In a case that could help ensure Florida’s at-risk children in the care of the Department of Children and Families and in need of mental health services get the treatment they require, a Miami child welfare judge has demanded that Florida DCF officials appear in court to explain their actions.
The demand from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman and stems from DCF’s handling of L.S. and D.S, two siblings under state care after DCF removed them from their parents. Hanzman had ordered the children to in-patient care; DCF has not complied, claiming it has no duty to provide such care.
“This court’s orders are routinely ignored, and children with severe mental health needs are denied critical care,” Hanzman wrote in his Dec. 29 order.
According to news reports, this is the latest in a series of such orders. Less than two months ago, a federal appeals court in Miami noted how “the state had systemically, and for many years, rationed care to impoverished and disabled children insured by the Medicaid program,” according to the Miami Herald, further noting that such failure to provide adequate healthcare to needy children violates federal law. The state refutes the allegations.
A Miami federal judge in 2012 similarly ordered the Agency for Health Care Administration to pay for a potentially life-altering therapy for children with autism, the paper reported.
In the best case scenario, state agencies will act in the best interests of children in its care, and courts will not need to compel agencies to provide necessary care. For its part, DCF has made some commitments toward improving care and oversight. In recent cases, though, courts have had to step up to help ensure at-risk, abused, neglected and children who otherwise are at risk of harm or in need of care are given the attention they require.