in an abuse report. Failure to get medical treatment for a broken arm or a severe laceration would be a different story.

If you find yourself in a situation where the State is challenging your rights to raise your children the way you see fit, you need to seek advice from qualified, experienced and compassionate attorney before making a major decision that could have a lifelong impact on the lives of you and your loved ones. Dan Newlin & Partners are exactly those types of attorneys. Call now for free advice on family law, and other legal issues. The call is free, but the advice could be priceless. Call Dan Newlin & Partners now at (407) 888-8000.