October 01, 2014

ICPC Applied to Placement with Father Who Continued to Need Services

Scott Trowbridge

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Dep’t of Children & Families v. C.T., 2014 WL 3953309 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.).

After children were removed from father for substance abuse, he moved out of state before completing his case plan. Under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), the court had to receive a positive home study for the father before reunifying the children with him. 

The children were removed from their father due to substance abuse and were placed with their grandmother. The father and mother had case plans working toward reunification. During this period, the father moved out of state and was involved in intensive substance abuse treatment. 

At a review hearing, the court found the children would likely be able to return to the father at the end of the school year. The grandmother indicated at the time that she did not want to continue as a placement because she thought the children would be removed from the father again. The court concluded she did not want to continue as a placement resource. 

At the end of the hearing, the court decided the children should be reunified immediately with the father. The agency objected contending it lacked information about the suitability of the father’s home. The agency had not received a home study as required by the ICPC.

The court held prior state case law held the ICPC did not apply when placing children with parents. The court ordered the agency to supervise the case for six months and the father to appear for drug screens. The agency appealed. 

The Florida District Court of Appeals reversed.

The District Court of Appeals reviewed the ICPC, focusing on the section stating the Compact does not apply to “sending or bringing of a child into a receiving state by a parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or a guardian and leaving the child with any such relative or nonagency guardian in the receiving state.”

The court then reviewed the court case relied upon by the trial court. That case involved a transfer of a child to a parent who had custody of the child, but the court had never taken custody. 

In another case, a sister District Court of Appeals held the ICPC applies when a child is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and the court has authority to determine where the child will reside. The ICPC continues to apply until the state intervention ends. 

In that situation, the parent is not receiving the child as a matter of parental right, but as a placement, until the foster care placement ends. Because the children had been removed from the father, it would be negligent for the court to return them to his care without assuring their safety. Therefore, the ICPC applied.