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Governor signs bill helping abused and neglected kids in court

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A bill aimed at helping abused and neglected children in dependency court is now Florida law after unanimously passing both chambers of the Legislature.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law SB 124/HB 115, which streamlines communication related to abused and neglected children who have multiple court cases, sometimes known as “crossover kids.”

Sen. Aaron BeanThe measure was championed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, and the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program.

“There are more than 1,000 Florida kids who have multiple court cases,” Bean told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. “The core mission of this committee is to help kids, and that’s what this bill does.”

“Some abused and neglected children have cases in dependency and delinquency courts at the same time,” Sirois told the House Judiciary Committee. “Others may need a probate court to appoint a guardian if they have some kind of incapacity when they turn 18. Often these proceedings can be in different counties or circuits.”

The measure amends the Florida Statutes to allow a guardianship petition for a child in dependency court to be filed either where the child resides or in the county with jurisdiction over the dependency case. For children with dependency and delinquency cases, it requires the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to notify the court and the parties in a dependency case of certain events, for example if the child is transferred from one DJJ facility to another. It also allows delinquency court judges to receive and consider information provided by the Guardian ad Litem Program and the child’s attorney ad litem if the child is under the jurisdiction of the dependency court.

Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz said dependent children are increasingly moved from their home counties or judicial circuits, and in order to protect their best interests, it is critical to get accurate, up-to-date information to the court and agencies serving the child in both locations.

The proposal passed all its committees and both chambers unanimously. Gov. DeSantis signed it on April 26 and it became effective immediately.