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Archive for May, 2009

Florida DCF Releases Report on Psychotropic Drug Use in Foster Children

Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon discussed the Department’s Psychotherapeutic Drug Status Report at a media conference this week.

The report was compiled by DCF staff at the request of Secretary Sheldon following the apparent suicide of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers on April 16 in Margate. (Access the Report Here)

Following a full review of Gabriel’s case files, officials determined that he had been prescribed several psychotropic drugs that had not been accurately reflected in the DCF database that contains case notes and histories of foster care children.

Additionally, there was no indication of a signed parental consent form or a court order authorizing the administration of the drugs, as required.

Among the findings: (more…)

Mother’s Suit Seeks Justice for Autistic Son Killed by ‘Psychotropic Cocktail’

May 21st, 2009   1 Comment   Damage Claims, Psychotropic
Denis Martez and mother, Martha Quesada.

Denis Martez and mother, Martha Quesada.

Martha Quesada shed tears but was the poignant focal point of a press conference this week as she discussed her demands for justice for the death of her 12-year-old autistic son, Denis Martez.

His cause of death, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner: Central Serotonergic Syndrome. This resulted from “the co-administration of multiple psychotropic medications with no monitoring or supervision,” the lawsuit claims.

“This is a clear case of a 12-year-child who perished because he was given a lethal combination of off-label, dangerous, anti-psychotic drugs to control his behavior without appropriate consent, administration and supervision.” said Howard Talenfeld, Quesada’s attorney and partner with Fort Lauderdale law firm, Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale. Partner Maria Elena Abate is co-counsel on the case.

“Tragically, this case is one of many cases where foster children and developmentally disabled children are given powerful drug to control their behavior instead of utilizing appropriate behavioral interventions,” Talenfeld said. “This is an important first step in seeking remedy for Ms. Quesada’s loss, and raising awareness of the cavalier prescription, administration  of medications to control behavior with little regard for possible counter-indications or devastating results.” (more…)

Round-Up: Crist Signs Records Law, State Reviews Foster Care Cases

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida’s foster children have been both a source of both eye-opening revelation about how they’re cared for, as well as the recipients of legislation designed to help them in the future.

In some good news for foster kids, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law bills designed to help grant them access to records for medical and educational needs.  The Foster Folly News wrote  that the legislation benefits children in foster care as well as young people leaving foster care. The move “provides children in foster care better access to their own personal records often needed for medical and educational purposes.  Senate Bill 1128 ensures that disabled homeless children and children in foster care receive appropriate educational services.”

WEAR-TV reported that the bills can be credited, in part, to members of Florida Youth Shine, a statewide advocacy group that specializes in foster care and child welfare issues. “You’re great advocates, you truly are,” Crist said.

Recent news in Florida’s foster child and foster care landscape continued to center on the fall-out of the Department of Children and Families response to Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old child who committed suicide in his foster home. Reporters and government leaders are scrutinizing how Gabrielwas prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs, and how the DCF plans to deal with such cases in the future. Among the stories… (more…)

Florida DCF Secretary Sheldon Convenes Psychotropics & Foster Kids Workgroup

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary George H. Sheldon today announced that the Department is establishing a workgroup to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers. Gabriel died on April 16 when police indicated he apparently hanged himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home.

At issue: The level of use of psychotropic and psycho-therapeutic medications among foster care children.


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Talenfeld to Chair Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee

May 11th, 2009   1 Comment   News & Events

Children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld has been appointed to chair the Florida Bar Association’s Legal Needs of Children Committee.

howard-talenfeld-2-1

Talenfeld to chair Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee

“I set out to appoint the best-qualified people for the job, taking into account their participation in the past, diversity and commitment to the committee,” Jesse Diner, President-Elect of the Florida Bar, said in making the announcement of new committee chairs.

“I am excited about being named to chair this vital committee,” Talenfeld said. “We have a critical mission that needs to be completed—obtaining quality representation for every child in the foster care system. With some of the best child advocates in the state on this committee, we have the opportunity to succeed over the next year.”

Talenfeld is a long-time advocate and pioneer in the fight to protect the rights and needs of society’s most vulnerable citizens, including foster children, the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill. (more…)

Guardian ad Litem Takes Moderate Cut In Tough Budget Year. Many Florida Foster Children Will Lose Their Voice in Court

Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program emerged from this year’s Legislative budget process with fiscal cuts not as deep as originally feared.

The program’s funding will be reduced by $2.81 million. Proposed cuts were $7.6 million in the Florida House of Representatives, and $2.6 million in the Florida Senate.

