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Criminal Charges Involving Florida’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCF)

Under Florida Law, criminal charges can also result in the Department of Children and Families being involved with the accused and their family. If children are present, during the serving of a search warrant of a home that yields illegal narcotics, then law enforcement officers serving the warrant must contact DCF. If an act of violence occurs in the home between the parents of the child, like a domestic battery, and the child is present, then DCF will be involved. If a parent or a “school teacher” with the latter being mandatory reporters, makes an allegation of child abuse, Law Enforcement Officials will response alongside of DCF.

Remember, if DCF is involved in a family investigation, information the department receives from witnesses, including the accused, will be used against the accused in the criminal matter. While under Chapter 39 of Florida General Statutes, the mission of DCF is to strength the families of Florida and the goal is to keep the families intact and to reunite the children with their parents; this mission is not followed in most cases by the department. The Department of Children and Families is by far the most oppressive agency in the State of Florida. The recent track record of the Department in removing children from good families, good homes and good parents is epidemic. The scrutiny that DCF has been receiving in the press and from others, for most part, has not changed their practices in the destruction of families throughout the State of Florida.

The law in Florida is clear on how and when a parent or parents can lose their parental rights.   To terminate parental rights, DCF must prove by clear and convincing evidence: “(1) the existence of one of the statutory grounds set forth in Chapter 39; (2) that termination is in the best interest of the child; and (3) that termination is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from harm.’ See A.H. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children and Family Servs., 85 So. 3d 1213, 1215-16, (Fla. 1st DCA 2012).

The statutory grounds in Chapter 39 that are applicable here are those criminal cases that deal with the physical abuse of a child or family member, sexual abuse of the child or family member, abandonment of the child, or exploitation of the child, which are all crimes in the State of Florida. Remember also that there is a law or statute in Florida that removes the child from a parent, who faces and is incarcerated. With these ideas in mind we now move to the “best interest” test.

As to the best interest of the child standard, DCF will attempt to show that the child is in substantial risk of physical, mental, sexual or other harms; if the child stays in the custody of the offending parent. The risk is so substantial that the child cannot be safely re-united with their parent.

With the first two prongs of the test in mind, we move to the last area in termination of the parental rights and that is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from harm. This test puts the child first and the parent second. The courts have reasoned that “the least restrictive means is not intended to preserve the parental bonds at the cost of the parent child relationship.”  See L.W. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children and Family Servs., 71 So.3rd  221, 224 (4th DCA 2001). Courts in this State have terminated parental rights of parents, when they have opined that the child did not have a bond with the parent. Courts have reasoned that the bond was never formed because the parent was incarcerated and the child parent relationship was never established or that the parent was a drug addict or suffered from mental illness and abandoned the child so that no parent child bond ever grew. Courts have ignored such factors in this are like, the father was incarcerated and the other parent would not bring the child to prison visitation with the father, so as to allow a parental bond to occur. Or that the mentally ill parent was institutionalized and the child was never brought to visit the parent and the same result of no child parent bond ever grew. The statute listing incarceration as a ground for termination of parental rights, Fl. Gen. Stat. 39.806, requires the court to evaluate whether the time for which a parent is expected to be incarcerated in the future, constitutes a substantial portion of the time before the child reaches eighteen, not whether the time the parent has been incarcerated is a substantial portion of the child’s life to date.

With the above in mind, understand that DCF has broad and sweeping investigate powers in the State of Florida. DCF will investigate most aspects of the child’s life that are easy to access and will even access those areas that are federally protected. DCF will get the child’s doctor records, DCF will speak to neighbors and families members about the family and the incident, DCF will get the school and daycare records of the child if the child is of school age, DCF will interview the child in a separate room alone without any guardian present, DCF will set up sexual and physiological exams of the child and other family members and this is just some of the things DCF has in its arsenal.

If you are facing a DCF investigation, criminal investigation, or both then you need a defense lawyer who is experienced in both DCF litigation and Criminal Defense. The intertwining of DCF and Criminal Law is not for the inexperienced as families and liberties are at stake. Attorney Andrew D. Stine has been representing families and individuals when facing multiple issues like DCF and Criminal matters. Hiring an experienced Palm Beach Lawyer, like Andrew D. Stine, can be the difference between keeping your child and freedom or losing both. Hire Stine or Do the Time!

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