Case Planning for Families Involved With Child Welfare Agencies - Florida

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When Case Plans Are Required

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 39.6011

The Department of Children and Family Services shall prepare a draft of the case plan for each child receiving services under this chapter. A parent of a child may not be threatened or coerced with the loss of custody or parental rights for failing to admit in the case plan of abusing, neglecting, or abandoning a child. Participating in the development of a case plan is not an admission to any allegation of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and it is not a consent to a finding of dependency or termination of parental rights.

A case plan must be prepared, but need not be submitted to the court, for a child who will be in care no longer than 30 days unless that child is placed in out-of-home care a second time within a 12-month period.

In each case in which a child has been placed in out-of-home care, a case plan must be prepared within 60 days after the department removes the child from the home and shall be submitted to the court before the disposition hearing for the court to review and approve.

The case plan must be filed with the court and copies provided to all parties, including the child, if appropriate, not less than 3 business days before the disposition hearing.

Who May Participate in the Case Planning Process

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 39.6011

The case plan must be developed in a face-to-face conference with the parent of the child, any court-appointed guardian ad litem, and, if appropriate, the child, and the temporary custodian of the child.

The parent may receive assistance from any person or social service agency in preparing the case plan. The social service agency, the department, and the court, when applicable, shall inform the parent of the right to receive such assistance, including the right to assistance of counsel.

If a parent is unwilling or unable to participate in developing a case plan, the department shall document that unwillingness or inability to participate. The unwillingness or inability of the parent to participate in developing a case plan does not preclude the filing of a petition for dependency or for termination of parental rights.

The parent, if available, must be provided a copy of the case plan and be advised that he or she may, at any time before the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights, enter into a case plan and that he or she may request judicial review of any provision of the case plan with which he or she disagrees at any court hearing set for the child.

Contents of a Case Plan

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 39.6011

The case plan must be written simply and clearly in English and, if English is not the principal language of the child's parent, to the extent possible in the parent's principal language. Each case plan must contain the following:

  • A description of the identified problem being addressed, including the parent's behavior or acts resulting in risk to the child and the reason for the intervention by the department
  • The permanency goal
  • If concurrent planning is being used, a description of the permanency goal of reunification with the parent or legal custodian in addition to a description of an alternate permanency goal, as described in § 39.01, with the following conditions:
    • If a child has not been removed from a parent, but is found to be dependent, even if adjudication of dependency is withheld, the court may leave the child in the current placement with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
    • If a child has been removed from a parent and is placed with a parent from whom the child was not removed, the court may leave the child in the placement with the parent from whom the child was not removed with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
    • If a child has been removed from a parent and is subsequently reunified with that parent, the court may leave the child with that parent with maintaining and strengthening the placement as a permanency option.
  • The date the compliance period expires
  • A written notice to the parent that failure of the parent to substantially comply with the case plan may result in the termination of parental rights and that a material breach of the case plan may result in the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights sooner than the compliance period set forth in the case plan

The case plan must be signed by all parties, except that the signature of a child may be waived if the child is not of an age or capacity to participate in the case-planning process. Signing the case plan constitutes an acknowledgement that the case plan has been developed by the parties and that they are in agreement as to the terms and conditions contained in the case plan. The refusal of a parent to sign the case plan does not prevent the court from accepting the case plan if the case plan is otherwise acceptable to the court.

The case plan must describe the following:

  • The role of the foster parents or legal custodians when developing the services that are to be provided to the child, foster parents, or legal custodians
  • The responsibility of the case manager to forward a relative's request to receive notification of all proceedings and hearings
  • The minimum number of face-to-face meetings to be held each month between the parents and the department's family services counselors to review the progress of the plan, to eliminate barriers to progress, and to resolve conflicts or disagreements
  • The parent's responsibility for financial support of the child, including, but not limited to, health insurance and child support

When the permanency goal for a child is adoption, the case plan must include documentation of the steps the agency is taking to find an adoptive family or other permanent living arrangement for the child.