In re J.B.,130 So.3d 753 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014)

The father appealed the trial court’s order terminating protective supervision and placing his two children in permanent guardianship. At the time of the latest judicial review, neither the father nor the mother had achieved their case plan goals. The children had been living in non-relative foster care for about 18 months.

The day before the judicial review the Department of Children and Family Services (department) had decided to change the parent’s goal from reunification to permanent guardianship. However, the department noticed the hearing as a judicial review hearing – not a permanency hearing at which the court was expected to enter a final permanency order.

The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed trial court’s order terminating supervision and granting permanent guardianship holding that the father was not given the required notice. “At least 3 business days before the permanency hearing, the department shall file its judicial review social services report with the court and serve copies of the report on all parties. The report must include a recommended permanency goal for the child, suggest changes to the case plan, if needed, and describe why the recommended goal is in the best interest of the child.” §39.621(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2013). “In this case, the documents that the Department filed the day before the hearing do not even claim to be a permanency review, and even the judge did not understand it was intended to be a permanency hearing until the end of the hearing.”

Finally, the Second DCA stated, “While a permanent guardianship interferes far less with a parent’s fundamental constitutional right to parent than does an order of termination, a permanent guardianship is still a very serious step that must be performed with care and a full measure of due process.”

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