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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Title V
Chapter 39
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F.S. 39.401
39.401 Taking a child alleged to be dependent into custody; law enforcement officers and authorized agents of the department.
(1) A child may only be taken into custody:
(a) Pursuant to the provisions of this part, based upon sworn testimony, either before or after a petition is filed; or
(b) By a law enforcement officer, or an authorized agent of the department, if the officer or authorized agent has probable cause to support a finding:
1. That the child has been abused, neglected, or abandoned, or is suffering from or is in imminent danger of illness or injury as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment;
2. That the parent or legal custodian of the child has materially violated a condition of placement imposed by the court; or
3. That the child has no parent, legal custodian, or responsible adult relative immediately known and available to provide supervision and care.
(2) If the law enforcement officer takes the child into custody, that officer shall:
(a) Release the child to:
1. The parent or legal custodian of the child;
2. A responsible adult approved by the court when limited to temporary emergency situations;
3. A responsible adult relative or the adoptive parent of the child’s sibling who shall be given priority consideration over a nonrelative placement when this is in the best interests of the child; or
4. A responsible adult approved by the department; or
(b) Deliver the child to an authorized agent of the department, stating the facts by reason of which the child was taken into custody and sufficient information to establish probable cause that the child is abandoned, abused, or neglected, or otherwise dependent. For such a child for whom there is also probable cause to believe he or she has been sexually exploited, the law enforcement officer shall deliver the child to the department.

For cases involving allegations of abandonment, abuse, or neglect, or other dependency cases, within 3 days after such release or within 3 days after delivering the child to an authorized agent of the department, the law enforcement officer who took the child into custody shall make a full written report to the department.

(3) If the child is taken into custody by, or is delivered to, an authorized agent of the department, the agent shall review the facts supporting the removal with an attorney representing the department. The purpose of the review is to determine whether there is probable cause for the filing of a shelter petition.
(a) If the facts are not sufficient, the child shall immediately be returned to the custody of the parent or legal custodian.
(b) If the facts are sufficient and the child has not been returned to the custody of the parent or legal custodian, the department shall file the petition and schedule a hearing, and the attorney representing the department shall request that a shelter hearing be held within 24 hours after the removal of the child.
(c) While awaiting the shelter hearing, the authorized agent of the department may place the child in out-of-home care, and placement shall be determined based on priority of placements as provided in s. 39.4021 and what is in the child’s best interest based on the criteria and factors set out in s. 39.01375.
(d) Placement of a child which is not in a licensed shelter must be preceded by a criminal history records check as required under s. 39.0138.
(e) In addition, the department may authorize placement of a housekeeper/homemaker in the home of a child alleged to be dependent until the parent or legal custodian assumes care of the child.
(4) When a child is taken into custody pursuant to this section, the department shall request that the child’s parent, caregiver, or legal custodian disclose the names, relationships, and addresses of all parents and prospective parents and all next of kin of the child, so far as are known.
(5) Judicial review and approval is required within 24 hours after placement for all nonrelative placements. A nonrelative placement must be for a specific and predetermined period of time, not to exceed 12 months, and shall be reviewed by the court at least every 6 months. If the nonrelative placement continues for longer than 12 months, the department shall request the court to establish permanent guardianship or require that the nonrelative seek licensure as a foster care provider within 30 days after the court decision. Failure to establish permanent guardianship or obtain licensure does not require the court to change a child’s placement unless it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
History.s. 20, ch. 78-414; s. 4, ch. 87-133; s. 11, ch. 88-337; s. 2, ch. 90-204; s. 226, ch. 95-147; s. 6, ch. 95-228; s. 2, ch. 97-276; s. 57, ch. 98-403; s. 22, ch. 99-193; s. 8, ch. 2008-245; s. 4, ch. 2012-105; s. 4, ch. 2014-161; s. 3, ch. 2021-169.