Information for Youth and Young Adults

What Can You Expect From The Department of Children & Families?

Your Rights in Shelter or Foster Care

Your health and safety are very important to the state of Florida. You can help us make sure that you are safe and healthy by speaking up for yourself. In order to help you do that, we wrote this document so you can know what your rights are and what you can expect from the Department of Children and Families.

Where Do Your Rights Come From?

There are many sources for the rights of children and youth in the shelter and foster care of the Department of Children and Families. Some rights come from the United States Constitution, others from the Florida Constitution. Florida statutes (laws) and federal statutes also tell the state how it is supposed to treat you.

Being Heard in Court and at Meetings

You can expect:

  • To have the opportunity to go to court and talk to the judge or other persons making decisions about you, and
  • To attend hearings or meetings where decisions about you are being made, unless the judge decides it would not be best for you to do so.

SAFETY

A Professional Investigation:

The adults who investigate whether you are at risk of harm will have the professional training to make the best decision possible for your protection.

The Assistance of a Services Worker

You can expect:

  • To have regular contact with your services worker by phone and in person,
  • To meet with your services worker at a minimum every 30 days,
  • To meet with your services worker in private, if you want,
  • For your services worker to meet with your foster parent in person at least every 30 days, and
  • For your services worker to see the place you live at least every 30 days.

The Department Will Keep Important Records

You can expect:

  • That your Department records are complete, accurate and kept up to date,
  • That you, your guardian and your attorney can review and receive a copy of your records free of charge,
  • Your photograph and fingerprints will be taken and kept in your file, and
  • Your birth certificate and health insurance information will be kept in your file and provided to you when you need it.

Safety Plan

You can expect to participate with your caregivers and professionals in writing a plan to help with any of your needs or behaviors that could present a risk to you, other children or adults.

SERVICES

Appropriate Evaluations:

You can expect to be tested to see if you are having problems, are healthy, doing well in school, or if you need to be treated by a doctor or psychologist.

Case Plan That Meets Your Needs

You can expect:

  • To participate in writing your case plan,
  • To make sure your case plan addresses your needs and the needs of your family,
  • To have the plan and all its services explained to you in a way you understand,
  • To have a plan that respects your race and culture,
  • To have the opportunity to give your opinion about anything in the plan you do not like, and
  • To have the responses to your opinions clearly explained to you.

Counseling

You can expect:

  • To have trained professionals give you the help and services you need for any problems you may be having, and
  • To have the opportunity for counseling to help you better understand your thoughts and feelings about past experiences and what is currently happening in your life.

Government Benefits:

You can expect that the Department will apply for all state and federal benefit programs that you are eligible for and need without delay. Government benefits include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, disability benefits, medical, and other programs for children and youth who are in foster care, or who are emotionally, behaviorally, or physically disabled.

Trained Staff:

You can expect that the people who provide services to you will be properly trained in order to meet your needs.

LIVING SITUATION

Brothers & Sisters (Siblings)

You can expect:

  • To be placed in the same home with your brothers & sisters, or
  • If it is not possible to live with them, to have private contact with your siblings at least once a week, unless the judge says you cannot.

Moving

You can expect to remain in the same foster home without being moved to another placement, unless

  • the Department explains to you why it is necessary for you to move, and
  • helps you get the services you need to be comfortable during the move and in the new home.

Other Children & Youth

You can expect to live in a family home with no more than one other foster child, unless

  • you are placed with your brothers and sisters, or
  • you are placed in a group home if it is the most family-like setting appropriate for you.

People Who Know You

You can expect to live in a shelter or foster home in which the parents know and understand your personal history, needs, and problems.

PERMANENCY

Visiting Your Parents or Legal Caregivers:

You can expect to have at least one visit each month with your parents or legal caregivers, unless the judge says you cannot visit with them. If you were sexually abused, the court must hold a hearing before allowing the person accused of abusing you to visit with you. You will have an attorney or guardian ad litem represent you at that hearing. You can tell your representative whether or not you want to visit.

Reunification Case Plan

You can expect

  • To make sure your case plan and services will enable you to be reunited with your family or caregivers as soon as it is safe to do so and as soon as the judge permits your return; and
  • To be told that you have a right to a family, and that you should not have long delays in your case.

Permanent Home and Family

You can expect the Department to make every effort to find you a permanent home and family if reunification is not possible.

EDUCATION

You can expect

  • To go to the school that is best for you to attend,
  • To go to school every day with the fewest disruptions possible for court or other meetings related to your case,
  • To have a referral to an educational evaluation team if you aren’t making progress in school,
  • To get special education services if you need them,
  • To have a surrogate parent appointed if your own parents cannot make educational decisions for you, and
  • To have your school records shared with the Department to make sure the Department knows you are attending and making progress in school.
  • To have a quiet place to do homework,
  • To participate in school activities, and
  • When you are older, to have assistance in choosing a career and planning for it.

NORMALCY

You can expect

  • To participate with your foster or group home parent and services worker in writing an age appropriate activities, or “normalcy”, plan,
  • To participate in age appropriate activities such as sports, clubs, youth group, dating, volunteer work and working,
  • To participate in activities that you would enjoy and that your other friends get to do, and
  • To participate in activities that provide good life experiences and opportunities and help you become independent and self-sufficient when you become an adult.

SERVICES

Appropriate Evaluations:

You can expect to be tested to see if you are having problems, are healthy, doing well in school, or if you need to be treated by a doctor or psychologist.

Case Plan That Meets Your Needs

You can expect:

  • To participate in writing your case plan,
  • To make sure your case plan addresses your needs and the needs of your family,
  • To have the plan and all its services explained to you in a way you understand,
  • To have a plan that respects your race and culture,
  • To have the opportunity to give your opinion about anything in the plan you do not like, and
  • To have the responses to your opinions clearly explained to you.

Counseling

You can expect:

  • To have trained professionals give you the help and services you need for any problems you may be having, and
  • To have the opportunity for counseling to help you better understand your thoughts and feelings about past experiences and what is currently happening in your life.

Government Benefits:

You can expect that the Department will apply for all state and federal benefit programs that you are eligible for and need without delay. Government benefits include Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, disability benefits, medical, and other programs for children and youth who are in foster care, or who are emotionally, behaviorally, or physically disabled.

Trained Staff:

You can expect that the people who provide services to you will be properly trained in order to meet your needs.

LIVING SITUATION

Brothers & Sisters (Siblings)

You can expect:

  • To be placed in the same home with your brothers & sisters, or
  • If it is not possible to live with them, to have private contact with your siblings at least once a week, unless the judge says you cannot.