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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. 39.4023
39.4023 Placement and education transitions; transition plans.
(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.
(a) The Legislature finds that many children in out-of-home care experience multiple changes in placement, and those transitions often result in trauma not only for the child but also for caregivers, families, siblings, and all professionals involved.
(b) The Legislature further finds that poorly planned and executed or improperly timed transitions may adversely impact a child’s healthy development as well as the child’s continuing capacity to trust, attach to others, and build relationships in the future.
(c) The Legislature finds that the best child welfare practices recognize the need to prioritize the minimization of the number of placements for every child in out-of-home care. Further, the Legislature finds that efforts must be made to support caregivers in order to promote stability. When placement changes are necessary, they must be thoughtfully planned.
(d) The Legislature finds that transition plans are critical when moving all children, including infants, toddlers, school-age children, adolescents, and young adults.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature that a placement change or an educational change for a child in out-of-home care be achieved ideally through a period of transition that is unique to each child, provides support for all individuals affected by the change, and has flexible planning to allow for changes necessary to meet the needs of the child.
(2) DEFINITIONS.As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Educational change” means any time a child is moved between schools when such move is not the result of the natural transition from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school. The term also includes changes in child care or early education programs for infants and toddlers.
(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) “Placement change” means any time a child is moved from one caregiver to another, including moves to a foster home, a group home, relatives, prospective guardians, or prospective adoptive parents and removal from or reunification with parents or a legal custodian. A child being moved temporarily to respite care for the purpose of providing the primary caregiver relief does not constitute a placement change.
(d) “School” means any child care, early education, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational setting.
(3) PLACEMENT TRANSITIONS.
(a) Mandatory transition plans.Except as otherwise provided, the department or the community-based care lead agency shall create and implement an individualized transition plan before each placement change experienced by a child.
(b) Minimizing placement transitions.Once a caregiver accepts the responsibility of caring for a child, the child may be removed from the home of the caregiver only for the reasons specified in s. 409.1415(2)(b)7.
(c) Services to prevent disruption.The community-based care lead agency shall provide any supportive services deemed necessary to a caregiver and a child if the child’s current out-of-home placement with the caregiver is in danger of needing modification. The supportive services must be offered in an effort to remedy the factors contributing to the placement being considered unsuitable and therefore contributing to the need for a change in placement.
(d) Transition planning.
1. If the supportive services provided pursuant to paragraph (c) have not been successful to make the maintenance of the placement suitable or if there are other circumstances that require the child to be moved, the department or the community-based care lead agency must convene a multidisciplinary team staffing as required under s. 39.4022 before the child’s placement is changed, or within 72 hours of moving the child in an emergency situation, for the purpose of developing an appropriate transition plan.
2. A placement change may occur immediately in an emergency situation without convening a multidisciplinary team staffing. However, a multidisciplinary team staffing must be held within 72 hours after the emergency situation arises.
3. The department or the community-based care lead agency must provide written notice of the planned move at least 14 days before the move or within 72 hours after an emergency situation, to the greatest extent possible and consistent with the child’s needs and preferences. The notice must include the reason a placement change is necessary. A copy of the notice must be filed with the court and be provided to:
a. The child, unless he or she, due to age or capacity, is unable to comprehend the written notice, which will necessitate the department or lead agency to provide notice in an age-appropriate and capacity-appropriate alternative manner;
b. The child’s parents, unless prohibited by court order;
c. The child’s out-of-home caregiver;
d. The guardian ad litem, if one is appointed;
e. The attorney for the child, if one is appointed; and
f. The attorney for the department.
4. The transition plan must be developed through cooperation among the persons included in subparagraph 3., and such persons must share any relevant information necessary for its development. Subject to the child’s needs and preferences, the transition plan must meet the requirements of s. 409.1415(2)(b)8. and exclude any placement changes that occur between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.
5. The department or the community-based care lead agency shall file the transition plan with the court within 48 hours after the creation of such plan and provide a copy of the plan to the persons included in subparagraph 3.
