Daytona Beach, FL– July 23, 2014 - The Daytona Beach News-Journal- Help reduce child deaths
The Florida Department of Children & Families is committed to reducing child deaths. This is an achievable goal, but we can’t reach it alone. To make progress, we need the community’s help and we need it now.
Tampa, FL– July 16, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Finding foster homes for 800 special needs kids
Florida child welfare officials are pleading with residents to consider opening their home to a foster child with special needs.
Tallahassee, FL– July 14, 2014 - The Naples Daily News- Florida has more than 1,400 new foster homes
Florida has more than 1,400 new foster homes.
Apopka, FL– July 11, 2014 - WFTV Channel 9- Foster mom bonds out of jail after child left in car at Publix
A foster care parent bonded out of the Orange County Jail Friday morning after police said she left a young child in a car at a Publix grocery store on Thursday.
Tampa Bay, FL– July 9, 2014 - The Tampa Bay Times- Law protecting children requires followup, funding
With regard to recent reports about the 477 children who died who were known by the Department of Children and Families to potentially be at risk, the cases all involved the DCF's knowledge from prior investigations of children who would be in danger of future serious harm or death if left with their families.
Tampa, FL– July 8, 2014 - the Tampa Tribune- New child-safety law must be monitored
With regard to recent reports about the deaths of 477 children who were known by the Florida Department of Children and Families to potentially be at risk, the cases all involved DCF’s knowledge from prior investigations of children who would be in danger of future serious harm or death if left with their families.
Tallahassee, FL– June 26, 2014 - WFSU- Scott Signs Last Bill Of 2014 Session Aimed At Helping Florida's Disabled Kids
Governor Rick Scott has signed the final bill delivered to his desk into law Wednesday aimed at helping children with special needs.
Tallahassee, FL– June 23, 2014 - The Palm Beach Post- Fla. governor signs bill to overhaul child welfare
In response to a series of damning media reports about the deaths of children who had contact with the Department of Children and Families before their deaths, Governor Rick Scott signed a law today which strengthens child welfare laws and increases resources to protect children from abuse and neglect.
Tampa, FL– June 20, 2014 - The Tampa Bay Times- Fight scourge of domestic violence
Child advocate attorneys like myself often fight in courtrooms and the public realm to protect the rights, health and welfare of Florida's at-risk children. But all too often, the worst abuses go on in places we cannot see or reach — behind a family's closed doors.
Tallahassee, FL– June 13, 2014 - The Tampa Bay Times- Lawmaker calls DCF inquiry into child deaths a "whitewash''
A Department of Children & Families investigation into the withholding and possible destruction of child death records was completed this week without generating a single record.
Orlando, FL– June 11, 2014 - WFTV 9- Family of toddler found dead investigated previously
WFTV learned there were three previous investigations into the parents of a toddler who was found dead inside an Orange County hotel room from what investigators said was severe abuse.
Miami, FL– June 4, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Guardian ad Litem volunteers make a difference in children’s lives
The Guardian ad Litem Program, a volunteer-based organization, advocates for the best interests of our communities’ most vulnerable population: children who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. These children, through no fault of their own, become part of an overburdened dependency system.
Broward County, FL– June 1, 2014 - The Sun-Sentinel- Foster care kids continue to grow in number in Broward
Economic indicators may finally be trending upward in Broward County after the recession, but the area has seen a significant increase in the number of children in foster care over the last 18 months.
Tallahassee, FL– May 23, 2014 - The Daily Business Review- Children's Advocacy Bill Awaits Governor's Signature
For decades, Florida case law said children, unlike parents, have no constitutional right to an attorney in dependency court.
Tallahassee, FL– May 15, 2014 - The Miami Herald- New DCF boss names child death prevention czar
In his second week on the job, the Department of Children & Families’ top administrator made good on his first formal pledge by appointing a professional social worker and agency veteran to be the state’s first statewide fatality prevention specialist.
Miami, FL– May 14, 2014 - WLRN- Understanding The Guardian Ad Litem Program
A Guardian ad Litem is the court-appointed voice of a child when government agencies suspect abuse or neglect. But the GAL program is, on the surface, unusual.
