Child Protective Services – Department of Children and Families


child protection servicesThe State of Florida Department of Children and Families is in charge of investigating child abuse cases throughout the state. Each Florida county is slightly different but in general a report of child abuse begins a long process that may involve many state agencies into the life of the child and the life of each parent.

 

The entire process can begin in one of two ways. The most common way begins with a call to the Florida Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-96-Abuse. Once a call is made to this hotline a local investigative agency must follow up within 24 hours with an investigation of the allegations. In some counties the local Sheriff runs a Child Protective Services unit that will respond. In other counties Child Protective Services is either run directly by Dept of Children and Families or CPS is provided by an outside contractor. In any case the Child Protective Investigator appears on-site and checks out the child and the home where the child lives.

 

The Child Protective Investigator interviews the child, the parents, and any other adults living in the home. The investigator also looks at the home, checks out the refrigerator, the garbage, and any other areas they think are important. They look for signs of abuse, drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, or any other activity that could present a danger to the child.

 

If the Child Protection Investigator determines there is an immediate danger to the child they may make a decision to remove the child from the home. If the child is removed – a temporary placement home will be found to keep the child safe. That temporary placement may be the other spouse, a close family member, or a relative. If no one can be found the child may be placed in foster care.

 

When a child is taken from parents the abuse investigator may decide to file a Petition for Dependency. That is a court document that begins a possibly long court case in Dependency Court. Dependency Court operates in parallel with Divorce and Custody Courts but is an independent process. Another term used for Dependency Court is Unified Family Court or UFC.

 

Once the case is in Dependency Court an initial hearing will be scheduled – to determine whether there is probable case for the abuse petition. During the hearing each parent may receive a court – appointed dependency lawyer. These attorneys may be free or may cost a minimal amount. One thing to be aware of: while court appointed dependency attorneys are experienced and hard working – they will have almost no time to meet privately with you. Because of this you will not receive the kind of service a private dependency attorney will be able to give.

 

Dependency court involves the creation of a case plan. Basically a case plan is a 1 year set of hoops both parents need to jump through to get their children back. During that time you can expect to be back in court approximately every 60 days for a status hearing. You will be heavily involved with, and subject to the whims and opinions of case workers during the entire case plan. The entire process is long, tiring, confusing, and places you at the direct control of many different strangers.

 

The Dependency Court judge has the authority to order counseling, drug testing, fines, vocational counseling, therapy, psychological tests, and more. The purpose of these services is to evaluate and rehabilitate your fitness to be a parent.

 

If you successfully jump through all these hoops, after a year or more, the court may decide to terminate supervision and reunite you with your children.

 

Dependency Attorney

 

An Attorney that specializes in dependency law and child protection law is a valuable ally. Unfortunately, free court appointed attorneys give the type of representation you might expect from a free service. They are overloaded, overworked, and rarely have time to do the most basic tasks – such as picking up the telephone and discussing your case strategy. That is why a private attorney is almost essential in many situations.


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Cheri was referred to me by another local attorney who was not taking any more clients. I couldn’t be happier to have had her represent me during my case. She is very professional and kind. I had another attorney who was great but I dealt with his assistant most of the time. With Cheri I could always go to her directly if I needed to. She is busy too of course but always found time to answer questions for me and calm my nerves. She gave me all of my options from the least costly to other options that may cost more but are worth it. I am glad I took her advice. In the hearing with the judge she was very professional and had my whole case together. She handled herself very well and made the opposing counsel look like a college student. She knows her stuff! Very knowledgable, professional, caring and dependable. I’d highly recommend her!

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  • derek c ripley sr

    hi is it safe to put a kid with some one khow is a fole blown drunk and don’t care about the kids toni Watson don’t care she just wonts the kids four the money she don’t care about them

  • Vernon Williams

    Please look into child endangerment at 5925 fairfield ave south apt 3w,4w ,6w and 6e and (5east), and 4e and 3e…St. petersburg fl 33707…The property is manage by Hendricks Ent Ben Tubbs and Randy Hendricks and Owner is Lorraine Mary Smith of Treasure Island/

  • Tammy

    I have a question I recently had someone call CPI on me about my child and when they came I didn’t let them in my home or pee for them I did however let them take pics of my doors and let them know that my child was sneaking outside at like 3-5am and did show them I was trying to fix the problem by securing the doors better I my daughter is on ssi for mental issues dealing with ADHD and also has a behavior and psychotic distorted and has been taking meds for voices she hears and for her ticks she has I take her to the mental Heath every 3 months and do everything I can as a parent she has good grades honor roll and has no marks or bites on her at all my question is what can I expect next from CPI they said the first time they came that I would be going to court maybe when I asked then this last time they said they were talking with there lawyers to see what they were going to do next I just want to know what to expect

    • HowardIken

      If the situation becomes an extreme concern they can remove your child.

    • mandi

      My son used to do that. He could get past any child lock. Put deadbolts with keys on both sides on every door. Watch out though, my son went out a window 1 time! I eventually went to jail n was charged with child abuse

  • Talva Flowers

    My sister had her son taken from her and placed in foster care. She lives in Florida and I live in Oklahoma. Is it possible for me to get the child even though I live in another state and how can I proceed with this?
    TS

    • HowardIken

      Yes, it is possible. But the situation is complex. You must retain a private attorney to particpate in the pending case.

