Florida Introduces “Safe Families Bill” Offering Temporary Respite Homes to Children

Parental rights are considered guaranteed, fundamental rights. To be a parent, you have the privilege to raise your child in any way that you see fit, but with that privilege comes the duties and obligations of being a parent - to clothe, feed, care for, and provide the basic necessities to your child. When a parent is unable to provide the basic necessities, is abusive, or puts the child in a situation where he or she may be in risk of serious harm or death, then the government may intervene to ensure that the best interest of the child are being met.

If your parental rights are being threatened, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Abuse and Neglect and the State’s Rights to Remove a Child from the Home

In the United States, drug addiction, illness, unemployment, and homelessness plague many families. These issues, if they are not properly met with help and/or treatment, may lead the children dealing with the brunt of the issues and becoming the victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment. Though it is important to protect the children from being victims of violence, abuse, neglect, and abandonment, removing the children from the home can be traumatic in its own right, and can only be permanently done if the parent has been found to be unable to perform the duties of parenting and his or her parental rights are terminated. Sometimes, the removal of the children may only be temporary as the parent attempts to get the house and his or her life in order to receive the children again and therefore, to limit the amount of trauma and stress that may occur, Florida’s Department of Children and Families may look for better solutions in the best interest of the children.

The “Safe Families Bill”

House Bill 363, also known as the “Safe Families Bill,” would enable the placement of children into loving, temporary homes to house children who will eventually be returned to their parents, rather than the foster system. The bill would authorize qualified non-profit organizations to provide a temporary respite for children that are only going to need temporary housing and will act as a less invasive alternative to full removal of the children from a family home. It also would allow the parents of these children to be able to receive a respite from caring for their children so that they can better deal with the issues that are plaguing the home.

How the Bill’s Program Would Work

The details of the program are as follows: Qualified organizations, many may be religious institutions like churches or non-profits educated in child welfare, would take on the children of a plagued home for a temporary period of time. Children that would qualify would be those who do not need the full support of the child welfare system and only need a living space for a short duration. The organization would vet and assign volunteer families to take in children who need short-term care. The volunteer families or members could also be selected to help the parents with their basic needs, as well, especially if it could ultimately make the parent a better caregiver or resolve the issues plaguing the home.

Contract for Care and its Ramifications

As part of the bill, the parents of the child(ren) who may need to a temporary respite are involved in the process and sign a contract authorizing permission of the respite volunteer family to take in the child and delegate certain rights of the child for the duration of the child’s stay. The contract for care would authorize the respite family certain rights to make decisions about the care and welfare of the child, but it would not permit the respite family to authorize adoption or marriage of the child, abortion on or for the child, or to terminate parental rights to the child. A separate consent would be submitted for any urgent and emergency care that may occur while the child is out of the parent’s custody. Finally, the parent (or both parents) that have custody (or shared responsibility) will be required to sign the contract for care of the child and a notification to the noncustodial parent is required.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.