Tallahassee, FL– May 7, 2014 - The Tallahassee Democrat- A win for needy children
Sometimes, doing the right thing at the right time requires unwavering commitment and unsung leadership.
Tallahassee, FL– May 5, 2014 - The Miami Herald- New DCF chief promises to keep agency’s child death reports “as open as can be
Hours into his first day as top administrator of the Department of Children & Families, Mike Carroll on Monday began a far-reaching reform of his agency’s response to child deaths — and promised to make the troubled agency more open to public scrutiny.
Miami, FL– May 4, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Win for at-risk kids
Sometimes, doing the right thing at the right time requires unwavering commitment and unsung leadership. In what can be called nothing less than an impressive example of leadership in both houses, the Florida Legislature passed a bipartisan bill to provide attorneys to represent dependent, special-needs children in the legal custody of the Florida Department of Children & Families.
Tallahassee, FL– April 22, 2014 - The Miami Herald- House and Senate settle on $47 million in new money for child welfare
With breakneck speed, House and Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations conference committees met Tuesday morning and agreed to $47 million in new money for child welfare services, far below what child advocates had hoped for but more money for treatment services than either chamber had originally sought.
Tallahassee, FL– April 20, 2014 - CBS 12 News- Florida’s Department Of Children And Families Seek To Fill The “Gaps” In Child Services
Florida lawmakers are working to add more services to prevent child abuse and neglect and they have until July 1st to formulate the plan.
Tallahassee, FL– April 10, 2014 - WFOR CBS Miami- Senate Group Home Proposal Spurs Debate
A debate is brewing about a Senate proposal that could lead to some children in state care being placed in group homes instead of with foster families.
Tallahassee, FL– April 2, 2014 - WFSU- Senators Ponder Creating Child Welfare Czar
Florida’s Department of Children and Families is a step closer to adding an official who’d be tasked with reducing the number of children who die after coming into contact with the agency.
Tallahassee, FL– March 27, 2014 - The Bradenton Herald- Florida's Department of Children and Families dedicated to child safety
The increased attention and scrutiny of Florida's child welfare system prompted by the Miami Herald series "Innocents Lost" is welcome.
Tampa Bay, FL– March 20, 2014 - The Tampa Bay Times- Officials must act on child safety
A recent investigation into the deaths of 477 children who were known to be at risk by the Department of Children and Families shockingly revealed the abysmal failure of DCF and its community partners to protect these children.
Miami, FL– March 16, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Preserving Families But Losing Children
Fraternal twins Tariji and Tavont’ae Gordon were born together but died two years, eight months and 24 days apart. One was buried in a potter’s field; the other was disposed of in a shallow grave covered by earth, plywood and a sheet of tin.
Tallahassee, FL– March 8, 2014 - The Palm Beach Post- Will child killings stop?
Angry and exasperated by the deaths of more than 40 children last year whose troubled families had already crossed paths with investigators from the Department of Children and Families, lawmakers are proposing vast changes to the state’s child protection system, from paying the tuition of investigators, limiting caseloads and requiring foster parents to undergo drug tests.
Orlando, FL– March 3, 2014 - The Orlando Sentinel- Fundamental change needed in wake of child's death
Before Tariji Gordon there was Bradley McGee. And Kayla McKean. And Rilya Wilson, Diella Ludwig and Nubia Barahona. All of these children should be alive today. Their deaths were preventable.
Mechanicsburg, PA– February 23, 2014 - The Wall Street Journal- Drugged as Children, Foster-Care Alumni Speak Out
As a teenager in foster care, Chris Nobles was on a steady diet of psychiatric drugs—an antidepressant, an anti-seizure medicine and a powerful antipsychotic.
Orlando, FL – February 17, 2014 - The Orlando Sentinel- Critics: DCF too quick to put kids back with family
In the days after 2-year-old Tariji Gordon was found buried in a shallow grave — just three months after the state returned her to the custody of her mother — critics are questioning whether Florida should rethink its policy of reunifying children with the parents who abused or neglected them.
Tallahassee, FL – February 9, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Advocates push for improvements in caring, treating sexually abused foster children
The suicide of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers in foster care shocked the child-welfare system in 2009. It led to a series of recommendations about Florida’s use of psychotropic medications on foster kids and how to protect already-traumatized children from sexual abuse by other abused children.
