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Could Florida parents lose custody over poverty?

When children are found living in extreme poverty or are homeless, the authorities often get involved. For some Florida families, that can mean losing custody of their kids until they are able to improve their living circumstances. An example is found in a West Coast case in which two parents were jailed and three children removed from their custody after authorities discovered the family living in what amounts to a shack in the desert.

Authorities arrived at the property, which is owned by the parents, to investigate an unrelated matter. They discovered the family of five living in a one room shack with no electricity or running water. There were reports of piles of garbage and human feces spread throughout the property. As a result, the parents were taken into custody and the children placed into the county's child protective services department.

The parents are fighting to have their kids returned to their care. They argue that they are simply trying to survive on a very limited income, and that they provide plenty of food, water, clothing and shelter for their children. Community members have rallied around the family, and are trying to help them gain access to resources that will improve their living conditions.

In cases such as this, whether in Florida or elsewhere, the courts are faced with a difficult task. They must balance parental rights with the best interests of the children involved. At times, that means making a judgment that may be unpopular or controversial. In this case, community support may be sufficient to bring this family's standard of living up to an acceptable level, allowing for the return of their children.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Joshua Tree couple are released from jail but still face child abuse charges", Paloma Esquivel, March 6, 2018

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