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Child Advocacy Blog


Peers Mourn Loss of Florida’s Leading Child Advocate, Foster Child Abuse Attorney

February 27th, 2015   No Comments   Adoption, Commentary

gloria_fletcherAs an attorney, Gloria W. Fletcher was the staunchest advocate for her clients. As a champion for the children, she was one of Florida’s great child advocates. Though a formidable, tenacious criminal defense attorney for her clients, including many law enforcement personnel, Gloria arguably had her greatest impact on the lives of children. From the streets of Gainesville, to the federal and state courts of Florida, to the halls of the Florida Legislature and even the governor’s office, she was a force to be reckoned with when arguing on behalf of the state’s neediest children. That was where many knew her best. With her passing this week, that’s where many will miss her most.

Gloria for years served as Vice President and an active board member of Florida’s Children First, a statewide child advocacy organization, where she pressed for foster children to have attorneys. With her relationships in the capital and her unwillingness to take “No” for an answer, she pursued key legislation from sponsors through committees straight to the governor’s desk.

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Welcome to Florida Child Advocate

October 17th, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Adoption, Advocacy

(Scroll Beyond This Introduction to Read the Latest Blog Post)

Thousands of foster children, former foster children, developmentally disabled and medically needy children are part of the Florida child care system. If you’re currently or formerly a child in – or an advocate for or parent of a child in the foster care system, Florida Child Advocate is here to help.

Every year, thousands of foster children, medically needy children, or those physically abused, sexually abused, the victims of personal injury,  legal damages, and pain and suffering are left to seek solutions on their own. No child should go through this on his or her own. And for the almost 500 who have died while under state watch, they deserved better.

This site was created by the law firm of Talenfeld Law, which was founded by nationally known Florida child advocate Howard Talenfeld, the preeminent children’s rights attorneys focusing exclusively on protecting the rights of physically and sexually abused children, developmentally disabled children and other at-risk children. Florida Child Advocate is dedicated to protecting children and addressing key issues facing those with foster care, physical abuse, child sexual abuse, social services, dependency, disability or personal injury and damages claims or lawsuits against the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), lead agencies, community based care providers, and other child welfare providers.

We believe that children belong with their own families. However, we also believe that when protective investigations by the Florida DCF and its agencies reveal that children are at high risk of neglect, child sex abuse or physical abuse by their parents, they must be placed with suitable relatives when they are available, and if not, some children must be placed in foster care. Critically, if children are going to be taken into foster care, they should be protected by the Florida Department of Children & Families and their community partners from the risk of physical and sexual abuse and returned home or placed in loving and nurturing adoptive families as quickly as possible. Topics also include the rights of foster Children to be safe from harm in care, their right to medical, psychological care, and disability benefits, their educational rights, and their rights on the road to independence.

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New Times: Boy Sues Community Firms, State Agency for Failing to Vet Foster Parent

For want of a criminal and personal background check, a young child was allegedly sexually abused by a foster parent after being placed in the man’s care by contracted providers, welfare providers Kids in Distress Inc. and ChildNet Inc. The two companies were hired by the Florida Department of Children and Families to vet foster parents and place children. Instead, all three – as well as the foster parent, whom the child claims sexually abused him.

“According to the lawsuit, the child — identified only as R.S. — claims 56-year-old John Michael McGuigan of Broward County sexually abused him while the child was under his care. But the lawsuit says there were multiple glaring red flags the agencies failed to see when McGuigan applied to become a Florida foster parent in 2008,” writes Broward New Times.

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WFOR-TV News: ‘Broward County Florida Foster Child is Suing the Agency That Was Supposed to Protect Him’

May 8th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Florida foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld holds a press conference after filing a lawsuit on behalf of a foster child who claims he was groomed and sexually abused by an alleged known child molester-turned-foster parent. The lawsuit was filed against the alleged abuser and child welfare providers Kids In Distress, Inc., and ChildNet, Inc., in Broward County, Florida, circuit court.

The suit alleges the private child welfare agencies failed to appropriately conduct standard background checks before granting the defendant a foster parent license.

