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The Florida Statutes

The 2022 Florida Statutes

Title V
JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39
PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
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F.S. 39.4022
39.4022 Multidisciplinary teams; staffings; assessments; report.
(1) LEGISLATIVE INTENT.
(a) The Legislature finds that services for children and families are most effective when delivered in the context of a single integrated multidisciplinary team staffing that includes the child, his or her family, natural and community supports, and professionals who join together to empower, motivate, and strengthen a family and collaboratively develop a plan of care and protection to achieve child safety, child permanency, and child and family well-being.
(b) The Legislature also finds that effective assessment through an integrated multidisciplinary team is particularly important for children who are vulnerable due to existing histories of trauma which led to the child’s entrance into the child welfare system. This assessment is especially important for young children who are 3 years of age or younger, as a result of the enhanced need for such children to have healthy and stable attachments to assist with necessary brain development. Stable and nurturing relationships in the first years of life, as well as the quality of such relationships, are integral to healthy brain development, providing a foundation for lifelong mental health and determining well-being as an adult.
(2) DEFINITIONS.For purposes of this section, the term:
(a) “Change in physical custody” means a change by the department or the community-based care lead agency to the child’s physical residential address, regardless of whether such change requires a court order changing the legal custody of the child.
(b) “Emergency situation” means that there is an imminent risk to the health or safety of the child, other children, or others in the home or facility if the child remains in the placement.
(c) “Multidisciplinary team” means an integrated group of individuals which meets to collaboratively develop and attempt to reach a consensus decision on the most suitable out-of-home placement, educational placement, or other specified important life decision that is in the best interest of the child.
(3) CREATION AND GOALS.
(a) Multidisciplinary teams must be established for the purpose of allowing better engagement with families and a shared commitment and accountability from the family and their circle of support.
(b) The multidisciplinary teams must adhere to the following goals:
1. Secure a child’s safety in the least restrictive and intrusive placement that can meet his or her needs;
2. Minimize the trauma associated with separation from the child’s family and help the child to maintain meaningful connections with family members and others who are important to him or her;
3. Provide input into the proposed placement decision made by the community-based care lead agency and the proposed services to be provided in order to support the child;
4. Provide input into the decision to preserve or maintain the placement, including necessary placement preservation strategies;
5. Contribute to an ongoing assessment of the child and the family’s strengths and needs;
6. Ensure that plans are monitored for progress and that such plans are revised or updated as the child’s or family’s circumstances change; and
7. Ensure that the child and family always remain the primary focus of each multidisciplinary team meeting.
(4) PARTICIPANTS.
(a) Collaboration among diverse individuals who are part of the child’s network is necessary to make the most informed decisions possible for the child. A diverse team is preferable to ensure that the necessary combination of technical skills, cultural knowledge, community resources, and personal relationships is developed and maintained for the child and family. The participants necessary to achieve an appropriately diverse team for a child may vary by child and may include extended family, friends, neighbors, coaches, clergy, coworkers, or others the family identifies as potential sources of support.
1. Each multidisciplinary team staffing must invite the following members:
a. The child, unless he or she is not of an age or capacity to participate in the team;
b. The child’s family members and other individuals identified by the family as being important to the child, provided that a parent who has a no contact order or injunction, is alleged to have sexually abused the child, or is subject to a termination of parental rights may not participate;
c. The current caregiver, provided the caregiver is not a parent who meets the criteria of one of the exceptions under sub-subparagraph b.;
d. A representative from the department other than the Children’s Legal Services attorney, when the department is directly involved in the goal identified by the staffing;
e. A representative from the community-based care lead agency, when the lead agency is directly involved in the goal identified by the staffing;
f. The case manager for the child, or his or her case manager supervisor; and
g. A representative from the Department of Juvenile Justice, if the child is dually involved with both the department and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
2. The multidisciplinary team must make reasonable efforts to have all mandatory invitees attend. However, the multidisciplinary team staffing may not be delayed if the invitees in subparagraph 1. fail to attend after being provided reasonable opportunities.
(b) Based on the particular goal the multidisciplinary team staffing identifies as the purpose of convening the staffing as provided under subsection (5), the department or lead agency may also invite to the meeting other professionals, including, but not limited to:
1. A representative from Children’s Medical Services;
2. A guardian ad litem, if one is appointed;
3. A school personnel representative who has direct contact with the child;
4. A therapist or other behavioral health professional, if applicable;
5. A mental health professional with expertise in sibling bonding, if the department or lead agency deems such expert is necessary; or
6. Other community providers of services to the child or stakeholders, when applicable.
(c) Members of the multidisciplinary team who are required to attend under subparagraph (a)1. or who are invited to participate under paragraph (b) may attend the multidisciplinary team staffing in person or remotely.
(d) Each multidisciplinary team staffing must be led by a person who serves as a facilitator and whose main responsibility is to help team participants use the strengths within the family to develop a safe plan for the child. The person serving as the facilitator must be a trained professional who is otherwise required to attend the multidisciplinary team staffing under this section in his or her official capacity. Further, the trained professional serving as the facilitator does not need to be the same person for each meeting convened in a child’s case under this section or in the service area of the designated lead agency handling a child’s case.
(5) SCOPE OF MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM.
