Father appealed termination of his parental rights on the grounds of “egregious conduct.” The Fourth District Court of Appeals (Fourth DCA) found that the life and death consequences of Father’s lack of providing proper medical care supported a finding that his conduct was egregious as defined by Florida Statute § 39.806(1)(f).
The child at issue tested positive for HIV at birth and was placed on a medication regimen and close monitoring of her weight and development. Had the medications been administered properly, the child’s viral load should have reduced within months and the child should have gained weight. The child’s numbers instead fluxuated and the child was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. The parents failed to follow through with enrolling the child in medical daycare. The doctors believed the parents were not giving her medications as prescribed as her viral load continued to increase and she was ultimately diagnosed with AIDS. At this point, a petition was filed and the child was placed in foster care. Within six weeks of being removed from her parents, she caught up developmentally and her virus became undetectable. By the end of a year’s time, she was no longer diagnosed with Failure to Thrive. The AIDS diagnosis will remain the rest of her life.
At the termination trial, the trial court found that there was nothing else the medical professionals could have done for the parents to rehabilitate them to be able to properly care for the child. The court found that had Father been administering the medication properly, the child would not have developed AIDS. Although AIDS can be controlled through medication, the parents were not able to show they could manage medication, to the point where the child’s life was threatened.
Florida Statute § 39.806(1)(f)(2) defines egregious conduct as “abuse, abandonment, neglect, or any other conduct that is deplorable, flagrant or outrageous by a normal standard of conduct. Egregious conduct may include and act or omission that occurred only once but was of such intensity, magnitude or severity as to endanger the life of the child.” Although the Father argued his conduct was not deplorable and claimed he never received instruction or information regarding the child’s illness, the trial court found his testimony not to be credible. The Fourth DCA found that Father’s minimal efforts to deal with his child’s medical needs caused her life threatening harm, which was egregious.