final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County No.
15-16216, Rosa C. Figarola, Judge.
Office of Richard F. Joyce, P.A., and Richard F. Joyce, for
Perkins, for appellee the Department of Children and
Families; Thomasina Moore, and Laura J. Lee (Tallahassee),
for appellee the Guardian ad Litem Program.
SCALES, HENDON, and MILLER, JJ.
mother, I.T., challenges two final judgments, contending that
the Department of Children and Families ("the
Department") failed to present clear and convincing
evidence to support the termination of her parental rights as
to four of her five children, N.S., C.S., D.M.T., and I.A.V.
We agree and reverse.
sibling was discovered with a bruise on her face, N.S., C.S.,
and D.M.T. were sheltered. The Department alleged the mother
struck the sibling, causing the bruise on the child, and
further alleged that the child was engaging in a pattern of
absenteeism from school and exhibiting poor academic
performance. Further investigation revealed that the mother
had left her children in the care of relatives and friends on
a periodic basis.
C.S., and D.M.T. were placed in the custody of relatives and,
on May 16, 2016, were adjudicated dependent, pursuant to a
consent decree. The mother was offered a case plan with a
stated primary goal of reunification. The case plan required
that the mother attend parenting classes, instruction for
non-offending parents of sexually abused children,
substance abuse treatment,  trauma-informed individual
therapy, dyadic therapy, and visitation, and maintain stable
housing and employment. The court accepted the case plan, and
ordered the mother to undergo a psychological evaluation to
address her specific treatment needs. Shortly thereafter, the
mother became pregnant with I.A.V. Immediately after I.A.V.
was born, she too was sheltered, based upon a finding of
probable cause that she was at risk of harm due to the
purported abuse of her sibling. I.A.V. was placed in medical
foster care and was also adjudicated dependent.
October 2016, the mother submitted to the court-ordered
psychological evaluation. The evaluating psychologist,
Michael DiTomasso, Ph.D., diagnosed her with low intellectual
functioning and possible bipolar disorder, although she was
asymptomatic. Relying upon past behavioral patterns and
developmental challenges, the psychologist further indicated
her prognosis for responding to services was "low."
mother began experiencing financial problems and sought to
pay a reduced amount for the court-ordered therapy. The trial
court entered an order requiring a "sliding scale"
for payment and the completion of a "fee
the exception of some dyadic therapy sessions, the mother saw
through all designated treatment. In early 2017, in
recognition of the mother's progress in complying with
the assigned therapy, the trial court converted her
therapeutic visitation with the children to supervised
visitation. By the end of the same year, the mother
had duly attended forty-eight individual therapy sessions and
exhibited improvement after undergoing several dyadic therapy
sessions. On all accounts, she was successfully progressing
with her required case plan.
2018, the mother lost her employment and was served with an
eviction notice. Despite reasonable efforts, she was unable
to obtain local employment that was sufficiently remunerative
to allow her to satisfy monthly rent for a housing unit that
would accommodate the children. She initially concealed her
dire financial situation from the Department, but eventually
requested assistance. Her case manager did not make temporary
emergency arrangements, but instead provided her with a list
of homeless shelters. Upon inquiry at the shelters, she was
informed the shelters were at full capacity. The mother
expended efforts to exercise court-ordered supervised
visitation, however, the geographic placement of the
children, along with restrictions on telephonic contact and
hours of visitation, imposed by the caregivers, impeded
informing the children, the mother relocated to North
Carolina, and began working for a division of Goodwill
Industries International, Inc. The ensuing wages she earned were
woefully insufficient to propel her above the federal poverty
level. After less than two months, she again relocated, this
time to Kentucky, to accept an employment offer at Amazon.
There, she would earn a significantly higher salary. The
mother moved into the home of her brother and sister-in-law
and began paying an affordable rent. In Kentucky, the
mother's attempts at maintaining telephonic ...