Tallahassee, FL – January 30, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Children advocates needed in court system
Kim DelGaudio was working for the Department of Children and Families when it dawned on her. “I would have guardian ad litem on some of my cases,” DelGaudio says. “And I realized quickly that those cases went a lot more smoothly, and those volunteers were really there to help me.”
North Miami, FL – January 22, 2014 - The Miami Herald- Mom charged in boy’s torture death
A North Miami woman was arrested Tuesday evening after she admitted to fatally torturing her 3-year-old son.
Orlando, FL – January 21, 2014 - The Orlando Sentinel- '48 Hours': Florida DCF helped on adoption show
This weekend's "48 Hours" on international adoptions features help from the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Orlando, FL – January 10, 2014 - WOFL FOX 35- DCF: Foster care extends beyond age 18
As of January 1, children turning 18 years old will be allowed to remain in foster care programs as young adults.
Tallahassee, FL – January 6, 2014 - WFOR CBS Miami- Florida Senate Takes Next Step Toward DCF Reform
Florida Senate President Don Gaetz on Monday took the next step toward reforming the state Department of Children and Families by asking the author of a white paper to address a Senate panel on how to improve the agency’s approach to child safety.
Tallahassee, FL – December 29, 2013 - The Fort Myers News-Press- Florida bill helps foster kids' driving
Earning a driver’s license is a rite of passage for many Florida teenagers, but it’s an experience teenagers in foster care often miss.
In 2012, the Florida Department of Children and Families surveyed 742 teenagers in foster care and found 1 percent of 16-year-olds and 3 percent of 17-year-olds had a driver’s license.
Tallahassee, FL – December 20, 2013 - The Huffington Post Miami- Rick Scott Blasted For Deaths Of 40 Children
South Florida Democrats fired a stinging rebuke at Gov. Rick Scott (R) Thursday, holding him responsible for the deaths of 40 children who were known to state child welfare workers when they died during the first half of 2013.
Palatka, FL – December 12, 2013 - The Florida Times Union- With a focus on reforms after child deaths, DCF holds conference to discuss domestic abuse
You’re an abuse case worker, and you’re in the living room of a woman whose husband has hit her. Your options, including spitting up her family, aren’t simple. What’s the best move? That’s what the Florida Department of Children & Families investigators and Northeast Florida domestic violence shelter workers came together to discuss Thursday at a conference in Palatka.
Bunnell, FL – December 4, 2013 - The Daytona Beach News-Journal- Motions dropped in Flagler child abuse case
A trial date will soon be scheduled for a former Palm Coast day care business owner accused of abusing and critically injuring a 1-year-old boy more than three years ago, the defense attorney said.
Tallahassee, FL – December 4, 2013 - WTVJ NBC 6- Esther Jacobo Hopeful That DCF Has "Learned a Lesson" From Jayden Villegas-Morales Case
The death of a Homestead toddler this summer has been under review by a national child welfare organization.
Tallahassee, FL – November 21, 2013 - WFOR CBS 4- New Law Letting Kids Stay In Foster Care Till 21 Gets Pushback
A new law giving young adults in foster care the option of staying until age 21 is slated to go into effect January 1, 2014.
Tallahassee, FL – November 20, 2013 - The Daily Business Review- Budget Questions Arise From DCF Reform Work
As lawmakers, judges, providers and children's advocates engage in Florida's latest debate about the rate of child deaths statewide, all eyes are on the next budget being crafted for the Department of Children and Families.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – November 17, 2013 - WPLG Local 10- This Week in South Florida
Local 10's Michael Putney discusses the issues with Department of Children and Families after at least 25 children have died since April at the hands of abusive and violent parents or other caregivers.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – November 15, 2013 - The Florida Bar News- Letters: DCF
Developmentally disabled children in the Florida Department of Children and Families’ care and custody are the most vulnerable children in Florida; however, often they have no one to advocate for their needs or argue in juvenile court on their behalf before governmental agencies.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – November 13, 2013 - The Miami Herald- Workable solution needed for Florida’s children
The Nov. 3 editorial, Abuse, child deaths continue, says that in the wake of the deaths of 25 children known by the Florida Department of Children & Families to be potentially at risk, the agency “should declare immediately that DCF’s policy of keeping families together — no matter what, it seems — can no longer be its overriding policy if children in mortal danger are to be rescued from their abusers.”
