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Child Advocacy Blog


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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Florida Foster Child Abuse Attorney to Florida Legislature: Cut Bad Group Homes, Boost Child Placement Choices

November 20th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Commentary

Fort Lauderdale foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld this week wrote an editorial on privatization of Florida’s child welfare system. He summarized how contracting of such services by the Florida Department of Children and Families to such lead agencies like ChildNet and Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc., ostensibly to cut costs, actually results in higher costs, while introducing dangerous, substandard child placements.

The result has been higher costs, poor placements, and long-term issues for children in the system. If passed, legislation now before the Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee headed by Sen. Eleanor Sobel and supported by Sen. Nancy Detert, would create stability and safety for foster children by pursuing the best possible placement opportunity.

Read the entire editorial here.

Florida Foster Child Adopted by Forever Family at 26

November 18th, 2015   No Comments   Commentary

During the holiday season, foster child abuse attorneys who represent kids who suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other personal injuries know it can be difficult to find foster children whose stories have happy endings. The life of Florida foster child Tyrone Burns Smith is just such a story. His life could have gone any number of ways. Shuttled between more than a dozen foster and group homes, he always hoped to find his forever family. Though he wasn’t the victim of foster child abuse, being moved about left Burns Smith worried he’d never find his forever home.

But he did. At 15, he was placed with Ann Marie and Peter Smith, foster parents to Tyrone’s two siblings. Then, earlier this year, Burns Smith, now 26, finally found what he was ultimately looking for: his forever family. The man, who works as a mechanic for Disney in Central Florida, was legally adopted by the Smith family. He earned their love early on and now has their name.

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Child Abuse Attorney: Will DCF Chief’s Admitting Failure in 2 Cases Lead to Improved Care?

As Florida’s child advocates and attorneys who fight for the rights of kids who suffer child abuse, sexual abuse and other physical personal injury mourn the finding of the bodies of two children in recent days, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll had an admission. The Florida DCF chief admitted this week that Florida’s child-protection system failed in both cases.

Speaking to the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, Carroll said that in both the case of 2-month-old Chance Walsh and 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, who was found to be missing for more than a year when authorities sought to remove five kids from their mother’s home, the agency could have done more.

A call to a child abuse hotline regarding Walsh was dismissed by a hotline counselor. The discovery of a body in a freezer is suspected of being that of Thomas. The autopsy is not yet complete. Read more here.

While Carroll’s admission is laudable, children under the watch for suspected child abuse or sex abuse still are slipping through the cracks. It’s similar to the case of Phoebe Jonchuk, whose father was accused of dropping her from a bridge into Tampa Bay. The man’s attorney reportedly had called the abuse hotline warning of potential harm. Still, she died.

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Florida’s Children First to Host Palm Beach Fundraiser, Awards For Foster Kids, Child Abuse Advocates

October 22nd, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Florida’s Children First (FCF) will recognize Palm Beach County individuals for their tireless efforts to advocate for the state’s most vulnerable citizens at its annual Palm Beach Reception on Oct. 28 at the National Croquet Center Point Club in West Palm Beach. FCF is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting abused foster children and other at-risk youth. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Register and learn more at Florida’s Children First.

Dozens of Palm Beach County’s prominent business and community leaders, as well as people concerned about the future of Florida’s children, especially abused, abandoned and neglected children and youth, will be in attendance. Read more here.

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Fort Lauderdale Child Abuse Attorney Discusses Fixing Foster Care System

October 11th, 2015   No Comments   Advocacy, JusticeForKids.us

Howard Talenfeld, the leading child advocacy attorney who fights for the rights of children who suffer sexual abuse, child abuse, and other harm and personal injury, recently was interviewed on Viewpoints Radio regarding changes to Florida’s child welfare system. In a tweet, Viewpoints posted:  talks about how we can improve and strengthen the system .

Discussing the topic, Foster Care: How Can We Make the System Better for All?,” the discussion explored, “When a child is placed in foster care, she’s already been through the traumatic experience of being removed from her family’s care, and now faces an uncertain future in a new home – sometimes worse than the one she left. We discuss the successes and failures of the system and hear about what can be done to strengthen it so that children receive the best care available, foster families get the support they need to help a child with the transition, and caseworkers receive the support they need to do their jobs.”

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Florida’s Children First to Host Jacksonville Awards & Reception

Florida’s Children First, the state’s advocacy organization for foster kids and those at risk of child abuse, sexual abuse, and personal injury, will hold its Northeast Florida / Jacksonville Child Advocacy Awards & Reception. Attended by attorneys, lawmakers and business leaders, the event will be held on Thursday, November 12th, 2015, from 5:30 pm- 7:30pm, at The Haskell Building (111 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, 34236). Register here. Learn more by downloading the flyer.

At Florida’s Children First, we believe that all children have the right to food, clothing, housing, education, medical care, property and personal privacy. Most children have parents who take care of their needs and protect their rights. But thousands of children in Florida rely on state agencies to meet some or all of their needs. FCF exists to protect the rights of those children.

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Advocates Wonder How 5 Foster Kids Walk Out of Children’s Home Society

October 3rd, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Five children have been found safe after walking out of their Cutler Bay foster home. The siblings — ages 16, 14, 13, 6 and 5 — were under the care of the Children’s Home Society in the Miami suburb of Cutler Ridge. They later were found in Florida City. Reportedly, their case manager was unaware when they left the facility.