In the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Appropriations Act, the Florida Legislature will reduce the Guardian Ad Litem Program by $3.817 million, and then reinstate $1 million in non-recurring money. Therefore, if the Legislature does nothing for FY 2010-2011, the GAL will be cut by $1 million.

There were no simple or pleasant solutions. This was the toughest budgetary year many people have ever seen. Although advocates stepped in quickly to help negotiate a balanced approach to this tough budgetary call, many foster children will be left without Guardians.

But make no mistake: The cuts span the spectrum of child services. (more…)

Florida Foster Care Round-Up: Leekin Damage Suit for Fraud — & Kids Failed by the System

A 7-year-old foster child, a career criminal and the Florida Department of Children and Families led the headlines regarding the foster care and child welfare arena across Florida and the nation over the past few weeks. Here are summaries of some of those and other stories…

In one of the biggest stories, The New York Times reported on April 30 in Suit Contends City Failed to Prevent Adoption Fraud, how lawyers contended in a lawsuit that New York City violated the rights of 10 disabled children who were adopted more than a decade ago by Judith Leekin, a former Queens woman now in a Florida jail and who abused them and used government subsidies meant for their care to support a lavish lifestyle.

The Miami Herald on April 30 wrote State probes apparent suicide of foster child, 7, an opening reporting salvo by journalists and columnists in what we expect to be a very chilling and alarming case – that of Gabriel Myers, the boy who took his own life at a Broward County foster home after a stormy nine-month odyssey through the state foster-care system and the questionable use of psychotropic drugs used to quell problem children.

(more…)

Stop Warehousing Florida’s Foster Children

May 4th, 2009   1 Comment   Foster Care

By Brian J. Cabrey, Esq.

The April 16 suicide death of 7 year old Gabriel Myers, a foster child in the custody and care of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), shocks the conscience.

Little Gabriel apparently hung himself with the shower hose in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate, Florida. The victim of sexual abuse, as well as other abuse and neglect that resulted in him being removed from his family and placed in foster care, Gabriel had been prescribed a variety of mind altering psychotropic medications while in foster care to deal with the myriad behavioral problems he was experiencing, no doubt largely the result of the abuse he had suffered. Reports are that he was on 3 or 4 different drugs, or combinations thereof, at the time of his death, all at the tender age of 7.

What is almost as shocking to the conscience as a 7 year old wanting to, knowing how to, and actually committing suicide, is that a 7-year-old would be on not just one, but multiple psychotropic medications. (more…)

Florida, New York Attorneys File Lawsuit For Failure to Protect Foster Children From Abusive Foster Mom

Attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Ted Babbitt discuss their federal lawsuit against New York City's Administration for Children's Services in the case of Judith Leekin's abuse of the foster care system and 10 children in her care.

As one of the children looks on, attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Ted Babbitt discuss their federal lawsuit against New York City's Administration for Children's Services in the case of Judith Leekin's abuse of the foster care system and 10 children in her care.

Calling her rapacious, her foster home a “house of horrors,” and the case “one of the worst child welfare disasters in the history of this country,” attorneys for 10 former foster care children of now-imprisoned foster mom Judith Leekin spelled out their case for damages this week before more than a dozen journalists.

Attorneys Howard Talenfeld, partner with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Ted Babbitt, partner with Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche, P.A., in West Palm Beach, Florida, described the case, Leekin, and the New York City department whose job it is to oversee foster care kids and their caregivers.

The federal lawsuit claims New York City failed to properly screen Leekin, who – according to the Associated Press, “used fictitious identities to adopt 10 disabled children and later repeatedly abused, starved and imprisoned them in a ‘house of horrors.'” The  suit was filed Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court on behalf of the children whom Leekin, now 64 and imprisoned in Florida, adopted over an eight-year period ending in 1996. (more…)

Florida DCF Workgroup to Research Death of Foster Child, Gabriel Myers

Department of Children and Families Secretary Convenes Workgroup to Evaluate Circumstances Surrounding Death of 7-year-old in Foster Care

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary George H. Sheldon today announced that the Department is establishing a  workgroup to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers.

Gabriel died on April 16 when police indicated he apparently hanged himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home.

Following Gabriel’s death, the Department of Children and Families petitioned the court to release case files and notes relating to the child while in state care. Normally, case files are only made public following a death that is verified as a result of abuse or neglect, per Florida Statutes. However, DCF believed it was in the public interest to open the records to public scrutiny. A judge agreed and the petition was granted on April 22, 2009. (more…)