Department of Children and Families v. S.A.E., 184 So.3rd 615 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016)

The Department of Children and Families appealed an order adjudicating A.A.A.-E . dependent, asserting the trial court misapplied § 39.01(15)(a). The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) reversed the dependency adjudication.

Mother filed a petition for dependency regarding her son, A.A.A.-E., based on abandonment by Father 12 years prior in Honduras. Mother moved to the United States and left her son with his grandparents. Father assisted the child with illegally entering the United States when his grandparents could not continue to care for him. A.A.A.-E. was detained by immigration and then placed by immigration with his mother in Florida. Mother was willing and able to safely care for A.A.A.-E. The only risk of any harm to the child was the possibility of deportation.

The First DCA found that abandonment by Father 12 years ago did not pose a current threat to the child. Without any allegation of abuse, neglect or prospective abandonment, the First DCA court held A.A.A.-E. should not have been adjudicated dependent. Risk of deportation alone “is not a danger Florida’s child protective services system is intended or designed to address.”

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