Fort Lauderdale, FL – November 10, 2013 - The Tampa Bay Times- Best practices for care
The Florida Department of Children and Families has argued for years in support of its policy of keeping troubled families together. In the wake of the deaths of 25 children known by DCF potentially to be at harm, some have called the policy flawed.
Tallahassee, FL – November 5, 2013 - The Miami Herald- DCF consultant rips agency for fatally bungled child safety efforts
Two years ago, Destene Simmons grabbed a pillow and held it over the face of her son in an apparent attempt to smother him. Antwan Hope screamed. Simmons’ mother barged in the room. Tragedy was averted.
Tallahassee, FL – November 5, 2013 - The Florida Current- DCF response exasperates lawmaker during hearing on child deaths
Dozens of children die from abuse and neglect each year despite intervention by the Department of Children and Families and Community Based Care organizations.
Tallahassee, FL – November 5, 2013 - The Miami Herald- Committee seeks changes aimed at preventing future child deaths
The question before the Senate committee was simple: Why did Florida’s child welfare system fail to protect the more than 40 children who are known to have died under its care between January and July?
Palm Beach County, FL – November 3, 2013 - The Miami Herald- Fla. abuse victim wins $5M lawsuit against DCF
A young victim of sex abuse at the hands of an older foster child has won a $5 million lawsuit against the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Port Charlotte, FL – October 31, 2013 - The Fort Myers News-Press- Parents of tortured Port Charlotte boy suing DCF and other agencies
The adoptive parents of a boy left in a Port Charlotte home for several months despite telling child welfare officials he was being trapped and tortured by his stepmother are suing three agencies for failing to protect him.
Palm Beach County, FL – October 29, 2013 - Sunshine State News- $5 Million Verdict Against DCF in Sex Abuse Case Could Go to Lawmakers
A Palm Beach County jury on Friday found that the state Department of Children and Families should pay $5 million in the sexual assault of a 9-year-old boy by a slightly older foster child -- but collecting the money will be easier said than done.
Lee County, FL – October 28, 2013 - The Miami Herald- Despite ‘red flags,’ 3-year-old under state supervision restrained to death in blanket
So afraid of his mother’s boyfriend was Samantha McMullen’s son that he asked state child protection investigators to rescue him and his siblings from the man, so he “would not kill them.”
Palm Beach County, FL – October 25, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel Jury awards $5 million over sexual assault by foster child
The father argued two social service agencies failed in their duty to warn about a 10-year-old foster child's violent background and sexually aggressive nature, leading to a life-altering 2003 attack on the dad's natural son in Wellington.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – October 21, 2013 - The Daily Business Review Scrutiny Of Florida's Child Welfare System Intensifies
As the three CEOs of Florida's privatized child welfare agencies faced lawmakers last week, the stakes were high. The House Healthy Families Committee was looking into a recent wave of children's deaths — children already known to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – October 21, 2013 - The Daily Business Review Letter To Editor: Attorneys Should Advocate For Disabled Children
It's long been a concern for children's rights supporters throughout Florida. Developmentally disabled children in DCF's care and custody are the most vulnerable children in Florida; however, often they have no one to advocate for their needs or argue in juvenile court on their behalf before governmental agencies.
West Palm Beach, FL – October 16, 2013 - The Palm Beach Post Courtroom in tears as victim of alleged sexual acts recounts abuse at hands of foster brother
Howard Talenfeld serves as co-counsel on this case.
Tallahassee, FL – October 14, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel- Help protect children first
I applaud interim Department of Children and Families Secretary Esther Jacobo for her efforts to address the issues with our state's child protection services.
Broward County, FL – October 10, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel- Child-protection worker accused of falsifying reports
A Broward sheriff's employee entrusted to help shield kids from harm didn't even bother to meet five children she needed to watch over, possibly compromising their safety, authorities say.
