State Department of Children and Families v. M.A., 215 So.3d 1276 (2017)
The children were adjudicated dependent and placed with the maternal grandmother. The father was not a party to the dependency action. In seeking to obtain custody of his children and relocate them to his home in Indiana, the father requested a home study of his residence in Indiana. Following Department’s two failed attempts to obtain the ICPC home study and approval from Indiana officials and upon father’s assertion that the difficulty in gaining approval from Indiana was due to coordination and communication problems rather than problems with his home, the court dismissed the dependency action as to the children without retaining jurisdiction. Department appealed.
The First DCA held the circuit court committed error in dismissing the dependency proceedings, thereby making a de facto placement with the out-of-state father. The trial court was not authorized to relinquish its jurisdiction without complying with the ICPC study and positive report from Indiana officials. Additionally, even without the ICPC requirement, section 39.522(1), required compliance with “the home study criteria,” and that requirement had not been met.
Practice Tip: ICPC requirements can be challenging and frustrating but must be adhered to in all applicable cases-placement without the required home study is reversible error, which delays permanency and could result in lost placement opportunities. However, as the Court noted, if the children are already in an out of state placement, case law does not require that the children be removed from the out of state placement pending the completion of the ICPC process, if it is in their best interest to remain in that placement.