Kim and Gerard Campanella of Port Charlotte, Florida have been acting as foster parents for a twenty one month old toddler since she was five months old. The Campanellas recently received a phone call from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), informing them that the girl was to be sent to live with a distant relative in Michigan.
Kim Campanella believed that the sudden change in custody would not be in the best interest of the child, and spent several hours researching her hunch on the internet. She found a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics saying that separating a child from its caregivers after six months of age can result in emotional disturbances later in life. Complicating the issue is the fact that the child’s birth mother called the Campanellas several months ago to ask them if they were willing to adopt the child.
The Campanellas made an unusual decision; they decided to hire an attorney and fight the Department of Children and Families’ decision. The move is unusual because foster parents in Florida are required to sign documents stating that they will not take legal action to keep a child they are caring for. According to a DCF spokesperson, the state only requests that foster parents not hire an attorney, and they are legally entitled to do so if they wish.
A judge has agreed with the Campanellas, finding that they are at least equally qualified to care for the child as the distant relative, and possibly more qualified due to the bonding they have had with the child. The judge has blocked the removal of the child from the Campanellas’ home. Find out more about this foster family’s fight to stay together at Southwest Florida foster couple fight for toddler.