Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Florida Court: Homelessness Not a Reason for State to Care for Children

Angela and I both work as Guardians ad Litem in the courts of East Tennessee on a regular basis. As a GAL, you are charged with looking after the best interests of the child, including making sure that the parents can safely look after the child upon reunification and that there is not an imminent risk of harm in returning the child to be with his or her parents. Otherwise, other paths (release to a relative placement or termination of parental rights) must be explored.

At least, that's how we do things in Tennessee. I believed that to be the general case everywhere until today.

Apparently, things are a bit different down in Florida.

From How Appealing: "Court: Homelessness no excuse to remove child"

Also, there is an in-depth story from the Miami Herald, as well as the Florida appellate court's decision.

Somewhat troubling is this quote from a DCF supervisor, Alan Abramowitz:

''If we removed a child because of homelessness we should be reversed. We are obligated to offer services to keep families together.''

Yeah, that's a problem that we have here in Tennessee, too, because it sure sounds like - if the problem is homelessness - that Mr. Abramowitz is going to go out and buy a house for the parents. Well, not Mr. Abramowitz, per se. The taxpayers of Florida are going to be footing this bill.

Don't believe that this is a problem that is Florida's alone. Tennessee's Department of Children's Services amazes me with each passing day. Yes, there are a few good workers in that administrative agency (most of whom work in Sevier County, coincidentally), but there are also some horrendous decisions being made that cost Tennesseans in federal funding and oftentimes put children at risk.

I'm not going to go on with this rant before my blood pressure rises, because I could vent about DCS until the cows come home. I will just end with this - if it was public knowledge of how bad things really were, there would be a public groundswell of support for scrapping the entire DCS (particularly the policy wonks that are under the supervision of Governor Phil Bredesen in Nashville).


Helping a family be self-sufficent is in tax payers interest and better for the children of the homeless family. There are homeless shelters in Miami that help families. It could involve liking the homeless family back with relatives. It is better for children if the parents are given a path out of homelessness. In the case in Miami the only issue brought to court was the family was homeless. The law requires assistance to be offered and if declined and children are at risk the state can intervene. We don't want the state to raise children. The state makes a horrible parent. The Florida Legislature and courts recognized assistance to families is necessary. With the economy downturn homeless is cocuring to more and more people that we could not have imagined. We are not talking about people that are chronic homeless based on mental health or substance abuse.
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