(1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND INTENT.

(a) The Legislature finds that every child who is in out-of-home care has the goal of finding a permanent home, whether achieved by reunifying the child with his or her parents or finding another permanent connection, such as adoption or legal guardianship with a relative or nonrelative who has a significant relationship with the child.

Terms Used In Florida Statutes 39.4015

  • Adoption: means the act of creating the legal relationship between parent and child where it did not exist, thereby declaring the child to be legally the child of the adoptive parents and their heir at law, and entitled to all the rights and privileges and subject to all the obligations of a child born to the adoptive parents in lawful wedlock. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Adult: means any natural person other than a child. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Department: means the Department of Children and Families. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Family: means a collective body of persons, consisting of a child and a parent, legal custodian, or adult relative, in which:
    (a) The persons reside in the same house or living unit; or
    (b) The parent, legal custodian, or adult relative has a legal responsibility by blood, marriage, or court order to support or care for the child. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Fictive kin: means a person unrelated by birth, marriage, or adoption who has an emotionally significant relationship, which possesses the characteristics of a family relationship, to a child. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Nonrelative: means a person unrelated by blood or marriage or a relative outside the fifth degree of consanguinity. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Out-of-home: means a placement outside of the home of the parents or a parent. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Relative: means a grandparent, great-grandparent, sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, niece, or nephew, whether related by the whole or half blood, by affinity, or by adoption. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • Taken into custody: means the status of a child immediately when temporary physical control over the child is attained by a person authorized by law, pending the child's release or placement. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
  • youth: means any unmarried person under the age of 18 years who has not been emancipated by order of the court. See Florida Statutes 1001.38
(b) The Legislature finds that while legal permanency is important to a child in out-of-home care, emotional permanency helps increase the likelihood that children will achieve stability and well-being and successfully transition to independent adulthood.
(c) The Legislature also finds that research has consistently shown that placing a child within his or her own family reduces the trauma of being removed from his or her home, is less likely to result in placement disruptions, and enhances prospects for finding a permanent family if the child cannot return home.
(d) The Legislature further finds that the primary purpose of family finding is to facilitate legal and emotional permanency for children who are in out-of-home care by finding and engaging their relatives.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature that every child in out-of-home care be afforded the advantages that can be gained from the use of family finding to establish caring and long-term or permanent connections and relationships for children and youth in out-of-home care, as well as to establish a long-term emotional support network with family members and other adults who may not be able to take the child into their home but who want to stay connected with the child.
(2) DEFINITIONS.As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Diligent efforts” means the use of methods and techniques, including, but not limited to, interviews with immediate and extended family and fictive kin, genograms, eco-mapping, case mining, cold calls, and specialized computer searches.
(b) “Family finding” means an intensive relative search and engagement technique used in identifying family and other close adults for children in out-of-home care and involving them in developing and carrying out a plan for the emotional and legal permanency of a child.
(c) “Family group decisionmaking” is a generic term that includes a number of approaches in which family members and fictive kin are brought together to make decisions about how to care for their children and develop a plan for services. The term includes family team conferencing, family team meetings, family group conferencing, family team decisionmaking, family unity meetings, and team decisionmaking, which may consist of several phases and employ a trained facilitator or coordinator.
(3) FAMILY-FINDING PROGRAM.Subject to available resources, the department, in collaboration with sheriffs’ offices that conduct child protective investigations and community-based care lead agencies, may develop a formal family-finding program to be implemented by child protective investigators and community-based care lead agencies as resources permit.

(a) Family finding may begin as soon as a child is taken into custody of the department, pursuant to s. 39.401, and throughout the duration of the case as necessary, finding and engaging with as many family members and fictive kin as possible for each child who may help with care or support for the child. The department or community-based care lead agency must specifically document strategies taken to locate and engage relatives and fictive kin. Strategies of engagement may include, but are not limited to, asking the relatives and fictive kin to:

1. Participate in a family group decisionmaking conference, family team conferencing, or other family meetings aimed at developing or supporting the family service plan;
2. Attend visitations with the child;
3. Assist in transportation of the child;
4. Provide respite or child care services; or
5. Provide actual kinship care.
(b) The family finding program shall provide the department and the community-based care lead agencies with best practices for identifying family and fictive kin. The family finding program must use diligent efforts in family finding, must continue those efforts until multiple relatives and fictive kin are identified, and must go beyond basic searching tools by exploring alternative tools and methodologies. Family finding efforts by the department and the community-based care lead agency may include, but are not limited to:

1. Searching for and locating adult relatives and fictive kin.
2. Identifying and building positive connections between the child and the child’s relatives and fictive kin.
3. Supporting the engagement of relatives and fictive kin in social service planning and delivery of services and creating a network of extended family support to assist in remedying the concerns that led to the child becoming involved with the child welfare system, when appropriate.
4. Maintaining family connections, when possible.
5. Keeping siblings together in care, when in the best interest of each child and when possible.
(c) A basic computer search using the Internet or attempts to contact known relatives at a last known address or telephone number do not constitute effective family finding.
(4) RULEMAKING.The department may adopt rules to implement this section.