West Palm Beach, FL – October 10, 2013 - The Palm Beach Post- Wellington father suing DCF after he took in abused boy: We loved him
In October 2003, more than a year after they brought Jerald into their home, a Wellington finally learned about the horrific abuse he had suffered and realized they were incapable of providing him the help he needed.
West Palm Beach, FL – October 8, 2013 - The Palm Beach Post- Man testifies DCF failed to warn him about abusive past of child he took into home
In the weeks before 10-year-old Jerald came to live with a Wellington couple, he had been repeatedly raped by a 19-year-old in a house where state officials sent him after they rescued him from his neglectful mother.
West Palm Beach, FL – October 2, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel- DCF on trial over sexual assault by foster child
When the 10-year-old foster child arrived in late summer 2002, he came with tremendous baggage: Sexually molested as a toddler; raised in poverty and around drugs; and repeatedly raped by an older neighborhood boy described as a "sexual deviant."
West Palm Beach, FL – October 2, 2013 - WPEC CBS 12 - Family Sues DCF After Biological Son Is Molested By Adoptive Son
It took place in 2002, but 11 years later it's finally coming to light. Christopher Han and his wife suing DCF after they say the child adoption agency did not warn them the child they were about to adopt was sexually aggressive.
Miami, FL – October 1, 2013 - WSVN 7 News - Mother charged with child neglect
Police have arrested a mother accused of leaving her two young children alone.
Sunrise, FL – September 29, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel - New information sheds light on case of Sunrise boy who died in hot SUV
There were things that Jordan Coleman's day care playmates remembered about the day he died — the day the 4-year-old was left in a sweltering SUV.
West Palm Beach, FL – September 29, 2013 - The Palm Beach Post - Two children home alone in suburban West Palm Beach; mother charged with child abuse, marijuana possession
A suburban West Palm Beach woman is facing charges after authorities alleged that she left her two young children alone last week in a home with marijuana and moldy food.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – September 24, 2013 - WPLG Local 10 - Boy sues DCF over stabbing
A lawsuit filed against the Department of Children and Families alleges the department didn't do enough to a protect a now 9-year-old boy who was stabbed by his father in February 2012.
Fort Lauderdale, FL – September 24, 2013 - WFOR CBS4 - Boy Sues DCF For Negligence
Attorneys representing a nine-year old boy have filed a lawsuit in Broward County against Florida’s Department of Children and Families, claiming negligence and culpable negligence.
Tallahasee, FL – September 24, 2013 - WUFT - Rising Death Toll From Child Abuse Puts DCF Under Fire
A rising number of child deaths in Florida has people looking with trepidation at child welfare services across the state.
Tallahassee, FL – September 18, 2013 - WTSP 10 News - Florida DCF rewarded for helping kids find their forever homes
T he Florida Department of Children and Families wins a national award and $5 million for its success in finding adoptive homes for children.
Boynton Beach, FL – September 17, 2013 - The Sun-Sentinel - Mom to face child neglect charge after toddler found alone in Boynton roadway, police say
The little boy, who's a week shy of 2 years old, was unharmed when an off-duty firefighter spotted him just before 6 a.m. in the middle of Congress Avenue.
Orlando, FL – September 17, 2013 - The Orlando Sentinel - Mom bashed daughter's head with pot, report alleges
A self-described "stressed-out" Orlando woman is accused of beating her daughter with a pot and punching the girl in the face.
Hialeah, FL – September 17, 2013 - WPLG Local 10 - 23-month-old boy shows no brain activity after motel window fall
A 23-month-old boy who fell from the second-story window of a motel in Hialeah is showing no brain activity, the child's guardian ad litem testified during a shelter hearing Tuesday.
Jacksonville, FL – September 7, 2013 - The Florida Times Union - DCF to lead push to help people of struggling 32209 ZIP code
Right now, the 32209 ZIP code is a community in crisis. The neighborhoods on Jacksonville’s northwest side have the city’s highest rates of family poverty, infant and child deaths, teen pregnancy, unemployment and homicides, among other things.
