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Judges have more say over families' futures

Nov. 18, 2004


On Nov. 10, in a unanimous 14-page opinion, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state's judges can approve the adoption of foster children even when child protection workers object.

Judges now can overrule the Florida Department of Children & Families in cases of children who were placed in the agency's care due to neglect or abuse by the child's birth parents.

For one Florida woman, called B.Y. in case documents, the court's ruling is a victory. The Associated Press reported that the woman moved to Palm Beach County in 2002 to care for her daughter's three children, but the department of children and families took them away from her. A judge ruled in the case to allow the woman to adopt them, despite the agency's objections.

Although the department appealed the case, many more people in the state now will have the opportunity to adopt children regardless of what one agency has to say.

The Lariat editorial board believes this is a wise move on the part of the Florida Supreme Court. Judges routinely have more information from several sources when deciding cases, whereas the Florida Department of Children & Families only has its own information on which to base a decision.

Justice Raoul G. Cantero III wrote in a concurring opinion that the department of children and families, "like every other nonparent involved in an adoption proceeding, cannot unreasonably thwart an otherwise beneficial adoption," the AP reported.

Because of the possibility for the agency to make a grievous error in judgment on behalf of the child's future in a possible adopted family, we believe the judge should be the one who makes the ultimate decision in all adoption cases. While there certainly is room for the judge to err, with more information at his disposal, we believe the best action lies in allowing the top person in legal procedures to render the verdict.

Editorial Board 3-2