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CONDUCTING A SHELTER HEARING. SHELTER BASICS Judge Sue Robbins Circuit Judge, Fifth Circuit, Marion County. INTRODUCTION TO APPLICABLE STATE AND FEDERAL LAW. ASFA (42 USC Secs. 620-632, 670-679) – the Adoption and Safe Families Act 45 CFR Secs 1355, 1356, and 1357 – Title IV-E

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conducting a shelter hearing

CONDUCTING A SHELTER HEARING

SHELTER BASICS

Judge Sue Robbins

Circuit Judge, Fifth Circuit, Marion County

introduction to applicable state and federal law
INTRODUCTION TO APPLICABLE STATE AND FEDERAL LAW
  • ASFA (42 USC Secs. 620-632, 670-679) – the Adoption and Safe Families Act
  • 45 CFR Secs 1355, 1356, and 1357 – Title IV-E
    • Contrary to the welfare findings must be continued in the first order that removes the child from the home
    • Reasonable efforts to prevent removal
    • Written findings
introduction to applicable state and federal law3
INTRODUCTION TO APPLICABLE STATE AND FEDERAL LAW
  • Sec. 39.401, Fla. Stat. – taking a child into custody
  • Sec. 39.402, Fla. Stat. – placement in shelter, conducting shelter hearing, written order
  • 65C-30.009-30.012 Services to prevent removal; removal and shelter; services following removal
when does shelter occur
When Does Shelter Occur?
  • Case Begins With Shelter

Shelter petition filed before removal

Hearing must take place within 24 hours of removal. Sec. 39.401(3) and Sec. 39.402(8)

Shelter petition filed after removal

  • Dependency petition filed within 21 days (7 days)
  • Arraignment hearing within 28 days (7 days from DP)
  • “Direct File” Dependency

Dependency petition filed

Shelter petition filed in existing

case – before or after adjudication of dependency, before or after removal

Hearing must take place within 24 hours of removal. Sec. 39.401(3) and Sec. 39.402(8)

  • Arraignment within reasonable time if child not removed first
  • Closed case?
sec 39 401 a child may be taken into custody by dcf or leo
Sec. 39.401 – A child may be taken into custody by DCF or LEO
  • On sworn testimony before or after petition
  • Only if PC that child has been
    • Abused abandoned or neglected –OR-
    • Suffering from or imminent danger of illness or injury from same –OR-
    • Parent or legal custodian materially violated a condition of placement – OR-
    • No parent, LC, or responsible adult relative immediately known and available
sec 39 401 if a child is taken into custody by leo leo shall release child to
Sec. 39.401 – If a child is taken into custody by LEO, LEO “shall” release child to:
  • Parent or LC
  • Responsible adult approved by court (?)
  • Responsible adult relative or adoptive parent of child’s sibling (given priority when in BI’s)
  • Responsible adult approved by the DCF
  • DCF – Give sufficient info to establish “PC that child has been abandoned, abused or neglected or otherwise dependent”
sec 39 401 if a child is taken into custody by or delivered to dcf
Sec. 39.401 – If a child is taken into custody by or delivered to DCF:
  • DCF agent (CPI) must review the facts supporting removal with DCF attorney, to determine “PC for filing a shelter petition”
  • If facts not sufficient, immediately return child
  • If sufficient, file petition, schedule hearing, request hearing within 24 hours
  • Make placement in meantime – if not licensed shelter then “must be preceded by criminal records check”
contrast sec 39 401 3 and 39 402 8
Contrast Sec. 39.401(3) and 39.402(8)
  • Sec. 39.401(3) requires review with attorney to determine PC
  • Sec. 39.402(8) expressly provides that “in the interval until the shelter hearing is held, the decision to place the child in a shelter or release the child from a shelter lies with the protective investigator.”
contrast sec 39 401 5 and 39 402 8
Contrast Sec. 39.401(5) and 39.402(8)
  • Sec. 39.401(5) requires that judicial review and approval of the decision to take a child into custody “is required within 24 hours after placement for all nonrelative placements”
  • Sec. 39.402(8)(a) requires that “a child may not be held in a shelter longer than 24 hours unless an order so directing is entered by the court after a shelter hearing”
sec 39 402 1 a child who has been taken into custody
Sec. 39.402(1) A child who has been taken into custody:
  • May not be placed into a shelter prior to a court hearing unless there is PC
    • Child is abused abandoned or neglected –OR-
    • Child is suffering from or imminent danger of illness or injury from same –OR-
    • Parent or legal custodian materially violated a condition of placement – OR-
    • No parent, LC, or responsible adult relative immediately known and available
what s a shelter
What’s a “shelter”?

