Parent Portal

The Child Welfare System is a complex system with a lot of moving parts and pieces that can be challenging to understand. In order to help strengthen families in Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties, Heartland for Children has compiled helpful information to help parents successfully navigate the Dependency System.

Parent's Rights and Responsibilities

Parent's Rights and Responsibilities

YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • You may have a lawyer with you at any time during the investigation. If you choose to delay your interview with the investigator in order to have a alawyer with you, the investigator will continue to gather information from other people, including family members.
  • You may video or audio tape your interview with the investigator, using your own equipment, if the recording equipment is immediately available.
  • You may refuse the services and help offered to you by the investigator. If you refuse services, the law requires the investigator to decide if court oversight is needed to protect your child.
  • The child's parent(s) and anyone alleged to have caused the abuse, neglect, or abandonment may ask for a copy of the investigative report.
  • If you child is removed from your home, you have the right to hire a lawyer, be heard, and give evidence at the shelter hearing which will happen within 24 hours of your child leaving your home.
  • If the investigation is closed with verified findings of child abuse, neglect or abandonment, the person named as the caregiver responsible for the abuse, neglect or abandonment in the report will be sent a Notice of Right to Internal Review. To ask for an internal review, the caregiver responsible for the abuse, neglect or abandonment named in the report must complete, sign and return the Request for Internal Review form to the address in the notice within 30 business days of receiving the notice.
  • An internal review is not available to a caregiver responsible who is subject of a proceeding under Chapter 39, Florida Statutes; who is the subject of a pending criminal investigation related to the event which resulted in the verified finding of abuse, neglect or abandonment; who is facing pending criminal charges related to the event which resulted in verified finding of abuse, neglect or abandonment; or where the circumstances that resulted in the verified finding were later proven according to the applicable standard in a criminal or dependency proceeding. 

PARENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

Fla. Stat. 1014.03-1014.04

The state may not infringe on your fundamental rights as a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of your minor child without demonstrating:

1.            that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest, and

2.            that such action is narrowly tailored, and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.

EDUCATION

As a Florida parent you have ...

  1. The right to direct the education and care of your minor child.
  2. The right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of your minor child.
  3. The right to apply to enroll your minor child in a public school or, as an alternative to public education, a private school (including a religious school), a home education program, or other available options, as authorized by law.
  4. The right to access and review all school records relating to your child.
  5. The right to access and review all medical records of your minor child, unless prohibited by law, or if you are the subject of an investigation of a crime committed against your minor child and a law enforcement agency or official requests that the information not be released
  6. The right to consent in writing before a biometric scan of your minor child is made, shared, or stored. This includes the right to opt out of any district-level data collection relating to your minor child not required by law.
  7. The right to learn about your child's course of study, including the source of any supplemental education materials. This includes the right to inspect school district instructional materials.
  8. The right to object to instructional materials and other materials used in the classroom. Such objections may be based on beliefs regarding morality, sex, religion, or the belief that such materials are harmful.
  9. The right to withdraw your minor child from any portion of the school district's required comprehensive health education that relates to sex education, instruction in AIDS education, or any instruction regarding sexuality, if the parent provides a written objection to his or her minor child's participation. This includes the right to be notified in advance of such course content so that you may withdraw your minor child from those portions of the course.
  10. The right to learn about the nature and purpose of clubs and activities offered at your minor child's school, including both those that are extracurricular or part of the school curriculum.

HEALTHCARE

As a Florida parent you have ...

  1. The right to make health care decisions for your minor child, unless otherwise prohibited by law.
  2. The right to make medical decisions to address any needs of your minor child. This is a matter between you, your minor child, and a competent health care professional chosen by you.
  3. The right to exempt your minor child from immunizations for religious reasons.
  4. The right to help your minor child in a time of crisis before the initiation of an involuntary psychiatric examination, unless there is substantial likelihood that without care or treatment your minor child will cause serious bodily harm to themselves or others in the near future, as evidenced by recent behavior.
  5. The right to be notified immediately if your minor child is removed from school, school transportation, or a school-sponsored activity and taken to a receiving facility for an involuntary examination.
  6. The right to refuse to give your minor child psychotropic/psychiatric drugs as a requirement for attendance or participation in public school services.
  7. The right to refuse psychological screening of your minor child.
  8. The right to opt your minor child out of any services offered under the school health services program by submitting a request in writing.
  9. The right to withdraw your minor child from any portion of the school district's required comprehensive health education that relates to sex education, instruction in AIDS education, or any instruction regarding sexuality, if the parent provides a written objection to his or her minor child's participation. This includes the right to be notified in advance of such course content so that you may withdraw your minor child from those portions of the course.