(e) Additional considerations for transitions of infants and children under school age.Relationship patterns over the first year of life are important predictors of future relationships. Research demonstrates that babies begin to form a strong attachment to a caregiver at approximately 7 months of age. From that period of time through age 2, moving a child from a caregiver who is the psychological parent is considerably more damaging. Placement decisions must focus on promoting security and continuity for infants and children under 5 years of age in out-of-home care. Transition plans for infants and young children must describe the facts that were considered when each of the following were discussed and must specify what decision was made as to how each of the following applies to the child:
1. The age of the child and the child’s current ability to accomplish developmental tasks, with consideration made for whether the child is:
a. Six months of age or younger, thereby indicating that it may be in the child’s best interest to move the child sooner rather than later; or
b. Seven months of age or older, but younger than 3 years of age, thereby indicating it may not be a healthy time to move the child.
2. The length of time the child has lived with the current caregiver, the strength of attachment to the current caregiver, and the harm of disrupting a healthy attachment compared to the possible advantage of a change in placement.
3. The relationship, if any, the child has with the new caregiver and whether a reciprocal agreement exists between the current caregiver and the prospective caregiver to maintain the child’s relationship with both caregivers.
4. The pace of the transition and whether flexibility exists to accelerate or slow down the transition based on the child’s needs and reactions.
(f) Preparation of prospective caregivers before placement.
1. Prospective caregivers must be fully informed of the child’s needs and circumstances and be willing and able to accept responsibility for providing high-quality care for such needs and circumstances before placement.
2. The community-based care lead agency shall review with the prospective caregiver the caregiver’s roles and responsibilities according to the parenting partnerships plan for children in out-of-home care pursuant to s. 409.1415. The case manager shall sign a copy of the parenting partnerships plan and obtain the signature of the prospective caregiver acknowledging explanation of the requirements before placement.
(4) EDUCATION TRANSITIONS.
(a) Findings.Children in out-of-home care frequently change child care, early education programs, and schools. These changes can occur when the child first enters out-of-home care, when the child must move from one caregiver to another, or when the child returns home upon reunification. Research shows that children who change schools frequently make less academic progress than their peers and fall further behind with each school change. Additionally, educational instability at any level makes it difficult for children to develop supportive relationships with teachers or peers. State and federal law contain requirements that must be adhered to in order to ensure educational stability for a child in out-of-home care. A child’s educational setting should only be changed when maintaining the educational setting is not in the best interest of the child.
(b) Mandatory educational transition plans.The department or the community-based care lead agency shall create and implement an individualized transition plan each time a child experiences a school change.
(c) Minimizing school changes.
1. Every effort must be made to keep a child in the school of origin if it is in the child’s best interest. Any placement decision must include thoughtful consideration of which school a child will attend if a school change is necessary.
2. Members of a multidisciplinary team staffing convened for a purpose other than a school change must determine the child’s best interest regarding remaining in the school or program of origin if the child’s educational options are affected by any other decision being made by the multidisciplinary team.
3. The determination of whether it is in the child’s best interest to remain in the school of origin, and if not, of which school the child will attend in the future, must be made in consultation with the following individuals, including, but not limited to, the child; the parents; the caregiver; the child welfare professional; the guardian ad litem, if appointed; the educational surrogate, if appointed; child care and educational staff, including teachers and guidance counselors; and the school district representative or foster care liaison. A multidisciplinary team member may contact any of these individuals in advance of a multidisciplinary team staffing to obtain his or her recommendation. An individual may remotely attend the multidisciplinary team staffing if one of the identified goals is related to determining an educational placement. The multidisciplinary team may rely on a report from the child’s current school or program district and, if applicable, any other school district being considered for the educational placement if the required school personnel are not available to attend the multidisciplinary team staffing in person or remotely.
