Florida Law Requires Siblings to Remain Together in the Foster System
In the United States, parental rights are considered fundamental, meaning that it is a strictly protected right of families to be free from intervention and interference from the government. With this fundamental right comes obligations and duties that a parent must honor, specifically that he or she will make sure that his or her children receive the best care and that the children’s basic needs are met. It is only when the parent starts making decisions and behaving in a way that can cause detrimental and serious harm mentally, emotionally, and physically that the government believes it is of the utmost importance that they intercede.
Though the government may intercede on behalf of the children, removal of the children from the family may prove difficult because of these fundamental, parental rights. When the Department of Children and Families (DCF) intervenes and finds that the children are potentially being harmed, the children are removed to a foster family or relative until it is ascertained whether the parent’s rights should be terminated or if the parent is able to prove that he or she is able to take care of the children again. If your parental rights are being threatened, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
Florida’s Laws on Removing Children from the Family Home
While this investigation is occurring, the children may end up in a foster care facility or with a family member who is able to protect the children from the parent who is currently under investigation. In 2014, Florida law required that the DCF must make reasonable efforts to keep the children together if there is a court order for the children to be placed in shelter care. It was found that removal of the children from the family home was less traumatic when the children are able to stay together. This presumption, however, is rebuttable when it can be demonstrated that keeping the siblings together in a foster home is not in the best interest of each child.
Florida additionally requires that if the children are unable to stay together in a foster home, that the DCF make all attempts to ensure that the children are in frequent and ongoing interaction and visitation between and among the siblings that are not housed together, unless the visitation or interaction threatens a child’s safety or wellbeing.
Florida’s Requirements for Adoption of Siblings and Maintained Communication
Finally, Florida law does not require that siblings are adopted together, though it is preferred that an adoptive family consider adopting all the siblings together. A family that is able to adopt all the siblings together will be prioritized as the adoptive placement. When the adoptive family is unable to take on all the siblings together, the DCF should ensure that the adopted child and his or her siblings are able to maintain communication and contact. However, once a child is adopted by his or her adoptive family, the DCF’s and court’s recommendation to maintain contact between and among the siblings does not limit the adoptive family from moving the adopted child out of state. The adoptive parent may even seek out a court order to terminate any and all contact between the adopted child and his or her siblings if it can be demonstrated that the continued contact is detrimental to the adopted child.
Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.