In re B.Y.G.M., 176 So. 3d 290 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

B.Y.G.M. appealed dismissal of her private petition for dependency on the basis of abandonment and neglect by her father. The Third District Court of Appeal (Third DCA) affirmed.

B.Y.G.M. was abandoned by her father when she was eight months old in El Salvador. She lived with her grandparents until she fled to the United States to live with her mother in 2014. She was seventeen years old when she filed the petition. B.Y.G.M. was safe and secure in her mother’s care; there was no risk of imminent abuse, abandonment or neglect; and the purpose of B.Y.G.M.’s petition was to secure Special Juvenile Immigration Status. The Third DCA conducted a similar analysis as it did in K.B.L.V. and agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that B.Y.G.M. was not a dependent child.

Justice Shepherd filed a concurrence, which he wrote “only to point out the troubling fact that the Florida Department of Children and Families (Department) has elected not to participate in these proceedings.” He explained that although the Department has a history of not challenging cases involving an adjudication of dependency prior to seeking legal immigration status, the Department is responsible for protecting children and families, for the administration of Chapter § 39 of the Florida Statutes and should have “a keen interest” in both the outcome of the case and how the Third DCA interprets the law. By not participating, Justice Shepherd finds the Department “shirks its duty” to the court and “endangers its own credibility.”

Justice Shepherd concludes finding that “[t]hese cases are immigration cases, pure and simple.” The Third DCA cannot find B.Y.G.M. dependent solely for the purpose of obtaining a legal immigration status.