R.J. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 1039178 (Fla. 4th DCA)

R.J., the child at issue, appealed the trial court’s order granting his petition for dependency but denying placement in licensed care. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed and remanded.

R.J. filed a petition for dependency after his parents refused to allow him to return home following discharge from a residential psychiatric center. The Department of Children and Families entered a limited appearance and objected to the request that it be joined as a party or be required to place R.J. in custody. The trial court adjudicated R.J, dependent but determined it could not compel the Department to participate or to place R.J. in custody without its consent.

Section 39.501(1) permits the Department, or any other person, to file a dependency petition. The Fourth DCA noted that nothing in Chapter 39 requires the Department to participate in the dependency process. However, Section 39.521 provides that once a child is adjudicated dependent, the court may require placement in the custody of the Department.

Because the trial court properly adjudicated R.J. dependent, the Fourth DCA found the court had the authority to place R.J. in the Department’s custody.

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