  • DDD

    I have a final order that my ex has denied me the right of my child through the first right of refusal, weekend visitation, knowledge and denial of activites…the list goes on and on. The child is constantly not with the other party usually with unknown sitters or the other party’s mother. My rights to my child are being clearly denied by the other party. I have witnesses, daily logs and text documentation from the other party stating the denial of the child on numerous occasion (Almost daily/weekly).
    In the final order there is a Section labeled Conflict Resolution. This states if we cannot cooperatively resolve issues or disputes over the Parenting Plan, we must first conduct mediation or other dispute methods such as Parenting Counselors or Parenting Coordinators before filing a Court Action. If the other party is clearly in contempt of the order, must we first attend Mediation? From my understanding the order is to be followed, not to be deligated by the other party that refuses to follow it’s guidelines.

    • HowardIken

      That is an interesting question. The vast majority of attorneys ignore the mediation requirement and go straight to a Motion for Contempt hearing. I tend to agree. This is not an interpretation issue – it is an issue of refusing to follow the order.

  • steve

    I just found out my child hs been removed from the mother because the boyfriend hurt my son, and living with a someone else. But 2 years prior another child was removed from her care due to having domestic issues that where so great the courts terminated her parental rights for that child but left my on in her care. I had no knowledge of any of this until cps came to my home yesterday. Please help.

    • HowardIken

      Sorry but I am not sure what the question is.

  • StressedOutMomFL

    My CPS caseworker won’t return any of my phone calls or attempts to contact her. I have to complete parenting classes by January but they have to be set up by my case worker. How can I start my classes if she’s not returning my calls?
    I am in Hillsborough County. Is there a Supervisor or a hotline that I can call? What can I do?

    • HowardIken

      I assume you are dealing with Eckerd Youth and Family Alternatives? You may want to try showing up at their office to ask for the caseworker. Sometimes that works. Otherwise all YFA workers place their superior’s phone number on their voice mail. Keep following the upward chain till you get your answer.

  • Daleth ‘Bunny’ Stafford

    I’m having trouble with my cps case manager . She has not once tried to call me since my kids were taken. When i try to call her she doesn’t answer or return any of my calls. Since this case has started my kids father and me have been in the blind the entire time. No one is keeping us informed about anything that’s been going on with our kids. It’s like if my kids have been kidnapped. I also feel like they don’t have any evidence proving that we harmed our children in anyway possible. This isn’t right how they are handling us. Someone please help me!!!

    • HowardIken

      You should have a court appointed attorney that represents your rights. Any time children are removed on a long term basis, the court appoints counsel at no cost.

  • Tina Peeples

    IN JANUARY 2012 CPS TOOK MY GRANDAUGHTER FROM MY DAUGHTER AT THE HOME MY DAUGHTER WAS LIVING IN BCZ SHE HAD XANAX IN HER SYSTEM N DIDNT HAVE A PERSCRIPTION FOR . N LAST THURSDAY THEY TOOK HER PARENTAL RIGHTS. AT THE TIME THEY TOOK MY GRAND AUGHTER CPS CAME TO MY HOME THAT NIGHT N DID WHAT THEY CALL A HOME STUDY TO C IF MY GD COULD LIVE WITH ME UNTIL MY DAUGHTER COULD DO HER CASE PLAN . (AT THE TIME I WAS PERSCRIBED FROM A DOCTOR : OXYCODINE N METHADONE N XANAX N HAD BEEN ON THESE MEDS SINCE 2004 DUE TO A CAR ACCIDENT ) SO THE HOME STUDY WAS DENIED. SO MY GD WAS PLACED INTO A FOSTER HOME FOR 28 DAYS UNTIL MY DAUGHTERS BOYFRIENDS MOTHER WAS APPROVED FOR MY GD TO STAY WITH HER.. SINCE THEN THE JUDGE HAS ORDERED 3 HOME STUDYS IN 3 DIFFERENT COURT DATES TO B DONE BUT THEY NEVER HAVE DONE ANOTHER HOME STUDY. BUT NOW THAT SHE BELONGS TO THE STATE OF FLORIDA.. BUT 2 MONTHS AGO B 4 THEY TERMINATED THE FATHERS RIGHT R THE MOTHERS RIGHTS R THE BIO FATHERS RIGHTS I HAD ALL THREE OF THEM MOTHER, FATHER N BIO TO SIGN OVER TO ME THE MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER THERE PARENTAL RIGHTS N THE RIGHTS R SIGNED N NOTERIZED N I HIRED A PRIVATE LAWYER SO THAT I CAN ADOPT MY GD N HE HAS RECENTLY FILED THESE PAPERS. SO NOW ( I GUESS U WOULD CALL HER : CAREGIVER / FOSTER PARENT / GUARDIAN ) IS ALSO TRYING TO ADOPTION MY GD…SINCE THE CAREGIVER THAT IS ” NOT ” BLOOD RELATED ,,LIED N SAID MY DAUGHTER N GD LIVED WITH HER SINCE MY GD WAS 3 MONTHS OLD .BUT THE TRUTH IS MY DAUGHTER LIVED THERE N MY GD HAS KIVED WITH ME N MY FIANCE SINCE THE DAY MY GD WAS BORN N MY DAUGHTER WOULD COME N GET MY GD FOR 2 OR 3 DAYS N THEN SHE WOULD CALL ME N TELL ME OK MOMMA COME N GET HER …MY FIANCE N ME HAVE RAISED MY GD SHE CALLE MY FIANCE -DAD, SHE CALLED ME- MOM, N SHE CALLED MY DAUGHTER – MOMMY.. NO ONE TAUGHT HER TO CALL US ANY THING I GUESS SHE HEARD MY DAUGHTER SO MANY TIMES TALKIN TO MY FIANCE N ME N CALL US MOM N DAD N SHE JUST PICKED IT UP FROM HER MOTHER.SO MY QUESTION IS : DO U THINK I WILL GET MY GRANDAUGHTER ? IS THERE ANY OTHER THING THAT I SHOULD DO BCZ WE GO TO COURT ON THE 11 TH OF FEBUARY. ? I SO DESPERATELY NEED ANY INPUT U COULD GIVE ME…” PLEASE “

