Certain events might send children and their parents to Florida Juvenile Dependency Courts. While these same events might also form the bases for criminal trials, the two court systems are very different.
This article will look at the dependency court in general. It will also outline some of the biggest misconceptions about this process.
1. Punishment versus safety
Criminal courts typically promote societal safety through a combination of prevention, punishment and rehabilitation. Dependency courts also focus on safety, but they do so through developing case plans that result in children receiving adequate care.
2. Different outcomes
Dependency court cases typically come to an initial resolution once families have an appropriate schedule of DCF services. This is different from the criminal system, which, again, often issues sentences that combine punishment and rehabilitation.
Potential outcomes include voluntary services, mandatory services, placement programs, counseling or a variety of other measures. Many cases end with families back together.
3. Less adversarial
Families and the DCF are on opposite sides of the table in dependency court. However, they are both working toward the same goal: to create a safe place for children.
It sometimes seems that the DCF is trying to take children away from their families. This typically stems from a lack of facts in the case rather than an adversarial attitude on the part of the Department.
Records pertaining to dependency courts are confidential. This is similar to most juvenile matters. However, many other types of court cases are open to the public.
There are some similarities between the systems, too. For example, the court might assign counsel to families in need; this is an aspect in which dependency and criminal courts are more like each other than they are like civil courts.