The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

Individuals with mental illnesses can voluntarily seek help through the Baker Act in Florida if they are suffering from their mental illness and feel that they need medical intervention, but many are unaware that of the juvenile Baker Act in Florida and the way it works.

The Baker Act was created for two reasons (1) to protect the public from individuals suffering from their mental illness to an extent where they become dangerous to others and (2) to protect individuals from themselves when they are suffering from their mental illness to an extent where they aren’t taking care of themselves or want to harm themselves.

So often parents have questions during this time of fear, shame, and unknown territory. Here are some answers on what you need to know about Juvenile Baker Acts in Florida.


Consent for Admission and Treatment of Minors

There are only a few distinctions between adult and juvenile Baker Acts. Those distinctions exist in the realm of consenting to the admission and treatment of minors. A person is considered a minor if they are under the age of 18 and have not been married or emancipated. Minors are not able to consent to their own inpatient placement because they are presumed to be legally incompetent as a result of their age and immaturity. A guardian must consent to a minor’s inpatient placement in a mental health facility.

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A minor’s guardian is their natural or adoptive parent or another legal custodian. All reasonable attempts should be made to obtain consent for any treatment from the minor’s guardian. If the minor’s guardian cannot be reached after reasonable efforts, and the minor has not been committed to the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Juvenile Justice, the following people, in order of priority, may consent to the minor’s medical care and treatment: a power of attorney, stepparent, grandparent, adult brother/sister or an adult aunt/uncle.

The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

The medical care and treatment these individuals can consent to includes ordinary and necessary medical or dental examinations and treatment but does not include surgery, general anesthesia, psychotropic medications, or other extraordinary procedures. In regards to the juvenile Baker Act in Florida, a minor’s guardian has to be informed of all actions taken as soon as possible after the medical care and treatment are administered.

A minor’s guardian retains the right to consent to or decline treatment of a minor taken into state care through dependency proceedings until their parental or guardianship rights have been terminated. If a minor’s guardian cannot be reached or their whereabouts are unknown, and it is after normal working hours so that a court order cannot be obtained, an authorized agent of the department may consent to necessary medical treatment.

If a minor’s guardian is able to be reached and refuses to consent to necessary treatment, the juvenile Baker Act in Florida requires that a court order is required to provide such treatment unless it is an emergency or the treatment needed is related to suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect of the minor by a parent, guardian or caregiver.

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If a minor is committed to the custody of the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Juvenile Justice, and their guardian cannot be reached to consent to treatment and has not refused to consent to treatment, the Department of Children and Families, Department of Juvenile Justice caseworker, juvenile probation officer, the person primarily responsible for case management of the minor or administrators of any facility licensed by the department or state-operated/state-contracted delinquency residential treatment facility may consent to the minors medical care and treatment.

The minor’s guardian has to be informed of all actions taken as soon as possible after the medical care and treatment are provided in accordance with the Baker Act in Florida. 

Juvenile Baker Act in Florida: Voluntariness of Consent to Admission Into Receiving Facility

Prior to voluntary admission in a Baker Act Receiving Facility, there must be a hearing to verify the voluntariness of the guardian’s consent to observation, diagnosis, and treatment of the minor. Every person that enters a receiving facility must be asked if they want to give express and informed consent for admission and treatment. If that person is a minor, express and informed consent must come from the guardian as well.

The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

The Baker Act in Florida requires that a receiving facility fulfill certain requirements. In Florida, the facility is designated by the Department of Children and Families to care for people who are subject to the Baker Act. These facilities have psychiatrists, nurses, and staff with special training which qualifies them to handle Baker Act cases. There are strict requirements of the receiving facility under the Baker Act as a person’s individual right to liberty is affected by the initiation of a Baker Act. Additionally, every person subjected to the Baker Act must be fully informed of their individual rights upon admission.

Placement of Minors Within the Baker Act Receiving Facility

A minor between the ages of 14 and 17 can be admitted and treated in a mental health unit and share a bed with adults if the doctor documents that such placement is necessary for that youth’s treatment or for safety purposes. If those reasons are not documented, the minor must be placed in a unit with only juveniles. Any minor under the age of 14 may only be housed with other minors. In addition, minors cannot share common areas with adults unless they are under direct visual observation by staff.

Treatment of Minors:

A minor’s guardian must consent to any psychotropic treatment (inside of a facility in accordance with the Baker Act in Florida) including the administration of medication. A minor cannot consent to take medication on their own. If the youth is in the care and custody of the Department of Children and Families, all reasonable efforts should be made to obtain parental consent for medication treatment.

If the parental rights have been terminated, the parent’s location is unknown and cannot be ascertained, or the parent declines to give consent, the Department of Children and Families may seek court authorization to provide the medication to the child after consulting with the prescribing physician.

The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

The minor’s parents should continue to be involved in making medication decisions unless their rights have been terminated or they cannot be reached after all reasonable efforts have been made. A minor can be given psychotropic medications before a court order or parental authorization in a mental health hospital or crisis stabilization unit or if the prescribing physician certifies in writing that delay in providing the medication would more likely than not cause harm to the minor. However, the juvenile Baker Act in Florida requires that a medical report and motion must be filed within 3 business days of the medication is first administered.

