W.K. and M.K., foster parents, and GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM, Appellants,
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, and ADOPTION BY SHEPHERD CARE, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Daliah H. Weiss, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Ally of the Law Offices of Roger Ally, P.A., Fort Lauderdale,
for appellants W.K. and M.K., foster parents.
Christian Pietka and Sara Elizabeth Goldfarb, Sanford, for
appellant Guardian Ad Litem Program.
E. Miller of the Law Office of Trey E. Miller III, P.A., Fort
Lauderdale, for appellee Adoption by Shepherd Care.
brief filed for appellee Department of Children and Families.
was sheltered two months after birth and placed with foster
parents after his release from the hospital. During the
pendency of a petition to terminate parental rights, the
mother executed a surrender and consent to adopt with
Adoption by Shepherd Care ("ASC"), an adoption
agency. The father also surrendered his rights to the
Department of Children and Families. ASC intervened and filed
a motion to transfer custody of the child to the prospective
adoptive parents chosen by the mother. The trial court
subsequently granted the motion to transfer custody of the
child to the prospective adoptive parents.
foster parents and the guardian ad litem program
("GAL") appeal the order transferring custody of
the child. We dismiss the foster parents' appeal because
they do not have standing to appeal. As to the GAL's
appeal, we affirm because competent substantial evidence
supports the trial court's decision.
time of the hearing on the motion to transfer custody, the
child was eighteen months old. It was undisputed that the
child had bonded to the foster parents. The Department did
not object to the request for placement with the prospective
adoptive parents. The GAL was the only opposing party.
the hearing, ASC's expert testified that the first three
years of a child's life are the most critical for bonding
and attachment. An eighteen-month-old can have a secure
attachment with a new caregiver. The fact that the child has
bonded at his current placement was a sign that he could
likewise attach to the prospective adoptive parents. The risk
of moving a child from a current caregiver of fifteen months
to a new caregiver would be minimal and should not be
detrimental for a child despite having a healthy attachment
to a current caregiver.
completed a positive home study on the prospective adoptive
parents. An adoption specialist at ASC testified about the
appropriateness of a placement with the prospective adoptive
parents and recommended that they adopt the child. The
prospective adoptive parents testified they want to adopt the
child and testified about what they had done to prepare for
the adoption. A dependency case manager and supervisor from
the Children's Home Society recommended a gradual
transition plan in the event of removal.
foster parents testified regarding their relationship with
the child. They further testified that they were willing to
adopt the child. However, they did not have an approved home
study, and significantly, nothing in the record indicated
they had taken any steps towards adoption. The guardian ad
litem testified regarding how well the child and foster
parents were doing together. On cross-examination, she
admitted that the prospective adoptive parents "seemed
like a lovely couple" and that she had no reason to
believe they would not be appropriate adoptive parents. The
GAL also presented expert testimony that it would be
detrimental to remove the child from a secure attachment.
detailed order, the trial court granted the motion to
transfer custody to the prospective adoptive parents and
ordered a transition plan. From ...