Placement of Children With Relatives - Florida

Date: September 2022

Relative Placement for Foster Care and Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 39.401; 39.9021; 39.5085

If the Department of Children and Families has taken a child into custody due to a finding that the child has been abused, neglected, or abandoned, the department shall review the facts supporting the removal with an attorney representing the department to determine whether there is probable cause for the filing of a shelter petition.

If the facts are sufficient and the child has not been returned to the custody of the parent or legal custodian, the department shall file the petition and schedule a hearing to be held within 24 hours after the removal of the child. While awaiting the shelter hearing, the department may place the child in out-of-home care, and placement shall be determined based on priority of placements as provided in § 39.4021 and what is in the child's best interests.

When a child is taken into custody, the department shall request that the child's parent, caregiver, or legal custodian disclose the names, relationships, and addresses of all parents and prospective parents and all next of kin of the child, so far as are known.

When a child cannot safely remain at home with a parent, out-of-home placement options must be considered in the following order:

  • Nonoffending parent
  • Relative caregiver
  • Adoptive parent of the child's sibling when the department is aware of such sibling
  • Fictive kin with a close existing relationship to the child
  • Nonrelative caregiver that does not have an existing relationship with the child
  • Licensed foster care
  • Group or congregate care

The Relative Caregiver Program provides financial assistance to relatives who are within the fifth degree, by blood or marriage, to the parent or stepparent of a child and who are caring for the child fulltime because of a court's determination of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Requirements for Placement with Relatives

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 39.401; 39.5085; 39.6231

Placement of a child that is not in a licensed shelter must be preceded by a criminal history records check. In addition, the department may authorize placement of a housekeeper/homemaker in the home of a child alleged to be dependent until the parent or legal custodian assumes care of the child.

The court may place the child with a fit and willing relative as a permanency option if the following apply:

  • The child has been in the placement for at least the preceding 6 months.
  • The relative has made a commitment to provide for the child until they reach the age of majority and to prepare the child for adulthood and independence.
  • The relative is suitable and able to provide a safe and permanent home for the child.
  • The relative agrees to give the court written notice of any change in their residence or the residence of the child.

Relative caregivers must be capable, as determined by a home study, of providing a physically safe environment and a stable, supportive home for the children under their care. They must ensure that the children's needs are met, including, but not limited to, the provision of immunizations, education, and mental health services as needed.

Relatives who qualify for and participate in the Relative Caregiver Program are not required to meet foster care licensing requirements.

In its written order placing the child with a fit and willing relative, the court shall do the following:

  • List the circumstances or reasons why reunification is not possible
  • State the reasons why permanent placement with a fit and willing relative is being established instead of adoption
  • Specify the frequency and nature of visits or contact between the child and their parents, grandparents, and siblings
  • Require that the relative not return the child to the physical care and custody of the person from whom the child was removed without court approval

Requirements for Placement of Siblings

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 39.6012(3); Admin. Code § 65C-30.006(5)

In addition to any other requirement, if the child is in an out-of-home placement, the case plan must include a plan for sibling visitation if the child has siblings and is separated from them.

In regulation: The case manager has specific tasks regarding a child's case plan. The caseworker shall ensure that a schedule for visits between a child in an out-of-home placement and their separated siblings, parents, relatives, and other people of significance in the child's life are addressed in the case plan.

Relatives Who May Adopt

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.0425

The child's grandparent has the right to petition to adopt the child.

Requirements for Adoption by Relatives

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 63.0425; 63.112

The child must have lived with the grandparent for at least 6 months within the 24-month period immediately preceding the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights.

Unless ordered by the court, no report or recommendation is required when the child to be adopted is a relative of one of the adoptive parents.