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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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Broward Residents: Our Kids Need You to Vote YES Nov. 4 for the Children’s Services Council

October 24th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

Talenfeld of CSC


On November 4, Broward voters will have a chance to cast a vote that can change the lives of kids countywide. The vote is whether to reauthorize the Children’s Services Council. This vote is required by law to ensure electoral oversight on how taxpayers’ dollars are used and to justify themselves to voters.

From early childhood education and truancy prevention programs, to tutoring and independent living, the Children’s Services Council delivers outreach that dramatically improve the lives of kids countywide.

Vote YES to reauthorize the Children’s Services Council. It’s a vote for Broward’s kids – and Broward’s future.


Florida Department of Children & Families ‘Safety Plan’ Provides No Safety for Mohney Kids

In a case of child abuse and family violence so horrific that child welfare advocates and wrongful death attorneys have said obvious “red flags” should have been apparent to all, domestic violence attorneys and child protection counselors are left to wonder whether the Florida Department of Children & Families’ creation of a “Safety Plan” for the Mohney family was a fool’s errand.

Father David Mohney was reportedly “controlling and jealous.” Wife and mother Cynthia Mohney “stumbling drunk” and abusive of their three children, according to news reports and official DCF documents. The children were left in fear of their mother.

It was their father they should have feared.

This month, David Mohney shot his three children, killing two – ages 14 and 11 – and leaving a 9-year-old in a medically induced coma. Mohney also shot himself. Yet this latest case of horrific and lethal child abuse should have been no surprise to anyone.

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Analysis: Undercount of Child Deaths Leave More Kids At-Risk for Harm

Can how a child dies under the care or watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families help determine whether the death stemmed from physical abuse, neglect, wrongful death or other harm? Apparently, opinions are mixed – especially during election season.

To Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the number of deaths of children who were under the care of the DCF statewide are open to question.

More directly, “…except for abiding by a new state law that required DCF to create a website listing all child fatalities, Florida has continued to undercount the number of children it fails,” the Miami Herald wrote in an investigation of deaths of children under the DCF.

Come have called undercount “cooked.” Most just want a fair accounting in order to help future children.

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Florida’s Children First to Host Annual Palm Beach Fundraiser and Awards Oct. 29 Honoring Child Advocates of the Year

October 17th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy, News & Events

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. 29 at the National Croquet Center Point Club in West Palm Beach. FCF is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting foster children and other at-risk youth. The event begins at 5:30 p.m.

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.

This year, the Honorable Ronald V. Alvarez, recently retired Juvenile Court Judge for the 15th Judicial Circuit and his wife Mrs. Elaine Webb Alvarez will be honored as Child Advocates of the year. Judge Alvarez has long championed the children that come before him in both delinquency and dependency. He also served on virtually every committee to improve the justice and services provided for children.  As an example, he was a member of Unmet Legal Needs of Children Committee, the recommendations of which have finally led to increasing the access of certain categories of foster children to their own lawyers (FCF’s Counsel for Kids Bill).

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For Florida Foster Kids, Lawyers Can ‘Change the Outcome’

October 17th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

Ninety seconds – to change the lives of the 300,000 kids who enter the foster care system nationwide each year. That’s all we ask you to spend – 90 seconds – to watch this video about the important difference lawyers can make in the lives of foster kids nationwide. Produced by the American Bar Association’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, this could be the most important video you’ll watch today. You could Change The Outcome.


Noted Children’s Advocate Attorney Howard Talenfeld Starts New Firm Representing At-Risk, Foster Kids

Howard Talenfeld, one of the nation’s preeminent children’s rights attorneys, has launched Talenfeld Law. The law firm will be the first in Florida to focus exclusively on protecting the rights of physically and sexually abused, medically fragile, foster and other at-risk children.

Talenfeld is known throughout the legal community and national media as having established the nation’s premier children’s rights practice. His work on behalf of at-risk individuals has earned multimillion dollar awards and resulted in sweeping judicial and legislative reforms.

“This practice will provide a loud and clear voice for children who cannot speak or themselves in the state and federal courts and state capitals – Florida’s most vulnerable abused, medically fragile and developmentally disabled children,” said Talenfeld, who will be joined at the firm by children’s rights attorneys Stacie J. Schmerling, Rayni A. Rabinovitz, and Nicole R. Coniglio. “The time is right to leave Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky ,Abate, & Webb, P.A. after 34 years as the firm became a nationally renown insurance regulatory, litigation and lobbying powerhouse with plans to expand.”

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Children’s Deaths Live On As Political Talking Points In Governor Campaign

October 15th, 2014   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Commentary

Any child advocate, guardian ad litem or attorney who protects foster children and at-risk kids physically or sexually abused, harmed or otherwise a target of personal injury know discussions of their care and protection are delicate matters. So it is frustrating to those same advocates, guardians and attorneys to see candidates in the Florida governor’s race discussing the fate of at-risk kids in the highly charged and politicized campaign for the state’s highest office.

