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Archive for May, 2010

Lead Agencies, DCF Seek to Cap Personal Injury Damage Suits By Foster Children

MIAMI (AP) — A few months after a 10-year-old child was placed with eight other children in a Tampa foster home overseen by a single mom, a 13-year-old boy sneaked into his room and raped him in 2005.

But Hillsborough Kids Inc., a state contractor that placed the boy, says it’s not liable because it subcontracted with another agency which directly cared for the boy. They contend the state Department of Children and Families is ultimately responsible for overseeing its providers, according to court documents.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the boy has dragged on for three years and is the crux of an ongoing argument between DCF and the contractors it hires to place and monitor foster children: Who should be financially responsible when one of the children is harmed?

That question has major repercussions for both taxpayers and the children. If it’s the state, the contractors would be off the hook and a victimized foster child would be limited by law to receiving $200,000 in damages from the state unless the Legislature approves a higher amount. If it’s the contractors, an injured child could receive whatever damages a court awards up to a $3 million per incident and it would be paid by the contractor and its insurance company.

Child advocates say DCF and its contractors are trying to dodge responsibility and are wasting taxpayer money as discussions drag on. In the end, they say, it leaves abused children with little legal or financial recourse. The state spent more than $740 million this year on foster care, employing 21 contractors to oversee between 9,000 and 10,000 foster children.

“It’s sad and a complete waste of resources when we see each blame the other or duck behind technical defenses while the innocent foster child is suffering and waiting to get help,” said Howard Talenfeld, a child advocate and Broward County attorney.

Read the entire story here

Florida DCF Blasted By Task Force on Foster Child’s Suicide & Sex Abuse Issues

Florida’s child welfare system is taking heat for its handling of the care of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old Broward foster child who a task force says was inadequately treated for the sexual abuse he endured. The report also notes how the state failed to prevent Gabriel from sexually acting out against other children.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel covered this story, writing how the Gabriel Myers Work Group, which was appointed by Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon, investigated Gabriel’s April 16, 2009, death. The Miami Herald received a copy of the report, which it says “identified scores of shortcomings in the state’s care of the boy.”

Howard Talenfeld, President of statewide advocacy group Florida’s Children First, presented recommendations to the Gabriel Myer’s Commission on January 7, 2010 and many of his recommendation were incorporated into the Task Forces Final Recommendations. Click here to view his presentation to the Commission.

Florida Suspends Doctor Who Prescribed Psychotropic Meds, But Questions Linger

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration suspended the license of the doctor who prescribed a combination of three psychiatric drugs to 12 year old autistic child Dennis Maltez when he died of serotonin syndrome.

The Miami Herald wrote about the case in the article, “Florida suspends Miami psychiatrist in boy’s overdose death.” The paper noted that “red flags were overlooked in the 12-year-old’s prescription drug death, and how a second report blamed the system in the tragic case of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers’ suicide.”

State regulators wrote that Kaplan committed medical malpractice, and that he posed “an immediate, serious danger to the health, safely, or welfare of the public.”

The real question that has yet to be answered by the state of Florida is how many other physicians in the state of Florida who prescribe dangerous combinations of psychotropic medications to disabled persons and foster children which are paid for by the state’s Medicaid program will be allowed to ignore the letters and visits from the AHCA children’s pharmacy management program that red-flag these combinations of medications as potentially dangerous? How many more children like Denis Maltez and Gabriel Myers need to die before the state will do something?

Child Advocate Attorney Wins Lawyers for Children America Award

May 7th, 2010   No Comments   Advocacy, News & Events

Florida Foster Child Advocacy Attorney Howard Talenfeld Receives the Lawyers for Children America Award.

Talenfeld received the 2010 Policy Advocate Award Friday at the 11th Annual John Edward Smith Child Advocacy Awards at a Miami luncheon.

Howard Talenfeld

Howard Talenfeld

The award was given in honor of Talenfeld’s work in founding Florida’s Children First, a statewide advocacy organization, in 2002. The award also recognizes his work at Chair of the Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee this year. During his tenure, Talenfeld has fought to ensure legal representation for dependent children.

The event honors South Florida lawyers, law firms, and other advocates who have donated their time, talent, and resources to assisting abused, neglected, and abandoned children. (more…)

Florida Legal Services Releases PSA on Lawyers’ Pro Bono Legal Help

May 5th, 2010   No Comments   Advocacy, Pro Bono

Great attorneys understand what makes time precious is what they can do with it. Florida Legal Services released its ONE Campaign. This PSA reveals the satisfaction attorneys received from their pro bono legal services provided to those who can repay attorneys only with their gratitude.

One Client, One Attorney, One Promise: This is the oath of Florida Legal Services. Learn more at OnePromiseFlorida.org.