(a) A multidisciplinary team staffing must be held when an important decision is required to be made about a child’s life, including all of the following:
1. Initial placement decisions for a child who is placed in out-of-home care. A multidisciplinary team staffing required under this subparagraph may occur before the initial placement or, if a staffing is not possible before the initial placement, must occur as soon as possible after initial removal and placement to evaluate the appropriateness of the initial placement and to ensure that any adjustments to the placement, if necessary, are promptly handled.
2. Changes in physical custody after the child is placed in out-of-home care by a court and, if necessary, determination of an appropriate mandatory transition plan in accordance with s. 39.4023.
3. Changes in a child’s educational placement and, if necessary, determination of an appropriate mandatory transition plan in accordance with s. 39.4023.
4. Placement decisions for a child as required by subparagraph 1., subparagraph 2., or subparagraph 3. which involve sibling groups that require placement in accordance with s. 39.4024.
5. Any other important decisions in the child’s life which are so complex that the department or appropriate community-based care lead agency determines convening a multidisciplinary team staffing is necessary to ensure the best interest of the child is maintained.
(b) A multidisciplinary team convened under this section may address multiple needs and decisions under paragraph (a) regarding the child or sibling group for which the team is convened during the same staffing.
(c) This section does not apply to multidisciplinary team staffings that occur for one of the decisions specified in paragraph (a) and that are facilitated by a children’s advocacy center in accordance with s. 39.3035. The children’s advocacy center that facilitates a staffing is encouraged to include family members or other persons important to the family in the staffing if the children’s advocacy center determines it is safe for the child to involve such persons.
(d) This section does not apply to placements made pursuant to s. 63.082(6).
(6) ASSESSMENTS.
(a)1. The multidisciplinary team staffing participants must, before formulating a decision under this section, gather and consider data and information on the child which is known at the time, including, but not limited to, information allowing the team to address the best interest factors under s. 39.01375.
2. Multidisciplinary team staffings may not be delayed to accommodate pending behavioral health screenings or assessments or pending referrals for services.
(b) The assessment conducted by the multidisciplinary team may also use an evidence-based assessment instrument or tool that is best suited for determining the specific decision of the staffing and the needs of that individual child and family.
(c) To adequately prepare for a multidisciplinary staffing team meeting to consider a decision related to a child 3 years of age or younger, all of the following information on the child which is known at the time must be gathered and considered by the team:
1. Identified kin and relatives who express interest in caring for the child, including strategies to overcome potential delays in placing the child with such persons if they are suitable.
2. The likelihood that the child can remain with the prospective caregiver past the point of initial removal and placement with, or subsequent transition to, the caregiver and the willingness of the caregiver to provide care for any duration deemed necessary if placement is made.
3. The prospective caregiver’s ability and willingness to:
a. Accept supports related to early childhood development and services addressing any possible developmental delays;
b. Address the emotional needs of the child and accept infant mental health supports, if needed;
c. Help nurture the child during the transition into out-of-home care;
d. Work with the parent to build or maintain the attachment relationship between parent and child;
e. Effectively coparent with the parent; and
f. Ensure frequent family visits and sibling visits.
4. Placement decisions for each child in out-of-home placement which are made under this paragraph must be reviewed as often as necessary to ensure permanency for that child and to address special issues that may arise which are unique to younger children.
(d)1. If the participants of a multidisciplinary team staffing reach a unanimous consensus decision, it becomes the official position of the community-based care lead agency regarding the decision under subsection (5) for which the team convened. Such decision is binding upon all department and lead agency participants, who are obligated to support it.
2. If the participants of a multidisciplinary team staffing cannot reach a unanimous consensus decision on a plan to address the identified goal, the trained professional acting as the facilitator shall notify the court and the department within 48 hours after the conclusion of the staffing. The department shall then determine how to address the identified goal of the staffing by what is in the child’s best interest.
(7) CONVENING A TEAM UPON REMOVAL.The formation of a multidisciplinary team staffing must begin as soon as possible when a child is removed from a home. The multidisciplinary team must convene a staffing no later than 72 hours from the date of a subsequent removal in an emergency situation in accordance with s. 39.4023.
(8) REPORT.If a multidisciplinary team staffing fails to reach a unanimous consensus decision, the facilitator must prepare and submit a written report to the court within 5 business days after the conclusion of the staffing which details the decision made at the conclusion of the multidisciplinary team staffing under subsection (6) and the positions of the staffing’s participants.
(9) CONFIDENTIALITY.Notwithstanding any other provision of law, participants representing the department and the community-based care lead agency may discuss confidential information during a multidisciplinary team staffing in the presence of individuals who participate in the staffing. Information collected by any agency or entity that participates in the multidisciplinary team staffing which is confidential and exempt upon collection remains confidential and exempt when discussed in a staffing required under this section. All individuals who participate in the staffing shall maintain the confidentiality of any information shared during the staffing.
(10) CONSTRUCTION.This section may not be construed to mean that multidisciplinary team staffings coordinated by the department or the appropriate lead agency for purposes other than those provided for in subsection (5) before October 1, 2021, are no longer required to be conducted or are required to be conducted in accordance with this section. Further, this section may not be construed to create a duty on the department or lead agency to attend multidisciplinary staffings that the department or lead agency does not attend for any purpose specified in subsection (5) for which the department or lead agency is not required to attend before October 1, 2021.
(11) RULEMAKING.The department shall adopt rules to implement this section.
History.s. 6, ch. 2021-169; s. 3, ch. 2022-67.