In the lawsuit, the child, R.S., claims he was subjected to sexual abuse by defendant Michael McGuigan, allegedly a known child molester. Other defendants Kids In Distress and ChildNet are private companies contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to implement and oversee child safety, welfare and foster placement services. The case was filed in Broward County Circuit Court on behalf of R.S. by his next friend, David Bazerman.

“Child advocate and attorney Howard Talenfeld says Kids In Distress failed to protect a foster child that he says was molested,” the reporter comments. “In a lawsuit filed against the agencies which are contracted to provide child welfare services in Broward County, he says the foster parents had been investigated by police agencies for abuse but whenever charged.”

Serious Red Flags Missed in Death of Hollywood Boy: Florida Child Abuse Lawyer

South Florida child abuse attorney and child sexual abuse lawyer Howard Talenfeld was interviewed this week on CBS News regarding the case of 3-year-old Ahziya Osceola. The Seminole Indian boy was discovered abused and dead in his Hollywood home after his family had reported him missing. Now, charges have been filed against his father and stepmother – and questions have been raised about how child protective service providers CHildNet, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families failed to communicate with one another to ensure Ahziya was safe.

As was made clear in the reporting and Talenfeld’s interview, Ahziya’s case was well known by various organizations. But the sharing of information critical to ensuring his safety was “inconsistent and insufficient.”

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A Sad Refrain: Broward’s Privatized Child Abuse System Does Not Protect Abused Children

It’s becoming an all too common refrain in Florida. Gabriel Myers, Tamiya Audain, Antwone Hope and now Ahzia Osceola, each slipped through the cracks of Broward’s Child welfare system and died.

A child dies or suffers serious child abuse, sexual abuse or neglect at the hands of his parents, guardians or caregivers. Once the Department of Children and Families launches its investigation, it’s discovered that the child was known to be at risk by ChildNet, Broward child investigators, and many others, but little to nothing was done to protect the child.

This sad refrain has come true again in the case of 3-year-old Ahziya Osceola. Though abuse investigators with the Broward Sheriff’s Office saw the signs of repeated abuse – bumps, bruises, fingerprints, scratches and abrasions on little Ahziya’s body – they failed to act or even acknowledge the “a pattern of repeat injuries” outlined in a report released this week by the Department of Children and Families.

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South Florida Child Abuse Lawyer: Society Must Do Better Than Letting Children Suffer in Closet

Imagine living life locked in a closet, deprived of food, medical care, even the use of a bathroom. Now imagine being a child or young teen suffering such child abuse and neglect. This tale emerged as police in Palm Beach County arrested a couple who kept their two children, now ages 12 and 17, locked up in a closet. No matter how much attention child advocates and foster child abuse attorneys try to focus on the harm and horrors inflicted on our children, the abuse and neglect continue.

In this case, police say the children would be locked in the closet in their Riviera Beach home for days on end, and nobody would notice they were missing. One child eventually was able to escape and reach a friend.

Police have arrested Quincy Hazel Sr., and Sabrina Golden-Hazel, both 44, accusing them of depriving the children of medical care and food for years. They’re accused of neglect of a child causing great bodily harm and both were in the Palm Beach County Jail on $100,000 bail. Still, police are unsure if the couple were the children’s parents.

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Florida Foster Child Abuse Lawyer Earns Top Rating from Peers for 29th Consecutive Year

April 13th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, News & Events

Fort Lauderdale attorney Howard Talenfeld has been designated a AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. The rating attest to Talenfeld’s legal ability and professional ethics based on the opinions of other lawyers, client review ratings, self-reported professional credentials and other fact-based performance data.

Talenfeld is Florida’s premier foster child advocacy, child abuse and sexual abuse attorney exclusively representing children who have been harmed while under the care or watch of child welfare agencies or state-contracted childcare organizations.

He today is managing partner of Talenfeld Law Group LLC, a Fort Lauderdale-based firm protecting the rights of abused, neglected and disabled children.

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Lauren’s Kids Report: Child Sexual Abuse Costs Florida Billions of Dollars

March 11th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, News & Events

Florida child sexual abuse attorneys and advocates who work to protect victims of abuse know the costs of such harm go far beyond what’s typically reported. Child sexual abuse is a billion-dollar drain on Florida’s economy. It’s cost is immeasurable to the health, welfare and well-being of Florida’s children who are victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse.

