Guardian ad Litem Program v. M.H., 184 So.3d 1253 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016)

The Guardian ad Litem program appealed denial of termination of parental rights. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The specific question at issue before the Fourth DCA was whether proof of a guilty plea or conviction in a criminal proceeding was required for termination of parental rights […]

R.W. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 1239878 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) affirmed termination. The Third DCA found merit in only one of the issues mother raised on appeal, her claim that the trial court’s participation in the questioning of witnesses at the adjudication hearing constituted an abandonment of neutrality and impartiality. […]

M.C. v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 717694 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights under § 39.806(1)(f). The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) reversed termination. The underlying petition for termination of Mother’s rights alleged that Mother took E.C. to the hospital with “second degree, caustic, liquid burns” on his back, buttocks, right shoulder and right side of his body. Mother […]

Department of Children and Families v. Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program, 2016 WL 869317 (Fla. 1st DCA)

The Department of Children and Families sought certiorari review of a trial court order limiting the Department’s consideration of prospective adoptive homes to one particular family for a sibling group of five children. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) agreed that the order violated the separation of powers doctrine and granted certiorari. At […]

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 […]

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Four to Children and Youth Cabinet

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced three appointments and one reappointment to the Children and Youth Cabinet. Nelson Diaz, 38, of Miami, is the immediate past president and current board member of Kristi House Child Advocacy Center and was the 2014 recipient of the National Children’s Alliance highest award for volunteer service, the […]

Legislative Updates

HB 590 – House Bill 590 was the Program’s initiative called the Child’s Best Hope Act.  Currently, in Chapter 63 proceedings when a dependent child is surrendered to an adoption entity, the court is only permitted to determine whether the placement was fit and proper.  The bill adds the best interests of the child to […]

Have You Registered for the GAL Disabilities Training Conference?

Michael Arden – an actor, singer, composer and stage director is coming to the GAL Disabilities Training Conference are you registered? In addition to directing, acting in movies and on Broadway, Michael has been in television shows including The Good Wife, Grey’s Anatomy, Numb3rs, Anger Management, and Kings.  He also guest starred in episodes of […]

Governor Scott Signs the Child’s Best Hope Law – Supportive Words from the Advocacy Community

On Wednesday, March 23, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Child’s Best Hope Act into law.  By signing this bill, Governor Scott is ensuring the best interests of Florida’s most vulnerable children is paramount.  The new law allows judges to make decisions regarding adoption intervention using the child’s best interest standard. The Problem – The […]

In re S.A.R.D., 182 So.3d 897 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016)

S.A.R.D. appealed dismissal of his private petition for dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed, finding the record supported the trial court’s finding that S.A.R.D. was not abandoned, abused or neglected by his mother. S.A.R.D. asserted in his petition that he was born in Honduras. He lived primarily with his mother and […]

In re E.P.N., 180 So.3d 249 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

Although the majority affirmed summary denial of E.P.N.’s appeal, a dissent was filed by Justice Salter. Salter noted factual differences in E.P.N.’s case that he believed established a prima facie basis for her claims and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on her petition. E.P.N. was released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to her […]

In re B.R.C.M., 2015 WL 9584743 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

B.R.C.M. appealed a summary dismissal of his Petition for Dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed and Judge Salter filed a lengthy dissent. B.R.C.M. was born in Guatemala, abandoned by his father at birth and abandoned by his mother when he was four years old. He was raised by his grandmother until […]

N.B. v. Department of Children and Families, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D168 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights, asserting that § 39.806(1)(l) is unconstitutional. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) found the Statute to be constitutional and affirmed termination. Florida Statue § 39.806(1)(l) permits filing a TPR petition when the child or another child of the parent(s) have been placed in out of home […]

In re S.M., 2016 WL 275273 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Father appealed a final judgment terminating his parental rights and an order denying his motion to set aside his implied consent to termination based on his failure to appear at the hearing. Father asserted that he provided evidence of excusable neglect for his failure to appear. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed […]

In re B.F., 2016 WL 166669 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. Although the Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed, the Second DCA issued an opinion to express its concern with the elimination of the nexus requirement in amended  § 39.806(1)(f). The Second DCA noted concern regarding the constitutionality of the amendment, specifically that the amendment might not […]

In re E.D., 2015 WL 9487592 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed but was “compelled to write to remind the trial court about the strict time frames in cases involving the termination of parental rights.” The trial court did not issue its final judgment until eight months after the termination hearing. […]

In re A.W., 2015 WL 9258506 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights to her daughters, S.W. and A.W. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court erroneously applied a statutory amendment retroactively in its findings. N.W. lived with her long-term girlfriend T.H., T.H.’s daughter T.K.H, and N.W.’s daughters. N.W. and T.H. had […]

J.P. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 167394 (Fla. 1st DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights as to her daughter, T.P. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) affirmed the TPR utilizing the “highly deferential” standard of review. T.P. came to the attention of the department following two hospitalizations for nephrotic syndrome and allegations of medical neglect. Mother was provided training on her […]

Register Now for the Florida GAL Disabilities Training Conference!

