As child custody hearings were delayed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, many foster children in the state depended on the services of various government and non-profit agencies to survive and have a place to live. Local news for the St. Petersburg area reported on the important role that the state’s child care system played during this difficult time.
Florida’s foster care system addresses challenges created by the pandemic
The state’s foster care system essentially functions as a form of shared responsibility until certain children can be returned to their families or adopted. Approximately 50,000 families in Florida receive some kind of assistance from the child welfare system. About 24,000 children stay in residences operated by the government outside of their homes until they are placed elsewhere or cleared to return to a parent’s care.
Thousands of employees, foster families, and others dedicate time and resources to help make this system work. Many of them take on a high degree of responsibility. Their jobs are not easy either, as many children who end up in foster care or state custody have already experienced trauma due to things like neglect, crime, drug addiction, and domestic violence. For some children in the system, foster care is the first time that they have experienced a stable environment without these kinds of issues. Many of these workers and families are recognized around the country during the month of May, which is National Foster Care Month.
The coronavirus pandemic put all of these workers and the children they care for in a unique and difficult situation. Many communities came together to find new ways to ensure the safety of these kids while addressing the large public health issues created by the virus. There were obvious concerns that the virus could add more trauma to the lives of children who are already very vulnerable. There were several hundred homes in the state of Florida that rose to the challenge and provided family settings and therapy to the foster children as needed during the pandemic. The technology was used as well to create virtual settings for kids to communicate and learn as needed.
The Florida Coalition for Children is the main governing body that helps other non-profit agencies in the state with recruiting, training, education, and other forms of support. This process creates thousands of jobs as well.
While the pandemic was ongoing at the time of the news report, many people were dedicating long hours to assist improve the quality of life for all of these children in various ways. The workers were also engaged in the process to place some of these children with permanent families as soon as it is safe to do so. The report concluded by saying that workers in these fields should be commended for their dedication and hard work, especially considering the fact that many of these children would otherwise be forgotten.
Child custody in Florida
If a parent loses custody of a child to the state in Florida, it is often due to serious problems with abuse, crime, neglect, drugs or alcohol, domestic violence, or other issues that reflect poorly on the biological parents. This is how many children end up in the foster care system for extended periods of time. If a judge thinks that the parents have not reformed or made changes after being given a second chance, they may lose their custody rights permanently. When this happens, the child is often put up for adoption or stays in the foster care system long term.
A parent may be able to regain custody by proving their ability to make good choices that reflect on their ability to raise a child without further issues.
The best interests of the child
The most important terminology to learn about in Florida for child custody issues is the “best interests of the child.” This is not an exact standard with hard and fast rules, but judges are given the discretion to determine what is best based on a child’s situation. This can include stability and ties to the community, the parents’ history with work, finances, and money problems, and anything that might reflect poorly on either parent’s ability to properly raise a child.
Because there is no exact way to know how a judge will utilize this standard in advance of a hearing, it is always recommended to help with legal help from an experienced local family law attorney. They may be familiar with the family court judges in your area and assist with outlining a plan that will present you in the most favorable light to the judge assigned to your case.
Get help from a local attorney on Florida’s Gulf Coast
To learn more about child custody, child support, divorces, alimony, and related family law issues, contact a lawyer at The Law Offices of Yeazell and Sweet.