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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 Supreme Court Rules for Lawyers for Foster Children

When the Florida Supreme Court issued its Juvenile Rules Opinion this week on requiring attorneys for Florida foster children with special needs, it was the successful culmination of a 10-year effort by the state’s leading foster child advocates, including the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program and Florida’s Children First (FCF), as well as the Legal Needs of Children Committee of The Florida Bar.

The Court ruled to implement legislation requiring legal representation for at-risk children facing administrative hearings. Read the ruling here.

Since the 1990s, FCF, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, and the GAL have worked closely advocating the legislation. They two organizations jointly submitted comments to the court supporting advancement of state legislation providing for attorneys ad litem and other programs to require legal representation for children in the child welfare system.

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Florida Youth Shine Reaches 10 Year Milestone

Florida’s Children First (FCF) proudly celebrates 10 years of Florida Youth SHINE Advocacy! After FCF was established in 2002, Florida Youth SHINE was formed so that foster children could tell their stories and advocate for legislative change.

For the past ten years Florida Youth SHINE, a statewide organization now consisting of more than 200 former and current foster children, has been advocating around the state and in the Florida Legislature, for positive change to the system of care by using their experience and stories. In 2005, Florida’s Children First, a statewide group of child advocates (www.floridaschildrenfirst.org)  created Florida Youth SHINE because it believed that the youth are the experts and when making decisions about youth and it is critical to have a youth voice at the table. Florida Youth SHINE empowers their members to identify and share the issues they experienced and work for solutions through advocacy. One of the ways they do this is by educating others about the issues and improvements that need to be made.

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Please join us for The Dylan Schopp Sunshine Foundation’s Sunshine at the Park

January 13th, 2016   No Comments   Uncategorized

Talenfeld Law is a proud sponsor of The Dylan Schopp Sunshine Foundation’s Sunshine at the Park event. Join us March 5th to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Get your tickets today: https://sunshineatthepark.eventbrite.com/


South Florida Judge Blasts Agency for Foster Kids Forced into Cockfights

Every South Florida child advocate and foster abuse attorney fights to prevent child abuse, personal injury and other harm or damages like those a Miami judge saw in a video this month. He called the events they endured the result of ineptitude and incompetence. The judge was responding to the violent “cockfights” and brawls children at a Miami group home for foster kids were forced to perform – with the encouragement of an adult supervisor.

“I saw a cockfight … between foster kids,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said in court, according to news reports. The supervisor was “provoking and encouraging violence” as “these two boys battled it out and beat each other up.” The supervisor has since been fired.

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Fort Lauderdale Children’s Rights Attorneys, Advocates to Gather for Broward Fundraiser

January 12th, 2016   No Comments   Advocacy

Lawyers, elected officials and advocates who fight for the rights of those harmed by child abuse, child sex abuse, or other personal injuries in the child welfare system will gather in February to help share a very important message. You are Invited to the Broward Child Advocacy Awards & Reception on Thursday, February 25, 2016, from 5:30 pm- 7:30pm at The Riverside Hotel (620 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale).

The event will honoring the Champion for Children – Dr. Frederick Lippman; the Child Advocates of the Year – Stuart Singer & Carl Goldfarb; and the Youth Advocate – Teirvondria McCall.

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Phoebe Jonchuck’s Death Still Haunts Child Abuse Advocates

January 10th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Just about a year ago, Florida child advocates and attorneys who represent children who have been harmed by child abuse, sex abuse and other personal injuries were aghast at the story of Phoebe Jonchuck, the 5-year-old Central Florida girl whose father, John, threw her from a bridge into Tampa Bay. We all were left to wonder how a father could kill his daughter, what authorities might have known about Mr. Jonchuck’s and Phoebe’s lives leading up to this horrific event, and how it could have been prevented.

The Tampa Bay Times recently wrote a compelling story that compiles police, court and Florida Department of Children and Families records to recreate the brief history of Phoebe’s life. Reporters spoke with Phoebe’s mother and other relatives; in all, 50 people helped paint the story of the little girl – “a happy child who helped her kindergarten classmates zip their jackets and brought out the best in everyone who loved her. And they knew her father, a violent and unstable man.”

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Lead Agencies Must Acquire Appropriate Insurance Coverage

December 30th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Sexual Abuse

The Florida Legislature requires that lead agencies obtain a minimum of $1 million per claim and $10 million per incident in general liability coverage. Yet, many of the state’s lead agencies have not acquired appropriate amounts of coverage to protect children who are harmed while in their care.

Sadly, one West Palm Beach teen recently dealt with this issue when a now-defunct social service agency agreed to pay her to help overcome years of sexual abuse, but didn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay the claim. A lawsuit has been filed against the insurance company, claiming it did not make sure the agency had the proper coverage to compensate children who were victims of sexual abuse while in the care of the agency.

While millions of dollars of insurance coverage is required, the agency reportedly held only $250,000 in coverage.

Read more here

Kan. Lawmaker Explores Ending State’s Private Child Welfare Program

Florida child welfare administrators have had a long, troubled history with privatization of foster care services provided to the state’s at-risk, harmed, abused, and needy children. Our children have suffered sexual abuse, child abuse, personal injury, and other harm for years. Florida, it seems, wasn’t the only state with issues. A lawmaker in Kansas, the first state in the U.S. to privatize such care, has written a report on that state’s failures with foster care privatization and now is seeking to rescind the state’s program.

In what had been the first-in-the-nation privatized foster care system, the state legislator looked back on the program’s 20 years, only to see “increasing scrutiny and a record number of children in foster homes,” local media reported. In his report, “When Children Die We Must Act,” the lawmaker concluded that “the mid-1990s privatization wasn’t successful, the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1RxWskK ) reported.

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JAFCO Kids Enjoy Winter Holiday Party

December 24th, 2015   No Comments   Fundraising & Support

More than 175 children and families celebrated the miracle of Chanukah at the annual snow-filled party at the JAFCO Children’s Village in Sunrise. Children’s right attorney Howard Talenfeld and his wife Julie Talenfeld sponsored the party, as they have for the past eight years.

Miami Herald 12-24-15

South Florida Advocates to Honor Those Who Help Abused, Neglected Kids

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

Business executives, civic leaders and attorneys who advocate for the rights of those who suffer child abuse, personal injury and other harm and neglect will gather in February for the Florida’s Children First 2016 Broward Reception. The event will be held Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 5:30PM at the The Riverside Hotel (620 East Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale).

At the annual fundraiser and awards event, Florida’s Children First – the state’s premier child advocacy organization – will honor child advocates who strive to make a difference in the lives of the state’s most vulnerable kids.

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Florida DCF Reviewing Child’s ‘Suspicious’ Death ‘Consistent with Child Abuse’

Florida child advocates and child abuse attorneys who represent children and families in cases of wrongful death, child abuse and other personal injuries, are watching closely as the Florida Department of Children and Families reviews the death of Knowellan Kelly, a 15-month-old who died at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg Sunday night.

Though Florida DCF had received a report on suspected abuse four months ago, allegations were unsubstantiated and the DCF Critical Incident Rapid Response Team was not been dispatched to investigate this incident, according to news reports.

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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.