Florida's Children First

A Case of Neglect? Representation for Children in the Florida Dependency System


by Gurjot Kaur

Florida and Washington state, while on opposite ends of the continental United States, unite on one point— they are among the few states in our nation that do not require the appointment of attorneys for children in dependency and termination proceedings. Why would this be cause for concern? First, Florida leads the nation in the number of child deaths from abuse or neglect after the Florida Department of Children and Families has intervened in the family’s life. Second, with the aid of the media, public sentiment is shifting. Children in the dependency system have been humanized. Some tragic, high-profile cases of child neglect and death have shocked and captured the public’s conscience, raising questions regarding the state’s role as parens patriae and the efficiency of the Department of Children and Families and the Guardian ad Litem Program. These questions have prompted a candid discussion about the current state of the Florida dependency system and potential solutions to the identified problems. The children in the dependency system are no longer “their kids” or “those kids” but “our kids” and, thus, “our concern.”

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Florida's Children First

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