  • Rae

    In need of help asap. CPS came fri. and I have a 5 yr. old special needs autistic child and 2 12 yr. old twin boys. This will be the forth time and the allegations are only toward the youngest special needs child. The other 3 times were proven false and not once a report or ANY false or Any allegations ever been toward the 12 yr olds CPS then came in and interviewed myself, the dad, and then took my 5 yr. old in his bedroom closed door and questioned my austic son. She then interviewed the two twin boys separately as well. Today, I was required to take only the 5 yr. old to get interviewed and videotaped by a CPS team. They came back in after interviewing and videotaping him and said that they couldn’t use his tape. And that they would like for one of the other kids to come and be questioned and interviewed. They told me it would be in our best interest and its to concur that he has autism. Everyone is telling me that not to do it, to make them get a court order for the 12 yr. old because I’m pretty sure it was a request and I already took the 5 yr. old, the only one that has any allegations on him there and it isn’t my fault they can’t get anything or use his tape. Personally, if they could use the tape for anything they would, not ask for one of my other children who has never had any allegations towards them to be questioned and videotaped. Also, that if there was anything to take him away already or on the tape, then they already would of. I The false allegations are that my special needs 5 yr old got a busted lip and when asked at school, he said dad. Not giving him his meds and me always being sick and having cancer, which is not even true at all.. He sees a special autism child psychiatrist every mth., I have proof and have shown them and they are aware that he has autism, autism rages, adhd,missing chromosome, mood disorders. Please help asap.

    • HowardIken

      I agree. It is a “request.” Yes, they would normally need a court order to do that unless there is evidence of child abuse sufficient to justify removing the children from the home. But I cannot recommend a decision in either direction. That would be the proper call for your own attorney to make.

      • Rae

        Thank you for your response. My 12 yr. old does not want to do it at all. He said he has already talked to them and that they already have his side and that they already know that the 5 yr. old has autism along with other disorders. I even gave them the name of the 5 yr. old autism special child physiologist.. Like I said, they said the would like to interview and video the one of the twins cause they can’t use the video tape with the only child( my 5 yr old.) ever with any allegations one just him. I need a lawyer. Can you are your team represent me? Plze respond asap. All of the children are still with me.

        • HowardIken

          Yes. We handle these types of cases. The best thing to do is to call us and set up a free, initial meeting with one of our attorneys. We cover approx 14 counties in Florida so you would need to be in one of those areas.

  • Twyla

    In 2010, the court ordered and adjudicated that my two step-children be removed from their mother and placed in the custody of their father. Now in 2015 she is trying to reopen her case to fight for custody of them. I know that there is a limitation on these cases and last year (2014) she tried to open it and the judge told her no because she had had ample opportunity to do so. According to this case she is not even allowed to have them overnight unless their father allows it. We have not let her see the children because of her frequent drug use and instability (no job, no car, no driver license, etc), as well as wanting to terminate her rights from Sept. 2014 to Feb. 2015. She now has a job that she has had for about two months now, but is on probation as we speak for drugs. My question is: What is the time limitation on these types of cases and does she even have a chance? I just want to ease my own mind and knowing that my children are safe. Thank you!

    • http://www.myfloridalaw.com Attorney Howard Iken

      As long as the court has not terminated her parental rights – there is no time limit. But the longer the placement is in effect, the more difficult it is to reopen a case.

  • bonny

    in 2011 a temporary custody/guardian power of attorney notarizing the gparents to take children while she seves 212 years in prison to date children are still with gparents. recently she is under a child abuse investigation. she has been calling wanting to come and take the kids off. can she be with them alone while this case is under an investigation?

    • http://www.myfloridalaw.com Attorney Howard Iken

      Unless there is a court order restricting her – the answer is yes.