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Foster Children Immunization Ruling Overturned

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Siding with a woman whose children were placed in foster care, an appeals court Friday said the Florida Department of Children and Families cannot provide immunizations to the children over the mother’s objections. 

The 15-page decision by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the children, ages 2 and 4, were placed in a foster home in May and that the department went to court seeking authorization to provide immunizations to them.

The mother objected because of her religious beliefs. The department argued that the immunizations were needed for the children’s medical care, to allow them to enroll in daycare and to remain in a licensed foster home, the ruling said.

A Collier County circuit judge authorized the immunizations, but the order was placed on hold while the appeals court reviewed the case. Friday’s ruling overturned the circuit judge’s decision, taking issue with the department’s explanations and citing a state law that allows parents to prevent their children from being immunized on religious grounds.

“To the extent that a parent has a right to keep her children from being vaccinated, even when they are temporarily in the custody of the department and a foster family, there would be material injury to the parent if the children were to be vaccinated because the vaccinations cannot be undone,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Morris Silberman and joined by judges Robert Morris and John Badalamenti.

The Southwest Florida mother was identified in the ruling only by the initials N.C. The ruling also did not explain the circumstances that led to her children being placed in foster care.