The following is Best Practice procedures to follow when a Judge reunifies a child with the parent(s) against the recommendations of the Safe Children Coalition (SCC).
If a reunification is ordered that SCC is not in agreement with, the Case Management Supervisor will IMMEDIATELY notify the YMCA SCC Operations Manager and schedule an Emergency Staffing. This staffing must occur within 72 hours of the Judge’s ruling.
The Case Management Agency ensures that all parties/service providers with relevant information about safety and risk to the child are invited to attend the Staffing. If the parties/service providers cannot attend, the Case Manager must obtain written statements from them.
To prepare for the Emergency Staffing the case manager at minimum must:
See the child and family in the home and observe interactions; on the day of the ruling.
Complete a Progress Update Home Study to assess the family and to address the change that has occurred.
Implement a Safety Plan with safety managers to mitigate the danger threat(s).
Complete the reunification checklist and ensure all required documents are obtained/requested.
Request updated emergency criminal checks on all household members from the Background Screening Unit.
Request an address call out history from the law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction it falls in.
Complete the “Case Review and Consultation Review Form”.
Determine if the Rilya Wilson Act applies and provide the referral as needed.
During the Emergency Staffing the Team will:
Discuss the Judge’s ruling, all safety and risk factors and the best interest of the child.
Develop an action plan to ensure the child’s safety and permanency.
Review the Safety Plan for effectiveness and other actions that will help ensure the child’s safety.
Collect the necessary documentation to return to CLS so the case may proceed
Immediately assist Child Legal Services (CLS) in preparing the appeal (Motion for Rehearing – if it is the path chosen).
The action plan may include:
Having Child Legal Services (CLS) appeal the decision per Florida Rules 8.265.
Initiate a deeper level of assessment and documentation before going back to court, or
Conclude the Team is okay with the ruling, implementing specific measures and actions to address safety concerns.
Ultimately, it is the Judge’s decision! If there are serious safety concerns that were not sufficiently presented during the hearing that the initial reunification ruling occurred in, an appeal hearing must be requested no later than 10 days of that ruling to present the supporting evidence and have that ruling re-assessed by the Judge.
Some ways to avoid reunifications against SCC recommendation from occurring are to: ensure we are making reasonable efforts to provide support and services to the parents, to ensure to maintain monthly or more frequent contact with all providers and parties to the case, to ensure to see the parents face to face every month and to build rapport with them; and most importantly to document qualitatively.