The Dependency Process

The Dependency Process

The Dependency System is a complex system with a variety of moving parts and pieces. Check out the following resources to better understand how the system works.

Contact List

Contact List

Children's Home Society (CHS)

Lutheran Services Florida (LSF)

One Hope United (OHU)

DCF/CPI

Heartland for Children's Client Relations - 863-519-8900 x 215

DCF Dictionary

DCF Dictionary

See the source image

The Dependency System is full of acronyms - here is a Acronym Guide to help you learn the language.

10th Circuit Court Links

10th Circuit Court Links

Polk County

Highlands County

Hardee County

Reunification/Closure

Reunification/Closure

What are the types of visitation? 

  • Unsupervised Overnights
  • Unlimited Unsupervised Daytime in a Public Place or DCF approved home
  • Unsupervised for X hours in a Public Place or DCF approved home
  • Supervised by DCF or designee in a Public Place or DCF approved home
  • Supervised by DCF only
  • Therapeutically supervised - therapist must supervise visits
  • Therapeutically indicated - therapist must recommend visits before they occur
  • No Contact

Am I ready to be reunified?  You are ready if: 

  • You have met “Conditions for Return” and can answer “Yes” to ALL of the following:
    • You are willing for an in-home safety plan to be developed and implemented and have demonstrated that you will cooperate with all identified safety service providers.
    • Your home environment is routine, constant and consistent, and predictable from day-to-day.  Your home environment accommodates plans, schedules, and services and is non-threatening to those participating in the Safety Plan.
    • Safety services exist in sufficient amount, are assessable at a reasonable time and location, and are close enough to you and your family to be applied and implemented immediately.
    • DCF can sufficiently manage impending danger without a professional evaluation to determine how to manage the danger. 
    • You have a physical home/shelter where you live full time and can be expected to live there as long as the Safety Plan is needed. 
  • You have “substantially complied” with your Case Plan, demonstrated “behavior change,” and have documents to prove your compliance.

What do I need for a Reunification Home Study?

  • Schedule Background Screen
  • Give Case Manager Documents
    • Copy of Lease/Mortgage
    • Proof of Employment (Pay stub, employer letter, bank statement, etc.) or financial support letter
    • Case Plan Compliance Documents, i.e. discharge reports
    • Safety Plan, i.e.  schedule for babysitting, work schedule, family supports
  • Schedule Home Visit
    • Make sleeping arrangements for each child
    • Make sure there are no safety concerns (i.e. exposed outlets, fence around pool)
    • Utility bills up to date
  • Request a Reunification Family Team Conference

When can I ask for my case to be closed?

  • After Reunification, case must stay open for a minimum of 6 months

How do I prepare for case closure?

  • Request a Case Closure Family Team Conference
  • Create Safety Plan if necessary, i.e.  schedule for babysitting, work schedule
  • List Family/Community Supports after closure, i.e. local church, relatives

What do I do after my case closes?

  • Change Medicaid after closure

Helpful Links

Helpful Links

211 - Connect to expert, caring help. Every call is completely confidential.

Aunt Bertha - Find food, health, housing, employment programs + other resources in seconds.

United Way's Food Distribution - Find mobile food pantries in Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties.

Parents Corner - Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for useful tips + local resources in your community.

Keep Your Kids Safe Online 

Medicaid Resource Guide - Get important and helpful information to help you navigate Medicaid.

Alcoholics Anonymous - Have a problem with alcohol? A.A. has a simple program that works. It's based on one alcoholic helping another.

Al-Anon Family Groups - Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking problem.

Local Recovery Hopeline - (863) 812-3715 This Hopeline was put in place so that whenever you’re in need of a listening ear, help finding services, or feel like you want to pick up, you can give us a call and let us help you the best that we can.

NAFLHeartland.org - NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean.