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Welcome to Florida Child Advocate

February 4th, 2018   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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Foster children are being sent to out-of-state mental health facilities where they are abandoned, abused, and sexually assaulted.

April 16th, 2021   No Comments   Abuse

A last resort procedure available to child welfare officials is sending foster children to out-of-state mental health institutions. Usually, these fragile children suffer from severe medical and psychiatric disorders that require specialized care. However, officials have been abusing this option, especially in Illinois, by using it far too often and then ignoring these children when they suffer physical and sexual abuse by other residents or facility employees. Although police and facility employees have documented instances of harm, far too often state officials fail to intervene and help these vulnerable youth.

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Father Known to DCF Who Abused, Neglected and Starved Toddler to Death Takes Plea, Gets 20-year Sentence

Five months after his wife, Kristen Meyer, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the death of their infant daughter, Alejandro Aleman pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a child and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, as reported by CBS 12.

This issue arises from terrible circumstances that took place in Palm Beach County back in 2016.  Alejandro and his wife had 10 children at the time and kept them all in “deplorable” living conditions.  Investigators discovered a home with mildew, insects, and feces smeared on the walls.  The victim, Tayla, was merely 7 pounds at the time of her death when she was 13 months old.  Tayla was severely malnourished and was infected with E. coli, influenza, and pneumonia at the time of her death.

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Foster Kids Starved, Beaten and Sexually Abused, Reports Show Few Caregivers are Punished

A new USA Today article highlights daunting details regarding the systemic issues in Florida’s child welfare system.  In the last five years, there have been nearly 5,000 calls to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) abuse hotline from various concerned members of the community.  These calls come from teachers, healthcare professionals, day care workers, neighbors, and more.  The complaints often warn of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, abandonment, etc.  The number of foster care complaints filed against foster parents, group homes, and guardians rose by roughly 54% over the past five years.  There is a direct correlation between the surge in referrals and 2014 legislation that made it easier to seize children from their parents to place them in state care.  A consequence of the changes in the law includes having more children in need of foster care with no real place to send them.

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10-Year-Old Child Sexually Assaulted Multiple Times

March 24th, 2021   No Comments   Sexual Abuse

Five men have been accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old child and four of them are free to continue abusing children after continuous systematic delinquencies failed to hold the men accountable for their crimes. Although the government institutions responsible for protecting the little girl were well aware of the frequent sexual abuse she suffered, the system failed to take any action to protect her, leaving her in the hands and mercy of her abusers.

In May 2020, the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) performed a rape kit test on the minor after a 37-year-old man assaulted her. The DNA results quickly identified the abuser as he has been a registered child sex offender for over fifteen-years. However, as a result of horrifying negligence, the CPD failed to arrest the sexual predator or take any additional steps to protect the child from him for nearly 10 months, providing him with the freedom he needed to continue sexually assaulting children without restraint.

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DCF Florida’s Chief Inspector General defends investigation into nonprofit executive pay

Florida private social welfare agencies charged with caring for abused, neglected, and disabled children are under attack after Florida’s Chief Inspector General for the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF) issued a preliminary report suggesting that their executives were being compensated well above the limits allowed by state law. Many of the executives had salaries well into six figures. There is a concern that federal and state appropriations are padding their executives pockets instead of having the funds reach the children they are supposed to serve.

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Florida’s Premiere Youth Advocacy Organization Brings Celebrity Chef Experience To Its Supporters For An Evening To Benefit Kids In And Aging Out Of Foster Care

Florida’s Children First’s Virtual Culinary Experience Hosted by Food Network Favorite

Florida’s Children First (FCF), an award-winning non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the rights of at–risk children and youth in the foster care system, is hosting Cooking for the Kids with Chef Rome on March 10, 2021 at 6 p.m. This virtual event will feature a cooking demonstration with Chef Rome and his celebrity pals in the sports and showbiz world. It also provides a safe venue for FCF to raise critical funds that support their mission of helping kids in and aging out of foster care, many of whom have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic.