Read More: The Bleak Reality of Having a Juvenile Record

If a minor is already prescribed medication and it is a current prescription, the Department of Children and Families may take the remainder of that prescription to give to the youth even against a parent’s objection. The Department of Children and Families just has to inform the parent that the child will continue receiving the medication and will need to document the reasons the medicine is necessary for the child’s well-being in the minor’s records. The Department of Children and Families must seek authorization from a court to have a new prescription prescribed or a prescription refilled before they can administer the medication to a minor.

Minors Seeking Outpatient Crisis Intervention Services:

When any minor 13 years of age or older experiences an emotional crisis to such an extent that they believe medical intervention is needed, they may seek outpatient crisis intervention services without the express and informed consent of their guardian. These services include outpatient diagnosis and evaluation and outpatient crisis intervention, therapy, and counseling.

Minors 13 years or older must be permitted to request, consent to, and receive mental health diagnostic and evaluative services from a licensed mental health professional to determine the severity of their mental health and the potential for harm to the minor or another person.  These minors must also be permitted to request, consent to, and receive outpatient crisis intervention services such as psychotherapy, group therapy, counseling, or other forms of verbal therapy provided by licensed mental health professionals.

The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

However, these outpatient services cannot include medication or other forms of medical intervention without the consent of a guardian. Additionally, each form of outpatient service can only be sought twice within any one-week period of time without the consent of a guardian. The minor’s guardian shall not be responsible for payment for these outpatient diagnostic services unless they consented to or participated in the treatment.

The mental health professionals providing this service do so on a voluntary basis and cannot be forced to provide such services, so it is important to ensure that the minor is seeking treatment through a doctor who offers the service. The safest way to ensure the treating physician offers this service is to go to receiving facility.

The Baker Act in Florida and Involuntary Inpatient Placement:

An Involuntary Baker Act in Florida can be initiated in three ways: (1) by a person’s doctor or clinician; (2) by law enforcement; or (3) by an ex parte order often requested by a concerned family member or friend. The Baker Act can be initiated based upon personal observations or the reports of others with specific instances that make the reporting parties believe the person is a danger to themselves or others.

A doctor or clinician will typically initiate a Baker Act in Florida based upon personal observations made while they are meeting with the person. Law enforcement typically relies upon the reports of others that the person is acting in a way that makes them a danger to themselves or others.

The reason for law enforcement officers’ reliance on another person’s knowledge or observations is because they are called to the scene after the person has acted in a way that made another person believe a danger was present.

An ex parte order is also typically achieved by the judge receiving supporting information from the family member or friend that initiated the ex parte proceeding. Law enforcement is involved in all three circumstances as they are responsible for transporting individuals to Baker Act Receiving Facilities upon initiation of an involuntary Baker Act in Florida.

The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters

When a person is Baker Acted on an involuntary basis, two psychiatrists must evaluate the person within seventy-two (72) hours to determine if the person meets Baker Act Criteria. The psychiatrists are looking for key details in their evaluation. The psychiatrists have to find that the person has a mental illness, and due to that mental illness, they are a current danger to themselves or others or at risk of self-neglect and do not appreciate the need for treatment.

There also has to be no less restrictive alternatives for placement such as living with a family member or friend that can help the person survive safely on their own. If the two psychiatrists believe the person is a danger to themselves or others, they file a petition for Involuntary Inpatient Placement to have a hearing within five (5) business days.

A list of Baker Act Receiving Facilities can be found here.

If a person or their family feels that they are no longer a danger to themselves or others, and the doctor has not discharged them, they can file a document called a writ of habeas corpus with the court. This document triggers the court to review the case and set a hearing if an adequate factual foundation has been laid for the court to believe the doctors need to justify retaining the person for a longer period of time.

A person may also reach out to the lawyer who assisted them in their original Baker Act proceeding for assistance. That lawyer may either assist in filling out the form Habeas Corpus or may go the extra mile and draft one for the individual. Often, which step the lawyer will take is based upon the weight of the argument and supporting facts which they can obtain by requesting the person’s clinical file.


The juvenile Baker Act in Florida is meant to be short-term to assist a person in regulating their medicine so they can survive safely on their own. How long a person is Baker Acted depends on how long the individual has been unstable on their medicine or completely off their medicine. It can take anywhere from a week to six months or more in extreme cases.

There is a strict protocol within the Baker Act in Florida regarding the discharge of a person from an involuntary Baker Act. The moment a doctor or court finds that the person is no longer a danger to themselves or others, they have to be discharged from the receiving facility unless they wish to remain in the facility voluntarily.

Mental illness and mental health are serious concerns with our teens today. As a parent, being aware and being informed are the best options for raising a safe and healthy child.

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The Juvenile Baker Act In Florida: Navigating Tricky Waters
SOURCES: Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, University of South Florida. “Baker Act. The Florida Mental Health Act. User Reference Guide.” 2014
MyFLFamilies.com
Florida Statutes Sections 394.4625, 394.467
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