In Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts conducts a court hearing in which the rules are ever changing, inconsistent, and absurd. Anyone who has experience with the Dependency Court process in the state of Florida knows Alice's plight. When dealing with DCF and Dependency Court, you are through the Looking Glass. Up is down. Right is wrong.
Mothers who are victims of domestic violence experience the aburdity first hand. If a Mother reports that she is a victim of domestic violence, there is a chance that DCF can remove the child from the home and put the child in foster care. This occurs even if the child is not abused, abandoned, or neglected. The State Attorney and DCF argue that allowing children to be "exposed" to domestic violence, even if the children aren't the victims, is a form of domestic violence. It makes sense that if a child witnesses his mother being beaten by the father, the child could experience emotional trauma. However, the State Attorney and DCF files cases when the children are infants and are completely incable of knowing that domestic violence is occurring. They file case when children are sleeping in the other room when the alleged incident occurs. There is no way that this can be considered exposure to domestic violence. The First District Court of Appeals agreed that this is not child abuse in C.W. v. Department of Children and Family Services, 10 So.2d 136 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). Unfortunately the State Attorney and DCF continue to remove child from victim's of domestic violence despite not having the legal authority to do so.
This also has a chilling effect on women. If a mother is being abused, she may be fearful of calling the police when doing so could result in the child being placed in foster care.
I once was involved with a case in which the Mother was victimized by the alcholic, drug addicted, extremely violence Father. She left the home and went to a shelter with the children where she contacted the authorities. DCF came in and removed the children from both parents and put them in foster care. The State filed a Dependency Action alleging the Father's violence and alcholism and the Mother's failure to protect against the Father's violnce and alcholism. Both parents were ordered to complete a case plan with varying tasks. The Father finished his tasks first. The Mother was found to have not sufficently completed one of her tasks, which was admitting wrong doing. The wrong doing she was accused of doing was allowing the children around her abusive alcholic husband. As a result of this, the children were given back to the father and the mother was not allowed to have contact. The reason the children were given to the father was because the mother failed to remove the children from the father when she was the victim of domestic violence. The father was given sole custody of the children until the Mother was willng to admit that she was wrong in allowing them to have contact with the father. Eventually, I was able to fix this maddening hypocrisy and I was able to get her children back, but the emotional impact that the children experienced based on what DCF and the State Attorney did to them by yanking them from their mother and placing them in foster care is the true child abuse.