Build a strategy to end juvenile dependency in Florida

Children are uniquely vulnerable to abuse and neglect because they cannot advocate for themselves and may not understand when they experience mistreatment or abuse. To protect vulnerable citizens, Florida has laws in place that allow the state to limit or even terminate the parental rights of individuals who do not adequately care for their children.

If your family has found itself tied up in a juvenile dependency case, regaining your parental rights and bringing your children home are probably your primary focus. To succeed in this goal, you need to carefully consider your options and develop a strategy to help you navigate the courts and demonstrate your parenting abilities.

Realize you need to comply to end this process

All kinds of mistakes can result in the courts unnecessarily removing a child from a happy and healthy home. Perhaps a teacher reported what they thought was abuse but was actually an injury from your child playing at recess. Maybe a medical professional reported you because you didn't agree with a care plan, and you were unable to argue your point of view before the state took action.

Many parents feel like the first step they need to take is to prove that the initial allegations against them were not valid. However, if you dig in your heels and refuse to work with the courts, that will not look good. It is possible for you to consent to participate in dependency proceedings without agreeing with the state's allegations. Instead of focusing on disproving those allegations, start building up a new collection of evidence that you are a good parent who will do what it takes to provide for your children.

Get the services you need as soon as you know what the state wants

Parents accused of excessive or abusive discipline may need to go to therapy, parenting classes and even anger management courses. The state may also expect that you go to shared counseling with your spouse or your children. Beyond that, it is possible for the state to order substance abuse therapy, as well as randomized drug testing to verify your sobriety.

Even if you find the services ordered offensive because you know how to parent and do not have a mental health or substance abuse issue, the best option is typically to commit to completing those services as ordered. Instead of viewing it as an insult and getting angry or defensive, try to look at it as evidence that the state wants the best for your children. Focus on how finishing all of these requirements will get you one step closer to connecting with your kids again.

Make sure you look calm and presentable when dealing with state workers

You probably already understand that it's important to show up looking your best at court. Judges only have a few minutes in which to make observations about your character, so the way that you appear will have a profound impact on how they think about you. Wearing a professional outfit and presenting yourself with a calm and positive demeanor can go a long way toward convincing the courts and state workers that you are a competent and well-adjusted adult.

Depending on the exact nature of the allegations against you, there may be other issues you need to consider, such as how to behave during supervised parenting time. Staying calm and demonstrating your love for your kids will take time, but it is the best route toward ending the dependency.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

Beverly L. Brennan, P.A.
5150 Tamiami Trail North
Suite 602
Naples, FL 34103

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Phone: 239-963-8895
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