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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. 39.5085
39.5085 Relative Caregiver Program.
(1) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to:
(a) Provide for the establishment of procedures and protocols that serve to advance the continued safety of children by acknowledging the valued resource uniquely available through grandparents, relatives of children, and specified nonrelatives of children pursuant to subparagraph (2)(a)3.
(b) Recognize family relationships in which a grandparent or other relative is the head of a household that includes a child otherwise at risk of foster care placement.
(c) Enhance family preservation and stability by recognizing that most children in such placements with grandparents and other relatives do not need intensive supervision of the placement by the courts or by the department.
(d) Recognize that permanency in the best interests of the child can be achieved through a variety of permanency options, including permanent guardianship under s. 39.6221 if the guardian is a relative, by permanent placement with a fit and willing relative under s. 39.6231, by a relative, guardianship under chapter 744, or adoption, by providing additional placement options and incentives that will achieve permanency and stability for many children who are otherwise at risk of foster care placement because of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, but who may successfully be able to be placed by the dependency court in the care of such relatives.
(e) Reserve the limited casework and supervisory resources of the courts and the department for those cases in which children do not have the option for safe, stable care within the family.
(f) Recognize that a child may have a close relationship with a person who is not a blood relative or a relative by marriage and that such person should be eligible for financial assistance under this section if he or she is able and willing to care for the child and provide a safe, stable home environment.
(2)(a) The Department of Children and Families shall establish, operate, and implement the Relative Caregiver Program by rule of the department. The Relative Caregiver Program shall, within the limits of available funding, provide financial assistance to:
1. Relatives who are within the fifth degree by blood or marriage to the parent or stepparent of a child and who are caring full-time for that dependent child in the role of substitute parent as a result of a court’s determination of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and subsequent placement with the relative under this chapter.
2. Relatives who are within the fifth degree by blood or marriage to the parent or stepparent of a child and who are caring full-time for that dependent child, and a dependent half-brother or half-sister of that dependent child, in the role of substitute parent as a result of a court’s determination of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and subsequent placement with the relative under this chapter.
3. Nonrelatives who are willing to assume custody and care of a dependent child in the role of substitute parent as a result of a court’s determination of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and subsequent placement with the nonrelative caregiver under this chapter. The court must find that a proposed placement under this subparagraph is in the best interest of the child.
4. A relative or nonrelative caregiver, but the relative or nonrelative caregiver may not receive a Relative Caregiver Program payment if the parent or stepparent of the child resides in the home. However, a relative or nonrelative may receive the Relative Caregiver Program payment for a minor parent who is in his or her care, as well as for the minor parent’s child, if both children have been adjudicated dependent and meet all other eligibility requirements. If the caregiver is currently receiving the payment, the Relative Caregiver Program payment must be terminated no later than the first of the following month after the parent or stepparent moves into the home, allowing for 10-day notice of adverse action.

The placement may be court-ordered temporary legal custody to the relative or nonrelative under protective supervision of the department pursuant to s. 39.521(1)(c)3., or court-ordered placement in the home of a relative or nonrelative as a permanency option under s. 39.6221 or s. 39.6231 or under former s. 39.622 if the placement was made before July 1, 2006. The Relative Caregiver Program shall offer financial assistance to caregivers who would be unable to serve in that capacity without the caregiver payment because of financial burden, thus exposing the child to the trauma of placement in a shelter or in foster care.

(b) Caregivers who receive assistance under this section must be capable, as determined by a home study, of providing a physically safe environment and a stable, supportive home for the children under their care and must assure that the children’s well-being is met, including, but not limited to, the provision of immunizations, education, and mental health services as needed.
(c) Relatives or nonrelatives who qualify for and participate in the Relative Caregiver Program are not required to meet foster care licensing requirements under s. 409.175.
(d)1. Relatives or nonrelatives who have a child placed with them in out-of-home care and who have obtained licensure as a child-specific level I foster placement, regardless of whether a court has found the child to be dependent, shall receive a monthly payment in accordance with s. 409.145(3) from the date the child is placed in out-of-home care with his or her relatives or with nonrelatives until the child achieves permanency as determined by the court pursuant to s. 39.621.
2. Relatives or nonrelatives who have a child who has been found to be dependent placed with them in out-of-home care shall receive a monthly payment at a rate equal to the rate established in s. 409.145(3) for licensed foster parents, regardless of whether the relatives or nonrelatives have obtained a child-specific level I foster license, from the date the child is found to be dependent or from the date the child is placed with them in out-of-home care, whichever is later, for a period of no more than 6 months or until the child achieves permanency as determined by the court pursuant to s. 39.621, whichever occurs first.
3. Relatives or nonrelatives who have a child who has been found to be dependent placed with them in out-of-home care and who have not obtained a child-specific level I foster license within 6 months from the date of such placement shall receive a monthly payment in an amount determined by department rule from 6 months after the date the child is found to be dependent or from 6 months after the child is placed with them in out-of-home care, whichever is later, until the relatives or nonrelatives obtain a child-specific level I foster license or until the child achieves permanency as determined by the court pursuant to s. 39.621, whichever occurs first. The monthly payment amount paid to relatives or nonrelatives pursuant to this subparagraph must be less than the monthly payment amount provided to a participant enrolled in the Guardianship Assistance Program pursuant to s. 39.6225.
4. Relatives or nonrelatives who have a child placed in their care by permanent guardianship pursuant to s. 39.6221, in a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative pursuant to s. 39.6231, or under former s. 39.622 if the placement was made before July 1, 2006, and who are not enrolled in the Guardianship Assistance Program pursuant to s. 39.6225 shall receive a monthly payment in an amount determined by department rule which must be less than the monthly payment amount provided to a participant enrolled in the Guardianship Assistance Program under s. 39.6225.
(e) Relatives or nonrelatives obtaining monthly payments under this section may also obtain a special benefit payment. The amount of the special benefit payment shall be based on the child’s age within a payment schedule established by rule of the department and subject to availability of funding.
(f) Children receiving cash benefits under this section are not eligible to simultaneously receive WAGES cash benefits under chapter 414.
(g) Within available funding, the Relative Caregiver Program shall provide caregivers with family support and preservation services, flexible funds in accordance with s. 409.165, school readiness, and other available services in order to support the child’s safety, growth, and healthy development. Children living with caregivers who are receiving assistance under this section shall be eligible for Medicaid coverage.
(h) The department may use appropriate available state, federal, and private funds to operate the Relative Caregiver Program. The department may develop liaison functions to be available to relatives or nonrelatives who care for children pursuant to this chapter to ensure placement stability in extended family settings.
(i) If the department determines that a nonrelative caregiver has received financial assistance under this section to which he or she is not entitled, the department shall take all necessary steps to recover such payment. The department may make appropriate settlements and may adopt rules to calculate and recover such payments.
History.s. 1, ch. 98-78; s. 70, ch. 98-403; s. 32, ch. 99-193; s. 24, ch. 2000-139; s. 1, ch. 2002-38; s. 12, ch. 2006-86; s. 2, ch. 2007-5; s. 10, ch. 2009-43; s. 3, ch. 2010-210; s. 20, ch. 2014-19; s. 15, ch. 2014-224; s. 11, ch. 2017-151; s. 5, ch. 2018-103; s. 1, ch. 2022-68.