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RULE 8.350.   PLACEMENT OF CHILD INTO RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAM

(a)   Placement.

(1)    Treatment Program Defined. Any reference in this rule to a residential treatment program is to a placement for observation, diagnosis, or treatment of an emotional disturbance in a residential treatment center or facility licensed under section 394.875, Florida Statutes, or a hospital licensed under chapter 395, Florida Statutes. This rule does not apply to placement under sections 394.463 or 394.467, Florida Statutes.

(2)    Basis for Placement. The placement of any child for residential mental health treatment must be as provided by law.

(3)    Assessment by Qualified Evaluator. Whenever the department believes that a child in its legal custody may require placement in a residential treatment program, the department must arrange to have the child assessed by a qualified evaluator as provided by law and must file notice of this with the court and all parties. On the filing of this notice by the department, the court must appoint a guardian ad litem for the child, if one has not already been appointed, and must also appoint an attorney for the child. All appointments under this rule must conform to the provisions of rule 8.231. Both the guardian ad litem and attorney must meet the child and must have the opportunity to discuss the child’s suitability for residential treatment with the qualified evaluator conducting the assessment. On the completion of the evaluator’s written assessment, the department must provide a copy to the court and to all parties within 5 days after the department’s receipt of the assessment. The guardian ad litem must also provide a written report to the court and to all parties indicating the guardian ad litem’s recommendation as to the child’s placement in residential treatment and the child’s wishes.

(4)    Motion for Placement. If the department seeks to place the child in a residential treatment program, the department must immediately file a motion for placement of the child with the court. This motion must include a statement as to why the child is suitable for this placement and why less restrictive alternatives are not appropriate and also must include the written findings of the qualified evaluator. The motion must state whether all parties, including the child, are in agreement. Copies of the motion must be served on the child’s attorney and all parties and participants.

(5)    Immediate Placement. If the evaluator’s written assessment indicates that the child requires immediate placement in a residential treatment program and that such placement cannot wait for a hearing, then the department may place the child pending a hearing, unless the court orders otherwise.

(6)    Guardian ad Litem. The guardian ad litem must be represented by an attorney at all proceedings under this rule, unless the guardian ad litem is acting as an attorney.

(7)    Status Hearing. On the filing of a motion for placement, the court must set the matter for a status hearing within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. The department must timely provide notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing to all parties and participants.

(8)    Notice of Hearing. The child’s attorney or guardian ad litem must notify the child of the date, time, and place and communication technology information for the hearing. No hearing may proceed without the presence of the child’s attorney. The guardian ad litem may be excused by the court for good cause shown.

(9)    Disagreement with Placement. If no party disagrees with the department’s motion at the status hearing, then the motion for placement may be approved by the court. However, if any party, including the child, disagrees, then the court must set the matter for hearing within 10 working days.

(10)  Presence of Child. The child must be present at the hearing unless the court determines under subdivision (c) that a court appearance is not in the child’s best interest. In such circumstances, the child must be provided the opportunity to express his or her views to the court by a method deemed appropriate by the court.

(11)  Hearing on Placement.

(A)    At the hearing, the court must consider, at a minimum, all of the following:

(i)     based on an independent assessment of the child, the recommendation of a department representative or authorized agent that the residential treatment is in the child’s best interest and a showing that the placement is the least restrictive available alternative;

(ii)    the recommendation of the guardian ad litem;

(iii)   the written findings of the evaluation and suitability assessment prepared by a qualified evaluator; and

(iv)   the views regarding placement in residential treatment that the child expresses to the court.

(B)   All parties must be permitted to present evidence and witnesses concerning the suitability of the placement.

(C)   If the court determines that the child is not suitable for residential treatment, the court must order the department to place the child in the least restrictive setting that is best suited to meet the child’s needs.

(b)   Continuing Residential Placement Reviews.

(1)    The court must conduct a hearing to review the status of the child’s residential treatment plan no later than 60 days after the child’s admission to the residential treatment program. An independent review of the child’s progress toward achieving the goals and objectives of the treatment plan must be completed by a qualified evaluator and submitted to the court, the child’s attorney, and all parties in writing at least 72 hours before the 60-day review hearing.

(2)    Review hearings must be conducted every 3 months thereafter, until the child is placed in a less restrictive setting. At each 3-month review hearing, if the child is not represented by an attorney, the court must appoint counsel. At the 3-month review hearing the court must determine whether the child disagrees with continued placement.

(3)    If the court determines at any hearing that the child is not suitable for continued residential treatment, the court must order the department to place the child in the least restrictive setting that is best suited to meet the child’s needs.

(c)   Presence of Child. The child must be present at all court hearings unless the court finds that the child’s mental or physical condition is such that a court appearance is not in the child’s best interest. In such circumstances, the child must be provided the opportunity to express his or her views to the court by a method deemed appropriate by the court.

(d)   Standard of Proof. At the hearing, the court must determine whether the evidence supporting involuntary commitment of a dependent child to a residential treatment program is clear and convincing.