Florida Senate - 2023 SB 906 By Senator Powell 24-01951A-23 2023906__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to regional counsel representation for 3 child welfare matters; amending s. 27.511, F.S.; 4 providing circumstances under which the regional 5 counsel may represent indigent parents; amending s. 6 39.301, F.S.; requiring the child protective 7 investigator to provide to subjects of an 8 investigation specified information relating to the 9 rights of a parent or legal custodian; providing an 10 effective date. 11 12 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 13 14 Section 1. Paragraph (d) of subsection (6) of section 15 27.511, Florida Statutes, is amended, and paragraph (e) is added 16 to that subsection, to read: 17 27.511 Offices of criminal conflict and civil regional 18 counsel; legislative intent; qualifications; appointment; 19 duties.— 20 (6) 21 (d) Except as provided in paragraph (e), the regional 22 counsel may not represent any plaintiff in a civil action 23 brought under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal 24 Rules of Civil Procedure, or federal statutes, and may not 25 represent a petitioner in a rule challenge under chapter 120, 26 unless specifically authorized by law. 27 (e) In child welfare matters, the regional counsel may 28 provide preventative, prepetition legal representation to 29 indigent parents who are the subject of child protective 30 investigations conducted pursuant to s. 39.301. If such matters 31 are related to the circumstances of the investigation and to the 32 efforts by the parents to safely maintain the care and custody 33 of their children, the regional counsel may appear in or 34 initiate civil actions for such injunctions for protection 35 against domestic violence, residential tenancies and housing, 36 and determination of parentage. In prepetition matters, the 37 regional counsel will determine, within 5 days of initial 38 contact by a parent subject to investigation, whether the parent 39 is indigent using the best available evidence. In determining 40 indigency, the regional counsel will use the application form 41 and indigency criteria used by the clerk of court pursuant to s. 42 27.52 and the regional counsel will maintain documentation of 43 the indigency determination in its files. If at any time after 44 an initial determination of indigency is made, the regional 45 counsel later determines that a person is not indigent, the 46 regional counsel will cease to provide representation to the 47 nonindigent person and will withdraw from any legal action in 48 which the regional counsel has appeared. 49 Section 2. Paragraph (a) of subsection (5) and paragraph 50 (a) of subsection (10) of section 39.301, Florida Statutes, are 51 amended to read: 52 39.301 Initiation of protective investigations.— 53 (5)(a) Upon commencing an investigation under this part, 54 the child protective investigator shall inform any subject of 55 the investigation of the following: 56 1. The names of the investigators and identifying 57 credentials from the department. 58 2. The purpose of the investigation and how the information 59 provided by the subject may be used. 60 3. The right of the parent or legal custodian to obtain his 61 or her own attorney and, if he or she cannot afford an attorney, 62 the investigator shall inform the parent or legal custodian that 63 he or she may choose to be represented by the office of criminal 64 conflict and civil regional counsel during the investigation and 65 the investigator shall provide the contact information for the 66 local regional counsel office which offers representation before 67 a petition is filed, if locally available, and ways that the 68 information provided by the subject may be used. 69 4. The possible outcomes and services of the department’s 70 response. 71 5. The right of the parent or legal custodian to be engaged 72 to the fullest extent possible in determining the nature of the 73 allegation and the nature of any identified problem and the 74 remedy. 75 6. The duty of the parent or legal custodian to report any 76 change in the residence or location of the child to the 77 investigator and that the duty to report continues until the 78 investigation is closed. 79 (10)(a) The department’s training program for staff 80 responsible for responding to reports accepted by the central 81 abuse hotline must also ensure that child protective responders: 82 1. Know how to fully inform parents or legal custodians of 83 their rights and options, including their right to legal counsel 84 and the availability to indigent parents or legal custodians of 85 the opportunity to be represented by the office of criminal 86 conflict and civil regional counsel, if locally available, and 87 the opportunities for audio or video recording of child 88 protective responder interviews with parents or legal custodians 89 or children. 90 2. Know how and when to use the injunction process under s. 91 39.504 or s. 741.30 to remove a perpetrator of domestic violence 92 from the home as an intervention to protect the child. 93 3. Know how to explain to the parent, legal custodian, or 94 person who is alleged to have caused the abuse, neglect, or 95 abandonment the results of the investigation and to provide 96 information about his or her right to access confidential 97 reports in accordance with s. 39.202, prior to closing the case. 98 Section 3. This act shall take effect July 1, 2023.