A.J. v. Department of Children and Families, 111 So.3d 980 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013)

The father appealed the trial court’s dependency adjudication of his daughter. She was born prematurely and had significant health problems, which required intensive medical involvement. The Department of Children and Families (department) based their dependency petition on the parent’s neglect of the child’s extensive medical needs and her failure to thrive.  The parent had failed to show up for medical appointments, the constant medical care had depleted the father’s savings, the father had lost his job and the family had been living out of their car for a month.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal (Fifth DCA) upheld the trial court’s dependency adjudication. The “testimony reflected the need for great vigilance in meeting the child’s medical needs, yet the parents missed numerousappointments and efforts to contact the parents following those missed appointments proved unsuccessful. ” ‘Necessary medical treatment’ means care which is necessary within a reasonable degree of medical certainty to prevent the deterioration of a child’s condition or to alleviate immediate pain of a child.” § 39.01(43), Fla. Stat. (2011). The testimony reflected that the parents’ failure to follow up on the child’s medical appointments endangered the child’s health and potentially her life. “The Fifth DCA also noted, “the purpose of the finding of dependency is not to  punish the parents, but rather to help them meet the needs of a very challenged little girl. §39.501(2), Fla. Stat. (2011).”