Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Dependency Cases
If an individual suspects child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, a report may be made to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). In Florida, any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare is a mandatory reporter. Child and adult abuse should be reported to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) through either the DCF statewide hotline (1-800-96-ABUSE) (1-800-962-2873) or through the DCF website at http://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us. You can learn more about DCF by clicking here to review the DCF frequently asked questions page.
Many DCF cases are initiated every day. The Department of Children and Families must investigate all such cases. A DCF case may be initiated once a report of suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect is made. Florida law protects any person reporting such suspected incidents if the report is made in good faith. Because the identity of the reporter is generally kept confidential, the accused may not know who made the report, or be able to investigate that person’s motivations for making the report. Sometimes, unfortunately, spouses or extended family members make false or unfounded reports against ex-spouses, or soon-to-be ex-spouses, especially when the accused is involved in a separation or divorce situation. If an allegation of criminal conduct is made, including illegal drug use or domestic violence, DCF can use these facts to justify removing a child. Some DCF cases have merit and some cases lack merit, or are even falsely reported. The investigations conducted by DCF can impose a substantial hardship on the accused and their family members, and even on the children the department seeks to protect. Many parents do not understand the Florida dependency process or their rights once they are accused in a dependency action. The number one goal is reunification- to reunite the child(ren) with his or her parent(s). Should reunification not work out, other options, such as adoption become the permanency goal. Attorney Kristen Goss has defended parents in DCF dependency cases throughout Florida and he can explain your rights and defend you, too.
DCF Dependency Defense – Defending Your Parental Rights
As a certified guardian at litem, we advocate for abused and neglected children to ensure that the best interests of the children are heard in court. If you become involved in a DCF case, contact an experienced Florida family law attorney to defend you and protect your child’s safety and rights.
Florida Dependency Shelter Hearings
After a child is removed from the home by DCF, the Court holds a shelter hearing within 24 hours of removal. At the shelter hearing, the court decides whether sufficient evidence exists to shelter the child away from the accused parent. Florida Statutes Chapter 39 governs these dependency proceedings related to children.
Florida Dependency Arraignment Hearings
The Arraignment hearing follows the shelter hearing. An accused parent will be asked whether they admit or deny the allegations made by DCF. You should not admit to DCF allegations at any stage of the DCF dependency case against you without the advice and counsel of an attorney.