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Archive for September, 2010

DCF Admits Steps Missed to Protect Riviera Beach Family, Prevent Tragedy

September 30th, 2010   No Comments   Abuse, News & Events

The Florida Department of Children and Families continues to perform well at keeping at-risk children out of the foster care and other state systems. But administrators must see that appropriate protective services are used to ensure tragedies like what happened in Riviera Beach don’t happen again.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Perry Borman, DCF Southeast Regional Director, acknowledged that the agency could have done more to protect Natasha Whyte-Dell and her four children. The five were slain by husband and step-father Patrick Alexander Dell.

In a related story, it was reported this week that the DCF had found that Dell was not a threat to his family. This came after a police report cited that Dell had threatened his wife with a knife in December and yelled “you will be going to the morgue.” A child protective investigator later determined that the case was a low risk, because Dell “stated that he would never harm the children.”

DCF had acknowledged that Dell had been angry and violent, and was investigated in January after he allegedly attacked his wife. According to Borman, at least a half dozen steps could have been taken by the agency to help ensure the family’s safety.  ‘Instead, the agency’s investigation was closed after 30 days and concluded the children were not at ‘significant risk,'” the paper reported Borman saying. Read the entire story here.

Tale of Florida Law, Court Ruling & Gay Foster Parent Adoption Captures Wide Attention

September 27th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Court Cases, Foster Care

Advocates, children’s rights attorneys and others aren’t the only people closely following the story of Martin Gill and his two foster children. The story has caught the attention of local and national media.

The experienced foster parent and his partner took the brothers several years ago when the boys had nowhere else to go and the Florida Department of Children and Families sought a home for them. Then, Gill hoped to adopt the boys.

One problem: Florida law says gay couples cannot adopt foster children.

A Florida state appeals court struck down the law last week. While the story is not yet final, it still has captured national attention. Read some of the coverage here, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Slate Magazine.

Court Rules Florida Gay Adoption Ban is Unconstitutional

September 23rd, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Court Cases

A Miami appeals court ruling that Florida’s 33-year-old ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional is certain to heighten discussion among adoption supporters, advocates of foster children, and others who have argued for and against the law — the only such ban in the country.

As reported in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a cultural flashpoint was ignited Wednesday when a Miami appeals court ruled that Florida’s 33-year-old ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional. The ruling only affects Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“It’s about time Florida enters the 21st century and starts looking out for its children rather than paying heed to extremist political views,” said Allan Barsky, a professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, who lives with his partner Greg Moore and daughter Adelle, 7, in their Fort Lauderdale home.

The social fault line was stirred by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower judge’s ruling allowing a North Miami gay man and his partner to adopt two young brothers. In a 28-page opinion, a three-judge panel said Florida’s ban on gays adopting was unconstitutional because it singled out gays as unfit parents. Judge Gerald Cope, who wrote the opinion, said there was no evidence to show gays were less effective than heterosexual parents. Read the Entire Story Here.

If Gay Adoption Ban Upheld, Florida DCF Will Leave Gill Children: Sheldon

September 20th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, News & Events

DCF Secretary George Sheldon is placing the welfare and stability of two young boys over the controversial politics of Florida’s law banning gay adoption. Regardless of the ruling of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, Secretary Sheldon  will not remove the children from their home.

In one of the most heated national controversies related to gay adoption, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon said that if an appeals court reverses a judge and rules that Florida’s ban on adoptions by gay couples is valid, DCF won’t remove the two children.

“Those children appear to be safe , well-adjusted,” Sheldon said. “We’re not in the business of doing that (removing them).”

George Sheldon

George Sheldon

Sheldon told The News Service of Florida that even if the 3rd District Court of Appeal – or eventually the Supreme Court – rules that the adoption of two boys by Martin Gill, a gay man, was wrongly allowed, the state won’t move to remove the children from his home.