A recent study, from child sexual abuse awareness organization Lauren’s Kids, found that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys have experienced or will experience child sexual abuse (CSA). The numbers are far too high, and society must do far more to help lower the numbers – and protect children.

According to the report, “children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13, yet most cases of child sexual abuse go unreported.” In Florida alone in 2012, 67,087 cases of child abuse and maltreatment were investigated. It is believed that countless more instances of such abuse were unreported. For the state’s 205,000 third graders alone, for example, upward of 31,000 will become victims.

The figure is astronomical, heartbreaking and economically devastating for victims and their families.

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Florida Child Abuse Attorney: News Stories Reveal Foster Care Privatization Experiment Failing Nationwide

March 7th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Court Cases

Among Florida foster child abuse attorneys and child advocates from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to throughout the state, it’s no secret that the Florida Department of Children and Family’s experiment in privatization of child welfare services has been a failure. Hundreds of children, many known to DCF officials to be at risk, have died at the hands of caregivers while agency supervisors or employees stood by. Many others suffered horrible sexual abuse, physical abuse or emotional trauma.

Now, a recent study reveals the failed experiment of privatization of child welfare stretches nationwide.

In its investigative report, Fostering Profits, online news organization BuzzFeed News identified sex abuse and blunders in screening, training, and overseeing foster parents at the nation’s largest for-profit foster care company.

Court documents revealed that abuse at one facility contracted by National Mentor Holdings resulted in “blunders in screening, training, and overseeing its foster parents” were “not limited to a few tragic cases but are widespread.”

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In Florida and US, Child Welfare Privatization is a Failed National Experiment

Florida’s child welfare experiment in the privatization of child care and oversight has proven to be a failure. Children suffer sexual abuse, physical harm, and – as a Miami Herald expose revealed – death, even of those children known by the Florida Department of Children and Families to be at risk. As attorneys and lawyers for at-risk children in the child welfare system know, no data supports the cause of privatization. And Florida is not alone.

Talenfeld - Alexendria HillIn a sad tale of child abuse and capital murder similar to some of those we’ve witnessed in Florida, 2-year-old Alexandria Hill of Texas died in 2013 at the hands of a foster parent hired to care for her by a company hired, in turn, by the state to oversee her care. Read her story here.

The story, “The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill,” reports that Alex was removed from her parents, in part, because the father admitted to smoking marijuana after he put her to bed in the evening. She was placed with a former crack addict and an out-of-work bus driver, the article claims, paid by a billion-dollar contractor just over $44 a day to be “mentors” to two foster children.

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Child Advocacy Group Florida’s Children First to Host Broward Fundraiser, Advocate Awards

Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier advocacy organization for at-risk children, will host the Florida’s Children First 2015 Broward Reception tonight – Thursday, February 26 – from 5:30-7:30PM at the Riverside Hotel (620 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301). The organization will honor child advocates in Broward at its annual fundraising and awards event. Community and business leaders, and all other persons concerned about the future of Florida’s children, especially abused, abandoned and neglected children and youth, will be in attendance.

Among those being honored this year are Child Advocate of the Year Senator Eleanor Sobel; Corporate Partner of the Year G4S; and Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Counsel of the Year Stacie Schmerling. The Youth Advocate of the Year is Lamont Dennis.

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Domestic Violence Must Join Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse as Red Flags in DCF Cases

Any child advocate or child abuse attorney who fights to protect children from child abuse or other harm knows the confluence of domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness create a toxic cocktail that can place children in harm’s way. Little Phoebe Jonchuck, 5, reportedly was surrounded by all three. She no doubt knew the horrors. Problem is, those who are paid to protect children like Phoebe missed the signs.

Word that John Jonchuck, the father who allegedly threw his daughter off a bridge into Tampa Bay in January, reportedly had been cited for alleged domestic violence, battery and stalking raises yet another red flag in the case of Phoebe.

Sadly, though his history was known, it didn’t sound alarms among officials at the Florida Department of Children and Families or those who granted Jonchuck custody of his daughter. One child advocate called hers “a preventable death.”

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