Nationally recognized legal and policy expert Jonathan Martinis, Esq., Senior Director for Law and Policy at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University is returning this year to the GAL Disabilities Training Conference as a keynote speaker.  Mr. Martinis has over 20 years’ experience representing and advocating for people with disabilities to ensure that they […]

Thank You Judge Layne Smith

Last night, over 35 Guardian ad Litem volunteers and staff (almost standing room only) attended a continuing education session with Judge Layne Smith, our guest presenter.  Judge Smith shared information about the court testimony process and criteria.  Staff and volunteers were informed about what to expect in court as a witness, how to prepare for […]

Tibet is Coming to the GAL Disabilities Conference

Tibet the Courthouse Dog, a program of Voices for Children of Tampa Bay, will take the stage with presenters from the GAL Program and Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc. to explain how a professionally trained facility dog can help in achieving safety and permanency for a child who has experienced severe trauma and has sensory […]

Broadway’s Spring Awakening at the GAL Disabilities Training Conference

Excited about the GAL Disabilities Training Conference in April?  So are we!  Lead actors from the Broadway production of Spring Awakening will join the Guardian ad Litem Disabilities Conference to inspire us through their experiences of performing on Broadway and bringing musical theatre to the deaf community. The actors will perform songs from  Spring Awakening, […]

Great News for Child Best Hope Advocates

Today we were validated in pursuing what we call the “Child Best Hope” Act.  Although sadly we did not prevail in an adoption intervention case for a child, the court specifically mentions that the policy concerns are being addressed by SB 590.  My prayers and thoughts go out to J.R., the child involved in the […]

Legislative Update

After what seems to have been a long few weeks, I wanted to share with you where we landed. In Budget Conference, both the Senate and the House agreed to additionally fund approximately $1 million for out-of-home care, and approximately $1.4 million for in-home care (in cases where children are 3 years or younger). That […]

Registration Now Open for GAL Conference

Registration is now open for the 2016 Guardian ad Litem Disabilities Training Conference The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program  invites you to join us at the 2016 Disabilities Training Conference: A Voice Heard – 10,000 Strong, to be held April 28-29, 2016 at the JW Marriott, Grande Lakes Orlando. This is the third year for […]

GAL Volunteer Gale Spires Honored with the Champion of Service Award

[Tallahassee, Florida] – During the March 2, 2016 Florida Cabinet meeting, Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman awarded the Champion of Service Award to Guardian ad Litem volunteer Gale Spires. The Champion of Service Award is Florida’s only statewide volunteer recognition.  The award recognizes a volunteer who demonstrates excellence in volunteerism and […]

Legislative Update – Budget Conference

GAL staff, volunteers and supporters: As we get to the budget decisions by the legislature it becomes more obvious to me that the work each of you do in the field has brought the GAL Program a level of credibility that few organizations have.  The public-partnership and our non-profits have impacted each legislature in their […]

Preventing Another “Phoebe” Tragedy – Letter from a GAL

A Guardian ad Litem Volunteer asks for help from the community to ensure that children have someone to be their “voice” We recently marked the one year anniversary of the horrific tragedy in which a little girl named Phoebe was thrown off the Skyway Bridge by her father. This unspeakable act has touched the hearts […]

Legislative Update – Budget

Team GAL: The 60 day Legislative Session comes to a close on March 11, 2016.  We are halfway through week 6 of session and I wanted to give you a quick update.  We continue to be very optimistic! To recap, in the initial budget, the Senate included approximately $1 million for out-of-home care and $1.4 […]

Legislative Update

As we close out the 4th week of the legislative session, I wanted to update you on our efforts. As you will recall, we submitted 5 legislative budget requests to the Legislature for consideration.  They pertained to in and out of home care, certification and salary adjustments.  Budgets were initially released last week and we […]

Florida GAL Appointments to National CASA Legal and Advocacy Committee

Congratulations to Kelly Swartz, Guardian ad Litem Director of Legal Services and Liz Damski, Guardian ad Litem Special Counsel, on their appointment to the National CASA Association Legal and Advocacy Committee.  National CASA supports the mission of 949 CASA/GAL programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  Through collaboration with GAL programs across the […]

Child’s Best Hope Act – Update

The latest update is great news.  We are almost at the end of the legislative process. We have completed the process in the Senate on the “Adoption Intervention Bill (SB 590) and it should go over to the House in messages. House Bill 673 is on the agenda on the Health and Human Services Committee […]