Know Your Rights When Involved with DCF as a Care Giver and Prospective Adoptive Parent
Have you ever wondered how the Department of Children and Families select adoptive families after the parental rights to children are terminated and the children become available for adoption? The Department is required to follow Florida Administrative Code 65C-16.002, “Adoptive Family Selection” which delineates the criteria the Department is required to consider in selecting a family “in the best interests of the child”.
Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of cases wherein the Department is involved in allowing and encouraging 2 families to compete for the adoption of the child(ren). If you find yourself in such a situation, you need to promptly obtain legal representation by an attorney who is experienced with this legal quagmire being created by the Department. Despite the fact that setting up competing families to adopt a child is unethical for a private adoption agency to do, the Department of Children and Families and some of the Department’s subcontractors engage in this conduct under the guise of following Florida law.
Perhaps you have had the child residing with you for months or years believing that you would ultimately be permitted to adopt a child, and suddenly the Department informs you that a long lost relative, or another family is interested in adopting the child also. Perhaps you are notified that visits, or long distance face time sessions with the other family will be initiated shortly. The Department may insist that you cooperate with making a very young child Skype or FaceTime with individuals the child is not familiar with. If the child is disinterested, you may be criticized for your lack of ability to engage the child and obtain their cooperation in participating in this absurd scenario. Clearly the Department is trying to establish a relationship with an individual who stands as a stranger to the child to set up a competing prospective adoptive family scenario. If you find it strange that the Department would introduce children to strangers regardless of a biological connection or otherwise, we do too!
Or perhaps the Department will suddenly decide to comply with the law and begin sibling visits to forge a sibling bond all in the name of placing the sibling together. But the siblings may be very young children who have never resided together, or have only done so briefly. The Department may start visitation with the children visiting and setting the care givers up for the new competition as to which care givers will get to adopt the children, despite the fact that each child is bonded to their care giver and may refer to their care giver as “Mom” and “Dad”. In the name of the purported sibling bond, one child will be moved and forever have his/her secure attachments damaged and sacrificed, so that the Department may fix their wrong, the fact that the children were not placed together at the start of the case.
Be aware that if you are a care giver you may only be considered a “participant” and the Department and the GAL may be the only remaining parties. You need to know that the Department and the GAL may submit an agreed order to modify placement of the child without your knowledge and to deny you an opportunity to be heard by the Court. Or an Emergency Motion For Modification of Placement may be submitted to the Court wherein the Court grants an Order modifying the children’s placement without you being notified until the Department sends their employee to pick up the children. You can easily be denied your right to be heard under such scenarios and that is why you must have effective representation.
You may be informed that after you apply to adopt you will be invited to attend an AARC or an Adoption Application Review Committee wherein you can plead your case to the committee as to why the child should be permitted to remain with you and be adopted. You may be informed that you may bring other individuals or you may be denied bringing other individuals. DO NOT attend an AARC without competent legal representation and any and all other individuals you wish to have heard. Also, you need to have competent legal representation on deck and ready to proceed in the event you receive a denial letter from the Department of Children and Families indicating that you have not been selected to adopt the child(ren). You will only have only 21 days from the date you receive the denial letter to file a Chapter 120 appeal. If you fail to promptly exercise your rights the Department may remove the child from your care without further notice.
Did you really think this was all about the best interests of the children? This is the child welfare industry and this is happening right now in Florida. Whether you are a selected family waiting to adopt, foster parent, family member, or non-relative placement, get effective representation NOW! Help stop the trauma to children by the very agency charged with protecting children.