Foster child abuse attorneys and lawyers who fight for the rights and to prevent abuse, harm, sexual abuse and personal injury to the state’s at-risk children are closely watching how the state Department of Children and Families handles the fallout of this case.

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Foster Child Abuse Advocacy Group Wins State Bar Award

Florida’s Children First, the pioneering advocacy organization that fights for foster children and others who have been physically abused, neglected, injured, and victims of sexual abuse, was named the the 2015 recipient of The Florida Bar Foundation’s Paul C. Doyle Children’s Advocacy Award.

Founded by leading foster child advocacy attorney and foster child personal injury attorney Howard Talenfeld, Florida’s Children First, with the support from a Florida Bar Foundation Children’s Legal Services grant, advocated successfully for passage of the 2014 legislation, which provides attorneys to protect dependent children with special needs who are in the state custody. The Florida Legislature also appropriated $4.5 million in 2014 to fund attorneys to represent these at-risk children. The bills were sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Erik Fresen.

Established in 2013 in honor of Doyle, the Foundation’s longtime grant program director, the award recognizes and encourages systemic legal advocacy on behalf of low-income children by Florida Bar Foundation grantees. Florida’s Children First received the award June 25 at the Foundation’s 39th Annual Reception and Dinner in Boca Raton for its Counsel for Dependent Children with Special Needs Project.

Talenfeld, a leading children’s rights attorney, called the legislation historic when it was passed last year.  Florida’s Children First will work to ensure continued funding, a top priority following a $2.2 million appropriation in 2015.

“These children need all the additional protections they can get,” Talenfeld said.

Pope Francis: Child Sexual Abuse Victims Will Be Heard, Clergy Dealt With

September 28th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Sexual Abuse

In a week when Pope Francis addressed a number of controversial topics, none was more so than the subject of child sexual abuse by the Catholic priests and clergy. Every Florida child abuse personal injury attorney and child protection advocates from around the country are watching closely to see how the Pope lives up to his promises made during public meetings and private statements.

He met and prayed this week with victims and families who suffered sexual abuse. And he spoke publicly to church leaders and others about how the church will handle the matter going forward.

“God weeps” was his public statement about the long-held suffering. He also said that those priests and bishops who abused children or covered up the crimes would be held accountable.

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Foster Child Abuse Attorney: Psychotropics and Kids Wrong Mix

The 2009 death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, an abused foster child found hanging from a shower fixture in his foster home in Margate, Florida, shone a bright light on the state’s policy of allowing doctors to prescribe psychotropic drugs on foster kids. His suicide was a horrible tragedy – one that led to outrage and supposed reform. Six years later, advocates and attorneys who fight for the rights of foster children who suffer child abuse, sexual abuse, and other physical and personal injury have discovered little has changed.

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)The same “black box” medications Gabriel had received, even though they were intended for adults, at the time were part of a list the Department of Children and Families found were given to 16 percent of cases where foster kids were medicated – often without the consent of a parent or judge.

Despite all this, the practice continues. The preliminary report from the researchers with Florida’s child-protection system revealed that 11 percent of foster kids today are prescribed these psychotropic medications without caregivers following proper procedures, according to the Florida Institute on Child Welfare at Florida State University.

That’s 2,434 of 21,899 children who had open prescriptions for at least one psychotropic drug. Further, of 140 of the children’s files reviewed, only one in five met the requirements for administering psychotropic medications, often with consent forms that were completed late – if they were completed at all.

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Attorneys, Advocates for Child Abuse Victims Gather for FCF Awards

September 22nd, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Florida's Children First

This week, child advocates, attorneys who fight for abused, neglected, and injured children, business leaders, and others interested in protecting Florida’s foster children from sexual abuse, physical neglect, and other personal injury, gathered for the annual Orlando fundraiser for Florida’s Children First (FCF). The event was held Sept. 17.

Founded by Howard Talenfeld, the state’s premier child abuse personal injury attorney, the preeminent statewide advocacy organization FCF honored child advocates in Orlando 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, gathered to laud Child Advocate of the Year, Melissa Landry.

Ms. Landry is not only Guardian ad Litem volunteer, but she is a true child advocate. Ms. Landry’s commitment to children is more than a personal decision, it is a family affair. Ms. Landry and her mother Brenda have both been Guardians ad Litem for more than six years and went through training at the same time.

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Fort Lauderdale Child Abuse Attorney Recognized for Career Spent Helping Neglected Kids

September 17th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, News & Events

Throughout her career, Stacie Schmerling, a lawyer and partner with Fort Lauderdale foster child abuse law firm Talenfeld Law, has pursued the child advocacy and protection. Now, Stacie has rightfully been recognized by one of South Florida’s leading legal and professional publications for her accomplishments.

STACIEThe Daily Business Review recognized Stacie as a “Rising Star,” making her one of 40 Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county civil practitioners and law firm partners who hold leadership or mentoring positions within their firms and have advocated for their clients. In Stacie’s case, those clients have included children physically abused, sexually abused, neglected, or injured while under the care of or known to be at risk by state social services organizations.

Her story in the DBR begins below. We applaud Stacie for her successes. Honestly, though, the praise she’s receiving from the DBR is something her partners, peers, and clients have realized for years.

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