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As a result of the pandemic, internet child abuse and sexual exploitation is on the rise, and law enforcement is finding it difficult to keep up with the overwhelming caseload.

February 8th, 2021   No Comments   Sexual Abuse

Amidst one of the worst shootings in FBI history, which left two agents dead and three injured, reveals an overwhelming influx of internet child sexual abuse cases.

Broward Sheriff’s Office, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, reports initiation of over 200 cases and 40 arrests for offenses related to child exploitation in 2019 alone. It is estimated that cases have likely doubled in 2020, as the pandemic has driven more children, who are vulnerable to predator solicitation, online. Florida is not the only state to see an influx in cyber predator tips. Many states, including Georgia, report an overwhelming and strenuous caseload where agents “feel as though they will never reach all the children that need help.”

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The Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (“OPPAGA”) has issued its report to ensure accountability and strengthen Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program

Created in 2004, the Guardian ad Litem Program provides trained volunteers to ensure best interest representation for children who are subject to dependency proceedings. Unlike other states, that provide a directed attorney for children in abuse and neglect proceedings in line with the American Bar Association’s Model Act, Florida takes a unique and different approach. Florida’s model employs a multi-disciplinary team method, “wherein a child receives the services of a GAL volunteer, a staff advocate, and a staff attorney that represents the program, not the child.”

Guardians are trained volunteers with distinct and separate roles from the attorneys involved. Volunteers are charged with advocating for only one, maybe two children at a time.

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WTSP Tampa Bay: Pasco County man indicted on federal human trafficking charges

January 22nd, 2021   No Comments   Sexual Abuse

A Pasco County man could face life in prison after being indicted on federal human trafficking charges. A recent DOJ release reveals the 49-year-old man recruited people, including children, to engage in prostitution through misrepresentation and violent tactics such as sexual assault and physical violence. Prosecutors allege the man trafficked children, foreign nationals, and others across the United States to work in prostitution, forcing them to turn over the money they earned or ask for his permission to spend it.

Florida is one of the top states in the country for the commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. Far too often, children are recruited out of the foster care system and lured into prostitution, where they are exploited for commercial sex, resulting in severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

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After years of ignoring red flags, DCF secretary finally recognizes department’s failures in stopping child sexual abuse

After years of protestation by families, children, and advocacy groups that sexual abuse is rampant in state foster homes, DCF secretary Chad Poppell recognizes DCF’s failure in stopping children placed in state-licensed foster care from being sexually abused.

The Miami Herald recently disclosed that during this past year, ninety-two children in Florida reported being sexually abused by state-licensed foster parents. However, only six allegations of sexual abuse were verified by the state, leaving eighty-six children left alone in the dark, many forced to remain with their alleged abusers.

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NBC News – Foster care crisis: More kids are entering, but fewer families are willing to take them in

January 7th, 2021   No Comments   Foster Care, Uncategorized

The coronavirus pandemic has left many victims in its wake, and the nation’s foster care system is no exception. A recent NBC news article reveals that more kids are entering the foster care system, but fewer families are willing to house them in fear of spreading Covid-19. Children in highly populated areas like New York, New Orleans, and Chicago have been hit the hardest. Chicago alone has seen a 33% increase in the number of children who need foster care services. Foster parents fear expanding their households amidst the pandemic could lead to exposure.

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Fla Lawmakers Debate Continuing Child Protection System Issues

A recent series of articles in USA Today again indicted Florida’ s failing privatized child protection system, including an interview with Florida child advocate Stacie Schmerling on a horrific case of child sexual abuse in Ocala. Since the release of the articles, Florida lawmakers and child welfare leaders have debated the best route of care for our state’s youth. While it had once been common practice to keep families together, several years ago Florida’s leaders changed its policy resulting in the placement of more children into state care. As a result, an overwhelming number of children entered the system and were, sadly, put in greater danger of abuse, neglect and catastrophic injury when these children were placed with abusive foster parents.

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