Sec. 39.01(68) “Shelter” means a placement with a relative or a nonrelative, or in a licensed home or facility, for the temporary care of a child who is alleged to be or who has been found to be dependent, pending court disposition before or after adjudication.

what is pc as used in sec 39 402
What is “PC” as used in Sec. 39.402?
  • Probable cause is “a reasonable ground for suspicion, or knowledge of facts and circumstances which would warrant an individual of reasonable caution in believing that an offense had been committed.” Cross v. State, 432 So.2d 780, 782 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983), cited in In re BB, 820 So.2d 409, 413 n. 5 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2002) (emphasis added)
juv rule 8 305
Juv. Rule 8.305
  • The court shall conduct an informal hearing within the time period required by law
  • The court shall determine at the hearing the existence of PC to believe the child is dependent and the other criteria
  • PC shall be determined in a non-adversarial manner applying the standard necessary for an arrest warrant
  • At the hearing all interested persons shall have the right to be heard and present evidence “on the criteria for placement”
reversible error not to allow parent to present evidence at shelter on pc of dependency
Reversible error not to allow parent to present evidence at shelter on PC of dependency
  • Parent has statutory right to contest PC at shelter. AMT v. State, 883 So. 2d 302 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004)
  • Error to deny request of parent to present evidence on the issue of PC LMC v. DCF, 935 So. 2d 47 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006)
  • No matter what you call it, parents have the right to put on evidence and to argue not only placement issues but PC at shelter. JB v. DCF, 936 So. 2d 665 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006)
pc must be based on law and must be based on credible facts not automatic
PC must be based on law and must be based on credible facts – not automatic
  • Child’s allegations that mother pushed child on bed, pulled hair, made a motion to hit child, and called child a name NOT sufficient for PC (an individual of reasonable caution would not have believed). Spano v. DCF, 820 So. 2d 409 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002)
  • Substance exposed infant not PC as to older sibling. ML v. DCF, 942 So. 2d 977 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
  • Homeless mom, living with friend, child sexually abused by neighbor. No PC. PU v. DCF, 24 So. 3d 706 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009)
pc shelter procedures
PC/Shelter Procedures

At shelter hearing, to continue child in shelter care, DCF must:

  • Establish PC that reasonable grounds for removal exist
  • And that appropriate and available services will not eliminate the need for placement

Sec. 39.402(8)(d). The parents have the right to be heard on these issues. LMB v. DCF, 28 So. 3d 217 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).

pc shelter procedures17
PC/Shelter Procedures

To order placement, the Court must

  • Determine that placement in shelter is necessary based on the criteria of Secs. (1) and (2) of Sec. 39.402. Sec. 39.402(8)(h)1.
  • And also find that placement in shelter care is in the best interest of the child. Sec. 39.402(8)(h)2. The parents have the right to be heard on all these issues. LMB v. DCF, 28 So. 3d 217 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).
even if the judge really wants to
Even if the judge really wants to…

It is reversible error for the judge to sua sponte order placing the child in shelter care without proper notice to the parents and opportunity to be heard on the matters required to be addressed at shelter. LT v. DCF, 28 So. 3d 978 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010).

the petition for shelter must contain
The petition for shelter must contain:

(1) name, address, date of birth, and sex of the child or, if unknown, a description

(2) name and address, if known, of the child's parents or legal custodian and how each was notified of the shelter hearing;

(3) if the child has been removed from the home, the date and time of the removal;

(4) that the child is of an age subject to the jurisdiction of the court;

(5) the reasons the child needs to be placed in a shelter;

(6) the reasonable efforts, if any, that were made by the DCF to prevent or eliminate the need for the removal of the child from the home or, if no such efforts were made, a description of the emergency that prevented these efforts;

(7) recommend where the child is to be placed or the agency to be responsible for placement; and

(8) be signed by the petitioner and, if represented by counsel, by the petitioner's attorney.

required notice to parents
Required Notice to Parents
  • Notice as best ensures their actual knowledge of the date, time and place of the shelter hrg
  • Even if outside of jurisdiction or if unknown or if unlocatable – notice as best ensures actual knowledge
  • Person giving notice must advise the court
  • Parents get written notice of opportunity to be heard and present evidence; right to counsel
right to counsel
Right to Counsel
  • Applies at shelter and at each subsequent hearing under Sec. 39.013
  • Court may continue shelter for 72 hours to allow parents to consult with counsel if parents request
  • Kids stay in shelter placement if continuance is granted
at the shelter hearing the dcf must also provide the court
At the shelter hearing, the DCF must also provide the Court:
  • Copies of any available law enforcement, medical, or other professional reports, and shall also provide copies of abuse hotline reports pursuant to state and federal confidentiality requirements.
  • And inform the court of:

