Jay & Campbell

Legislative Watch

Florida Legislature refuses to act on legislation that would have denied foster parents and caregivers access to the courts

SB 1206, draft legislation presented in 2021, proposed amendments to Fla. Stat. §§ 39.812(4)-(6) and 63.062(7), emphasizing bureaucratic shortcuts over the sanctity of families. To summarize, SB 1206 would:

  • Bar access to the courts for caregivers, like foster parents, who may have a years-long, intimate and bonded parental relationship with the children in their care. Although anyone can file a petition to adopt, SB 1206 would take away that right for anyone who wants to adopt a child from the dependency system. SB 1206 goes against clear legislative intent to encourage adoption from foster care.
  • Elevate a small panel of unelected bureaucrats (AARC) to the level of a circuit court, and demand that circuit courts treat AARC with the same deference that an appellate court would apply to a lower court.
  • Take away the court’s longstanding, independent power to assess the best interests of a dependent child, or the stability and permanence of the child’s adoptive placement.
  • Erase the limited and occasional accountability DCF has to prospective adoptive parents by circumventing their ability to conduct discovery. “Discovery” is a legal term that covers basic preparation for a hearing so that a litigant doesn’t walk into a hearing completely unprepared.

The sponsor of SB 1206 was Senator Aaron Bean of District 4 (Nassau and Duval Counties). The bill was referred to the following committees: Referred to Children, Families, and Elder Affairs & JudiciaryRick Roth of District 85 (Palm Beach County) introduced the house version of the bill, CS/HB 601. The house bill was introduced to the following committees: Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee, Health & Human Services Committee, & Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee. Neither bill made it past all the committee to get to the floor for a vote, fortunately, but we are concerned that DCF or the GAL Program will present this bill in future sessions. If you would like to share your thoughts about how this legislation would impact foster parents, please reach out to your Florida house and senate representatives, as well as the members on these committees.