Tallahassee, FL – September 7, 2013 - The Naples Daily News - Florida's family drug courts help parents clean up, families reunite
It’s been a maxim at the Florida Department of Children and Families that if there were no substance abuse or mental illness, the agency could shut its doors. But with substance abuse still threatening to overwhelm child-welfare systems like Florida’s, officials are looking at drug courts for troubled families as a way to address the problem.
Tampa Bay, FL – August 23, 2013 - The Tampa Bay Times - Deaths point to faults in DCF
Advocates, guardians and attorneys who represent and protect the state's most vulnerable children from harm were horrified by the deaths of four children in four months — all of whom were known to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Miami, FL – August 20, 2013 - The Miami Herald - DCF gets a grilling from judges over 4-year-old’s care
Miami-Dade County’s entire child welfare bench presided over a virtually unprecedented hearing Tuesday in which the five judges grilled lawyers and an investigator with the Department of Children & Families over “systemic” failures that have left children dead or gravely injured.
National News – August 12, 2013 - USA Today - Adoption numbers rising for kids in foster care
The percentage of kids adopted from foster care is swinging upward, a new report suggests.
Tallahassee, FL – August 8, 2013 - The Naples Daily News - DCF to use new performance measures in foster care
Florida child welfare officials are creating new performance measures to evaluate its 17 private contractors that oversee foster care around the state.
Sweetwater, FL – August 2, 2013 - The Miami Herald - Mom charged with keeping autistic son in Sweetwater ‘dungeon’ says she tried to get him help
Lately, Gladys Jaramillo’s idea of caring for her adult son with autism was locking him in a squalid, sweltering room, which got her arrested and charged with aggravated abuse, neglect of a mentally disabled adult, and false imprisonment.
Miami, FL – August 2, 2013 - The Miami Herald - After tragedy, judge clamps down on DCF
Reeling from the brutal death of a 2-year-old boy he was entrusted to protect, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael A. Hanzman is peeling away much of the authority state child welfare officials normally enjoy in his courtroom — and taking more matters into his own hands.
Tallahassee, FL – July 31, 2013 - WFOR CBS 4 - DCF Considers Working With Law Enforcement On Child Investigations
In the state of Florida, the child death toll rate continues to climb and officials, along with children’s advocates, are pondering whether a two-fold approach, bringing sheriffs in on child investigations, can help save children’s lives.
Tallahassee, FL – July 31, 2013 - WTVJ NBC 6 - Cluster of Child Deaths Unprecedented and Alarming, Advocates Say
Unprecedented and alarming. That's how child advocates describe the recent cluster of deaths allegedly due to abuse and neglect.
Tallahassee, FL – July 24, 2013 - WFSU - Interim DCF Chief Calls On Staff To Refocus; Child Advocates Say It's A Start
The new interim head of Florida’s child welfare agency is calling on her staff to refocus in the wake of the recent spate of child deaths associated with the agency. But, some child welfare advocates say there’s more work to do.
Homestead, FL – July 22, 2013 - The Miami Herald - Homestead man charged with shaking toddler to death
A Homestead man has been charged with shaking his 2-year-old son to death last week — one month after state child welfare administrators gave him custody of the toddler even though he was unemployed, living in a one-bedroom home with eight other children,and had been repeatedly accused of domestic violence.
Miami, FL – May 25, 2013 - Miami Herald - Probe Into Kendall Boy’s Death Uncovers Lie by DCF Investigator
Child welfare administrators and prosecutors are looking into allegations that Shani Smith, a child abuse investigator, fudged the substance abuse screening of a Kendall mother who later left her baby to die in a sweltering car. As a result of her fictitious report, child welfare administrators concluded it was not necessary to take any actions to protect 11-month-old Bryan Osceola or his older siblings or provide oversight for his parents. Six months later, Bryan’s mother, Catalina Bruno, drove to her Kendall home and left him behind in the car, along with her purse and a can of beer. By the time anybody asked “where’s Bryan?” the boy had a 109-degree temperature. He was declared dead at the hospital.