The Associated Press reported this week that Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been telling the state’s voters that children neglected or abused in Florida are more safe with him as governor than when Charlie Crist was in Tallahassee.

While the two sides disagree about the statistics, and media reports are questioning the figures, one point remains: kids are not fodder for candidates for public office.

To be sure, children die, even those under the watch of or known to be at possible harm by the Florida Department of Children and Families. The Miami Herald investigative series, Innocents Lost, revealed some 477 kids known by Florida DCF have died over the past several years.

That they die is bad enough. That they’ve become fodder for the campaign trail is disheartening and disturbing.

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Man Charged with Abuse Approved as Foster Parent by Florida Department of Children and Families

Florida’s foster child advocates and attorneys who represent foster children who have suffered personal injury, physical abuse and sex abuse, and wrongful death are left wondering again how a man known by the Florida Department of Children and Families who was granted a foster parent license ended up being charged with killing a child in his care.

In a twist on news reports of children dying while under the watch of DCF, newspaper reports this week claim that DCF and its private contractors may have failed to completely review the background of Michael Beer before granting him a foster care license. The Port St. Lucie, Florida, foster parent was charged this week with beating to death Trysten Adams, a 2-year-old foster boy in Beer’s care.

Twenty years ago, Beers failed to help another 2-year-old who had been severely abused, according to news reports. The Miami Herald  reports that Florida DCF approved Beers’ foster care license in 2013, even though it knew of the episode.

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Agency, Senator Team Up to Help Foster Care Young Adults In Need

In a previous article on this website, entitled When is a Florida Foster Child Not a Foster Child?, we answered that question with a simple response: When the foster child is a young adult, is disabled and is in need of care. For foster abuse attorneys and lawyers who advocate for victims of neglect and oversight, the argument long has been that Florida’s disabled foster “children” aged 18 to 22 are not foster kids in the eyes of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Those children are caught in a catch-22. Officials at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities have believed the Department of Children and Families or Medicaid are responsible for paying for the extended care of disabled individuals in foster care. DCF and others felt ADP should be footing the bill.

With the issue getting nowhere, finally advocates and legislators stepped up.

Working together, ADP director Barbara Palmer and state Sen. Nancy Detert finally agreed fixed some legal language in a 2013 law. As a result, those Florida foster residents aged 18 to 22 who opt to stay in care will soon be able to do so. The bill will be picked up by the state.

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The Spirit Family, the Florida DCF and the Nagging Question: When is Enough Not Enough?

When is enough not enough? In a case of rampant and reported child abuse, personal injury and continual poor care and physical harm to six children – who all lived amid horrible squalor – the lives and deaths of the Spirit children at the hands of their grandfather should have been no surprise to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The case has child advocates and children’s rights attorneys wondering what went wrong.

Dating back to 2008, the calls to the state’s abuse hotline began and grew numerous, as did the investigations. Mother Sarah Spirit, daughter of Don, the grandfather who killed this grandchildren and Sarah before turning the gun on himself, was the subject of ongoing reports and attempts to intervene.

The children were burned, beaten, poorly supervised, starved, suffered medical and dental neglect and were sent to school to teachers who also questioned their treatment and care.

Child advocates and children’s rights attorneys who protect at-risk kids and families from personal injury, wrongful death and physical and sexual abuse learned through the media the horrors that went on in the Spirit home in Bell, Florida.

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Mark Your Calendar: Jacksonville Child Advocacy Awards & Reception on Nov. 6

September 24th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

Florida’s child advocates and children’s rights attorneys, Mark Your Calendar: Join Jacksonville’s finest children’s advocates and outstanding youth advocates at the Jacksonville Child Advocacy Awards & Reception.

The event will be held on Thursday, November 6, 2014, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the The Haskell Building (111 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, 34236). Attire is business casual. Refreshments will be served. Entry is $100.

RSVP Today.

Florida’s Children First, Inc. (FCF) is the leading state-wide advocacy organization for children in the child welfare system. FCF does amazing work statewide and when advocates learn about FCF’s accomplishments, they often become part of making a substantial, positive change for Florida’s foster kids.

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When is a Florida Foster Child Not a Foster Child? When Disabled and Needing Care

When is a disabled foster child not really a foster child? Apparently, Florida’s disabled foster “children” aged 18 to 22 are not foster kids in the eyes of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, whose officials believe the Department of Children and Families or Medicaid are responsible for paying for the extended care of disabled individuals in foster care between ages 18 and 22.

For advocates and attorneys who champion and represent foster kids who face potential abuse, personal injury and other harm, this is another issue of key importance, especially for those whose daily life is a caregiver’s struggle.

It was a situation the Florida Legislature thought it had resolved in 2013, when it passed a law ensuring disable foster persons were allowed to stay in state care until they reached age 22. The new law lacked one key element: Direction as to which agency would pay for the care.

In an effort to provide guidance, Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) is pushing for a solution. She has discussed the issue with children’s advocates and service providers. It’s a critically important issue for Florida’s disabled foster persons.

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