What happens if AARC denies my adoption application?
If the AARC denies your adoption application, you have a short period of time to appeal the AARC decision, pursuant to Chapter 120. The hearing officer in the Chapter 120 proceeding, who is a DCF employee, typically reviews the AARC decision using an “abuse of discretion” standard, which defers to the AARC’s decision, rather than the “de novo” standard, which allows a hearing officer to reevaluate the case through fresh eyes and substitute their own opinion for that of
AARC. Prevailing on an AARC appeal is virtually unheard of, and denied adoption applicants have a better chance at a fair hearing in court. The judicial branch is independent from DCF and should engage in a more robust analysis of your case. The court retains jurisdiction to determine a child’s best interests and is not bound by the AARC decision.
Fla. Stat. § 63.062(7)—which had widespread support when passed in 2004—explicitly gave prospective adoptive parents the right to do this, provided they can demonstrate DCF has unreasonably withheld its consent to the adoption. Courts have held that DCF is reasonable in withholding consent only when DCF’s selection is (1) appropriate, (2) consonant with its policies, and (3) made in an expeditious manner. B.Y. v. Dep’t of Children & Families, 887 So.2d 1253, 1257 (Fla.2004).
We are highly experienced in litigation involving the Department of Children and Families and can help you whether you are preparing for the AARC or considering an appeal.