4. The multidisciplinary team and the individuals listed in subparagraph 3. must consider, at a minimum, all of the following factors when determining whether remaining in the school or program of origin is in the child’s best interest or, if not, when selecting a new school or program:
a. The child’s desire to remain in the school or program of origin.
b. The preference of the child’s parents or legal guardians.
c. Whether the child has siblings, close friends, or mentors at the school or program of origin.
d. The child’s cultural and community connections in the school or program of origin.
e. Whether the child is suspected of having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or s. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or has begun receiving interventions under this state’s multitiered system of supports.
f. Whether the child has an evaluation pending for special education and related services under IDEA or s. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
g. Whether the child is a student with a disability under IDEA who is receiving special education and related services or a student with a disability under s. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 who is receiving accommodations and services and, if so, whether those required services are available in a school or program other than the school or program of origin.
h. Whether the child is an English Language Learner student and is receiving language services and, if so, whether those required services are available in a school or program other than the school or program of origin.
i. The impact a change to the school or program of origin would have on academic credits and progress toward promotion.
j. The availability of extracurricular activities important to the child.
k. The child’s known individualized educational plan or other medical and behavioral health needs and whether such plan or needs are able to be met at a school or program other than the school or program of origin.
l. The child’s permanency goal and timeframe for achieving permanency.
m. The child’s history of school transfers and how such transfers have impacted the child academically, emotionally, and behaviorally.
n. The length of the commute to the school or program from the child’s home or placement and how such commute would impact the child.
o. The length of time the child has attended the school or program of origin.
5. The cost of transportation cannot be a factor in making a best interest determination.
(d) Transitions between child care and early education programs.When a child enters out-of-home care or undergoes a placement change, the child shall, if possible, remain with a familiar child care provider or early education program unless there is an opportunity to transition to a higher quality program. If it is not possible for the child to remain with the familiar child care provider or early education program or transition to a higher quality program, the child’s transition plan must be made with the participation of the child’s current and future school or program. The plan must give the child an opportunity to say goodbye to important figures in the educational environment.
(e) Transitions between K-12 schools.The transition plan for a transition between K-12 schools must include all of the following:
1. Documentation that the department or community-based care lead agency has made the decision to change the child’s school in accordance with paragraph (c). The plan must include a detailed discussion of all factors considered in reaching the decision to change the child’s school.
2. Documentation that the department or community-based care lead agency has coordinated, or will coordinate before the school change, with local educational agencies to provide immediate and appropriate enrollment in a new school, including transfer of educational records, any record of a school-entry health examination, and arrangements for transportation to the new school.
3. Discussion of the timing of the proposed school change which addresses the potential impact on the child’s education and extracurricular activities. This section must include, at a minimum, grading periods, exam schedules, credit acquisitions, sports eligibility, and participation in extracurricular activities.
4. Details concerning the transportation of the child to school.
(5) TRANSITION PLAN AND DOCUMENTATION.
(a) The department, in collaboration with the Quality Parenting Initiative, shall develop a form to be completed and updated each time a child in out-of-home care is moved from one placement to another.
(b) A completed form must be attached to the case record face sheet required to be included in the case file pursuant to s. 39.00146. The form must be used statewide and, at a minimum, must include all of the following information:
1. The membership of the multidisciplinary team staffing convened under s. 39.4022 to develop a transition plan for the change in placement and the dates on which the team met.
2. The name of the person who served as the facilitator in that specific multidisciplinary team staffing.
3. The topics considered by the multidisciplinary team staffing in order to ensure an appropriate transition.
4. The recommendations of the multidisciplinary team and the name of each individual or entity responsible for carrying out each recommendation.
(c) The department or the community-based care lead agency shall document all multidisciplinary team staffings and placement transition decisions in the Florida Safe Families Network and must include the information in the social study report for judicial review, as required under s. 39.701.
(6) EXEMPTION.Placements made pursuant to s. 63.082(6) are exempt from this section.
(7) RULEMAKING.The department shall adopt rules to implement this section.
History.s. 8, ch. 2021-169.