I live outside Florida, but Florida DCF has my grandchild. What can I do?
If you live outside of Florida, but a child you care about lives in Florida and has been sheltered by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), do not assume you will get the child because you are related. For the first year or so of a dependency case, the child is kept geographically close to their parent, so that they may have visitations with their parent while the parent works on a case plan to try and fix
the problems that arose to the state’s involvement in the first place. If the parent is unable to show that they have succeeded in the case plan, DCF will likely ask the court to terminate the parent’s rights and approve the child’s adoption. By the time this happens, 1-2 years have passed and the child, especially if an infant or toddler, will be in a foster home that wants to adopt him or her.
Florida DCF will tell you to start the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) process. When done through child welfare agencies, the ICPC process takes 9-12 months. At the end of this time, DCF or the guardian ad litem (GAL) will likely oppose your request to move the child and will argue that the child is too bonded to the caregiver.
Here’s what you can do:
At the outset of the case, hire a qualified Florida attorney to represent you in the dependency case and get a private home study in your state. Unlike the child welfare home study, this home study is more thorough and is not free, but it is also complete in a matter of weeks, not months. We advocate on behalf of our clients to seek virtual visitation, arrange for DCF to receive presents for the child, explore what is happening in the case, and advise you as to your strongest legal options, which may include the parents signing a consent for you to adopt.