Gill was allowed to adopt the children by Miami-Dade circuit court judge Cindy Lederman, who in allowing the adoption, found the state’s ban on gay people adopting children unconstitutional. That ruling came in late 2008 and the state appealed the ruling to the district appeals court where a decision is yet to come down.

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U.S. Sends Florida $5.7M for Boosting Foster Care Adoptions

September 16th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Funding

According to the Associated press, Florida has received some $5.7 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for increasing the level of adoptions of children in foster care.

HHS stated this week that Florida was one of 39 states rewarded for boosting numbers of adoptions since 2007. The states use the incentive money to improve their child welfare programs, the AP reported.

The news report continued: The 12 months ending June 30 saw 3,368 foster children adopted in Florida. That was fewer than the two record years before it, but still more than before the state started an aggressive public awareness campaign three years ago. Read the entire story here.

DCF Chief to Florida Gov. Crist: Don’t Drop Gay Adoption Lawsuit

September 16th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, News & Events

In news from Tallahassee, it was reported in the Palm Beach Post that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist should not drop a lawsuit that could result in a final decision about whether Florida’s 30-year-old ban on gay adoption is constitutional.

The recommendation came from George Sheldon, secretary of the Department of Children and Families.  According to the Post, Sheldon is a Democrat appointed by then-Republican Crist in 2008. He leads the DCF, the agency that challenged a Miami judge’s ruling that Florida’s law barring gay couples from adopting children is unconstitutional. Crist said yesterday he is reviewing whether to drop the lawsuit after releasing a gay-friendly platform in his quest as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate.

Read the entire Post story here.

Lessons Not Learned: Youth Facility Faces Trouble Again

September 14th, 2010   No Comments   Abuse, News & Events

Tampa Bay Academy has not learned that they cannot allow children to be sexually abused and continue to operate. Despite many warnings, damage claims and law suits brought by injured former patients and the prior warnings of the Florida Department of Children & Families, children at Tampa Bay Academy continue to be hurt and injured.

This article, by St. Petersburg Times staff writer Shelley Rossetter, reveals that three children were pulled from the Riverview mental health facility.

Amid reports of violence between patients, the state Department of Children and Families pulled three kids from a Riverview children’s mental health facility last month and plans to remove a dozen more, the Times reported. (more…)

Decline in Florida, Nat’l Foster Youth Stats Good News – But More Work Remains

September 4th, 2010   1 Comment   Funding, News & Events

When the number of U.S. children in foster care drops 20 percent over the past decade – and 8 percent in one year, the figures lead caregivers, administrators, advocates and children’s rights attorneys to cite positive changes in the foster care system.

From Florida to New York to California, foster care enrollment – and how long kids are spending in the system – is dropping, according to statistics from the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration’s annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report.

“This is very good news. The statistics and results show how concerted, collaborative efforts by various organizations and caregivers can really make a difference in the lives of so many children,” said Howard Talenfeld, a child advocacy attorney and president of Florida’s Children First. The statewide organization fights for improvements in foster care and children’s issues.

(more…)

Warning to Prospective Parents: Swindle Foster Kids’ Money and Face Jail Time

News that a Tampa, Florida, area couple allegedly stole more than $400,000 from a foster child’s life insurance payout reveals how society’s most vulnerable children remain susceptible – even while in a system designed to protect them or once they’ve aged out and are on their own.

To prospective parents the indictment against the Davenport, Florida, couple also should stand as a warning to those who would swindle money from kids who need it badly: Get caught, and jail time may await.

According to news reports, Radhames Antonio Oropeza, 53, and Asia Concepcion Oropeza, 52, are said to have invited to Florida a foster child whose mother had died, and whose father was in jail. The child was given the proceeds of a $400,000 life insurance policy when he turned 18. The young man’s name has not been released.

Authorities claim the couple convinced the boy he was making real estate investments. The couple faces charges of conspiring to commit fraud and wire fraud. (more…)