120 S. Olive Ave., Suite 402
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Inside Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is an agency in Florida with multi functions. Under Florida Statute the Department of Children and Family provides that its local offices, like the West Palm Beach DCF Office, shall provide services relating to: (1) adult protection; (2) child care regulation; (3) child welfare; (4) domestic violence; (5) economic self-sufficiency; (6) homelessness; (7) mental health; (8) refugees; (9) substance abuse.  While DCF might sound like a nice cutesy agency looking out for the citizens of Florida, think again.

The Department of Children and Families has a horrible track record in their placement of children with foster families, government agencies and orphanages throughout their history. This placement of children occurs after DCF plucks them from good, decent Families throughout Palm Beach County, and places them outside their home. With all medical providers like Doctors, Nurses, and clinics throughout Palm Beach County, Florida well aware of the Department’s horrible placement tract record, why would these medical providers even report and suspected abuse to DCF? The answer lies in the Florida Legislatures and more importantly in the purse strings of the Florida Tax Payer!

Under Florida Statute 39.201 there are lists of named professions that must report to DCF:  Physician, osteopathic physician, medical examiner, chiropractic physician, nurse, or hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care, or treatment of persons; mental health professionals and practitioners who rely solely on spiritual means for healing; school teachers or other school officials or personnel; Social workers, day care center workers, or other professional child care providers, foster care, residential, or institutional worker; law enforcement officer and Judges shall all report to DCF any child that the reporter has reasonable cause to suspect is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person in this State.

The Florida Legislatures have passed laws that require Doctor’s and their staff to report activity of their own patients to the Florida Government, law enforcement officers and DCF.  As an example of how far the DCF mandatory reporting requirements have reached, into the lives of West Palm Beach women, who are pregnant and about to deliver their new born babies is startling. Moms and moms to be, you may want to closely guard your personal information about any recreational alcohol or drug use from your OB/GYN doctor and their staff, while receiving prenatal care and during delivery of your child.  The guarding of your personal information about recreational use of substances from your physician, nurses and other clinic staff, while pregnant, will allow you to take “home” your bouncing bundle of joy in a manner without DCF intervention. This is because if you tell your doctor or clinic staff at the OB/GYN facility that you drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or use any form of drugs prescribed or not, your OB/GYN Doctor will report this information of use to the Palm Beach DCF hotline. What occurs next is the reporter is required to provide their information and mom’s information, including where and when the child is delivered, to DCF. Now the investigation is started!

Upon delivery of your new baby, mom will be greeted at her hospital room by a government agent named DCF. The DCF worker will begin the personal investigative process of being very nice to the new mom to gain her trust so that mom will provide her information as to why the government agent should be involved in the new family. The government agent from DCF will offer services to mom like drug rehabilitation, alcohol treatment, and other services to the mom. With DCF asking questions of the new mom, the DCF agent is provided information about the mom’s recreational use of substances from the source itself-mom. Because the DCF worker has been provided information straight from mom’s mouth, the new baby will likely be tested through a blood examination for recreational substances too. What occurs next is completely up the headless agency named DCF.

If the new baby tests positive for any substances, then mom will be forced into a very odd predicament. The choices facing mom will be to have the child remain in the hospital and not return home with her or have mom begin a serious of obstacles, namely enter into a case plan, to possibly get her child back. Under Florida Law, the child may only be kept in the hospital and not allowed to leave the hospital with its mother if there is a court order in place “enjoining” or stopping the mother from taking the child home. Otherwise all the threats from DCF that mom cannot take home her baby are idle.

The Florida legislatures have made it mandatory for doctors to tell on their patients through government regulated laws or regulations.  But are this regulator laws ethical, because of the doctor patient relationship and confidentiality? For that answer you must contact your local AMA. But in my opinion, the reason why doctors will continue to breach doctor patient confidentiality, especially knowing the dire circumstances its causes the new mother and their baby, is because of the mighty dollar attached to the mandatory regulating laws.

South Florida Doctors rely more heavily on Medicaid patients than anywhere else in America. Without those Medicaid dollars rolling into Palm Beach County OB/GYN clinics, many doctors would not be able to exist let alone flourish. So, what is attached to the Doctors mandatory reporting, Medicaid dollars! If a Doctor does not report what he or she believes is reasonable cause to suspect abused and it is later discovered that the Doctor withheld this information or did not report it for whatever reason, the Medicaid dollars that fund the Doctor’s lifestyle may be taken away through sanctions or worse. Moms you can bet on one thing, the OB/GYN will sooner let DCF come between you and your baby, before allowing anyone to come in-between the OB/GYN’s pocket and Medicaid Dollars.

If you or a loved one needs help with a Department of Children and Family matter, contact West Palm Beach Attorney Andrew D. Stine. Andrew D. Stine has been defending families against DCF for more than a decade. Compassionate, understanding, and willing to go to trial can be useful for you and your family in a DCF time of need.

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