Democratic Sen. Lauren Book says a Court of Appeals panel made the right call upholding a 2014 law expanding officials’ ability to terminate parental rights in child abuse cases.
Book, a survivor of child sexual abuse herself, pushed for that legislation before joining the Senate.
The 2014 law was used to take away four children from a woman — who the court identified as “V.S.” — after officials found evidence she abused one of those children. Lawmakers added language to the state statute, reading, “Proof of a nexus between egregious conduct to a child and the potential harm to the child’s sibling is not required” for parental rights to be terminated.
After V.S. lost her four kids, she sued, arguing the language was unconstitutional and that no threat to the other children existed. Wednesday, the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected that constitutional challenge, upholding the law.
“I applaud the 4th District Court of Appeal’s ruling, which provides protections for vulnerable children against known predators and abusers,” Book said Thursday in a Thursday.
“Ninety percent of the time a child is harmed, it’s at the hands of someone they know and trust. When a parent displays an ability to cause unthinkable harm to a child in the form of physical or sexual assault, that person has turned from protector to abuser. Children’s well-being must be safeguarded above all else — even at the expense of parental rights.”
Thursday’s ruling was 2-1 among the three-judge panel. As explained by The News Service of Florida, Judge Martha Warner dissented. She argued the law “violates a parent’s fundamental right to parent by relieving the state of its burden to show that the parent poses a substantial risk of harm to a child, simply by proving an act of egregious conduct toward a sibling.”
The case is being sent back to the circuit court to review the decision to revoke custody. But Wednesday’s ruling did preserve the constitutionality of the 2014 law.
Book founded Lauren’s Kids before running for office. That organization helps provide resources to survivors of child sexual abuse.