Child custody can become a contentious matter between biological parents, but in cases related to issues such as abuse and neglect the state may become involved. It is important for parents to be aware of their rights and procedural issues before attending a formal custody or dependency hearing.

Issues between local government and foster care

A non-profit organization in Clearwater recently gave up a foster care contract with the state and dealt with a number of problems related to a lack of resources.

The dispute over the contract stemmed from the fact that the non-profit organization believes that case managers already have too much work and cannot handle the additional volume. The organization called Directions for Living had previously dealt with Pinellas County, and recently walked away from a contract to deal with over 600 families in Hillsborough County. The organization’s president is concerned that severe funding issues and the high volume of cases create a situation where children cannot remain safe and healthy. She claims that asking case managers who are already overburdened to double their caseload is not a realistic goal.

Despite 15 years of working with county governments in the Tampa metro area, Directions now claims that they have extreme difficulty finding qualified case managers and getting them to stay with the job long-term under these poor conditions. Senior case managers are especially overburdened as newer employees require extensive oversight and training before they can handle large volumes of cases on their own.

A lack of oversight and insufficient funding have created a system where the child welfare system in the state of Florida is in crisis. Part of this crisis seems to involve a revolving door or child care organizations and sub-contractors who handle additional work as needed for these groups. There are already plans in place to conduct an emergency bid to find a suitable replacement for Directions for Living. The local government is trying to maintain as much consistency in the children’s lives as possible during this difficult process.

The Florida Department of Children and Families had already ordered a panel of experts to review the child care system in 2018 due to similar problems. They found that many children have no permanent foster home and they experience high levels of instability while growing up.

Custody disputes in Florida

In normal custody disputes, both parents will present evidence that they are able to serve the best interests of the child through factors set forth in Florida Statues chapter 61.These factors include, the length of time a child has lived in a stable environment, the geographic viability of the parenting plan, the moral fitness of the parents, the mental and physical health of the parents, the home school and community record of the child and the demonstrated capacity of a parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and other parents. These are just a few of the factors the Court will consider.  Most child custody lawyers routinely deal with these issues and they can provide advice and representation during a custody hearing.

How do parents lose custody to the state?

There are some ways that parents can  custody of a child, making them dependent on the state. The state may intervene in cases of abuse or neglect to take custody away from the biological parents. Some children may simply have no one available to take care of them due to death, illness, or abandonment, and become foster children.

Witnesses reporting abuse and criminal charges are the most common reasons why the local government will intervene. However, there are also false reports of incidents such as domestic violence and other related issues. In these situations it is best to get help from a lawyer to refute any kind of false allegations.

A judge can review custody issues when evidence of abuse or other misconduct comes before them. They have the authority to award the child to the state or another party if there is credible evidence that a parent should no longer have custody. Due to the serious nature of losing custody of a child, these kinds of hearings should only be attended with expert legal representation from a family law attorney.

Talk to a family law attorney in the Clearwater area

If you need to speak with a lawyer about child custody, child support, paternity, or any other related family law issues, there is help available. The Law Offices of Yeazell and Sweet provide free consultations for new clients regarding all of these matters.

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