1. Any identified current or previous case plans negotiated in any district with the parents or caregivers under this chapter and problems associated with compliance;

2. Any adjudication of the parents or caregivers of delinquency;

3. Any past or current injunction for protection from domestic violence; and

4. All of the child's places of residence during the prior 12 months.

the shelter judge must
The shelter judge must:
  • Appoint a GAL unless “such representation is unnecessary”
  • Inform parents of right to counsel at shelter and at each subsequent hearing
  • Obtain permanent mailing address from each party and advise each party that the address will be used by the court and the petitioner for notice purposes until a written change of address is filed
in an order granting shelter the judge must
In an order granting shelter the judge must
  • Identify the parties who are present
  • Find that placement in shelter is necessary
    • Child has been abused, abandoned, etc.
    • Necessity of removal/provision of appropriate services will not eliminate the need for removal
    • Placement is in child’s best interests
    • Continuation in home is contrary to child’s welfare, substantial and immediate danger, cannot be mitigated by provision of appropriate services
in an order granting shelter the judge must also
In an order granting shelter the judge must also
  • Find PC to believe that child is dependent or court needs additional time (not more than 72 hours) to obtain and review documents to appropriate determine risk to child
  • Reasonable efforts –OR-
  • Deemed (excused) reasonable efforts
reasonable efforts excused when
Reasonable efforts excused when
  • Emergency
  • Home presents a substantial and immediate danger which cannot be mitigated by preventive services
  • Child cannot safely remain at home (either there are no preventive services or even with available services child’s health and safety cannot be ensured)
  • Parent has committed an act under Sec. 39.806(1)(f) through (i) for “expedited TPR”
order granting shelter must also state
Order granting shelter must also state:
  • That the court notified the parents, relatives providing care, of the importance to appear and participate in every hearing and the date time and place of the next hearing
  • That the court told the parents that they have a right to be represented by counsel at every hearing
  • That the court notified relatives who are providing out-of-home care for a child that they have the right to attend all subsequent hearings, to submit reports to the court, and to speak to the court regarding the child, if they so desire.
visitation
Visitation
  • DCF must provide the court a recommendation for scheduled contact
  • Court must determine visitation rights absent a clear and convincing showing that visitation is not in the child’s best interests
  • But to the contrary if Sec. 39.0139 applies
  • Visitation must begin with 72 hours unless DCF provides “justification” and court should make written findings
court must also
Court must also
  • Require parents to provide financial information within 28 days for purposes of child support
  • If child has guardianship estate, then guardianship estate may in some situations be required to support
medical and educational records
Medical and educational records
  • Court must ask the parents to provide consent and produce information or make records available in the absence of parents’ consent if appropriate
  • May appoint a surrogate for a child who has a disability
the order granting shelter must also contain
The order granting shelter must also contain
  • A written determination as to whether the DCF has made a reasonable effort to prevent or eliminate the need for removal or continued removal of the child from the home. -AND-
  • A description of which specific services, if available, could prevent or eliminate the need for removal or continued removal from the home and the date by which the services are expected to become available.
if services are not available
If services are not available:
  • The written determination must also contain an explanation describing why the services are not available for the child.
at the end of the shelter hearing if shelter has been granted
At the end of the shelter hearing if shelter has been granted:
  • DCF must provide referral information to parents. Participation in the services shall not be considered an admission or other acknowledgment of the allegations in the shelter petition.
  • The court shall notify all parties in writing of the next scheduled hearing to review the shelter placement. No later than 30 days after placement of the child in shelter status, in conjunction with the arraignment hearing. Can be sooner, and can be more.
  • The court shall inquire of the parent whether the parent has relatives who might be considered as a placement for the child, and the parent must provide identification and location information regarding relatives. The court shall advise the parent that the parent has a continuing duty to inform the DCF of any relative who should be considered for placement of the child.
  • The court shall advise the parents that, if the parents fail to substantially comply with the case plan, their parental rights may be terminated and that the child's out-of-home placement may become permanent.
additional good practices
Additional good practices
  • Paternity inquiry under Sec. 39.503, and written order regarding results
  • Begin appropriate concurrent case planning from the beginning (identify relatives, order home studies, ICPC compliance, obtain substance abuse evaluations as provided in Sec. 39.407)
  • Address service needs of child
  • Redirect existing child support
  • Include child in copies and notices if appropriate
  • Ensure compliance with deadlines, time limits