Miami, Florida - May 11, 2013 - Miami Herald - Duffels For Kids Helping Florida’s Foster Kids Trade Up Garbage Bags
-- Brandon Burke had to leave the home of a family friend in Fort Lauderdale before the end of the night, to be placed in his sixth foster home in Lauderhill. So Burke, 17 at the time, went to his bedroom and began to dump his life’s belongings into a large, black garbage bag — wrestling and karate trophies, khakis, sneakers. He left the home, bag in hand. For Burke, and so many of the children in Florida’s foster care system, this was a heartbreakingly normal way to move. In launching Duffels for Kids, the Florida State Foster/Adoptive Parent Association joins several other organizations across the nation working to replace makeshift luggage with something that feels a little more permanent. The first fundraiser will be held May 18.
Orlando, Florida - May 9, 2013 - Orlando Sentinel - Nation is Watching Florida's New Foster-Care Reforms
-- For thousands of foster kids across Florida, life is about to become a little more "normal." Under newly passed laws being watched by much of the nation, children growing up in the state's care will soon be allowed to play sports, sleep over at a friend's house, go to a movie or do any of the things other children do without their caretakers having to pursue background checks and court orders.
Tallahassee, Florida - May 2, 2013 - Miami Herald - Bill Extending Foster Care to Age 21 Goes to Gov. Rick Scott for Signature
-- The Florida House passed a bill Wednesday giving young adults in state custody the option of remaining until age 21 – three years longer than in current law – to reduce their chances of ending up homeless, jobless or in jail.
Brooksville, Florida - April 29, 2013 - Hernando Today - Center Helps Victimized Children
-- The portable buildings are tucked away off of East Jefferson Avenue in south Brooksville. A playground is just steps away for feisty children who just need to run. Inside, brightly colored carpets and stuffed animals greet children referred to the Child Advocacy Center of Hernando County, a central location where young victims come for interviews, medical exams and counseling.
Miami, Florida - April 24, 2013 - Miami Herald - Abuse Ridden ALF Ordered to Close
-- The Hillandale Assisted Living Facility, a Tampa Bay-area home where disabled young adults were raped, beaten, drugged and locked in a dank closet — one resident was struck by a car and killed — may be closing its doors on the orders of state health regulators.
Gainesville, Florida - April 5, 2013 - Miami Herald - Law Will Help Foster Kids Be Kids
-- Normal. For Florida kids in foster care — and the foster parents, guardians and attorneys who advocate for their lives and futures — the word “normal” was not in their vocabulary. They have little access to normal healthcare channels, like other kids do. They often get shuttled from one school to the next when they change foster homes. School field trips, play dates and sleepovers require approval from case managers at best or, at worst, fingerprints and background checks.
Miami, Florida - March 28, 2013 - Daily Business Review - Attorneys Help Find Child-Welfare Agencies Negligent
-- Howard Talenfeld, Stacie Schmerling and Joel Fass got Broward County's ChildNet to pay up to its maximum policy limit of $2 million and the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to pay up to its statutory cap of $200,000 in a case involving the suspected abuse of two kindergarten-age sisters.
Tallahassee, Florida - January 18, 2013 - NBC 6 Miami - Error Was Made in Email About Dontrell Melvin: Department of Children and Families Official
-- A high-ranking Department of Children and Families official acknowledged that an email that said missing boy Dontrell Melvin was seen in October 2012 was a mistake. The email released by DCF said that an investigator saw the child on Oct. 14, 2012, even though police have said he was last seen around July 2011.
Montgomery, Alabama - January 17, 2013 - National Public Radio - Why A Young Man Died In A Nursing Home, A State Away From His Mom
-- Zach Sayne was 25 when he died earlier this month at the place that had been his home for 15 years — a children's nursing home in Alabama. But that was too far away, 200 miles too far, for his mother in Georgia. Nola Sayne was trying to bring him back, closer to her home. The story of why she couldn't reveals the bureaucratic traps, underfunding and lack of choices that plague state Medicaid programs..
Port St. Lucie, Florida - January 5, 2013 - (AP) - DCF Wants Unlicensed Religious Children's Home Closed
-- State officials asked a judge Friday to shut down an unlicensed Port St. Lucie children's home that for years has been allowed to operate despite evidence it has hurt kids in its care. In an 80-page petition, attorneys for the Department of Children and Families cataloged more than a dozen incidents in which its investigators found evidence children were neglected, injured or otherwise mistreated while in the care of Alan Weierman, the self-professed "colonel" who runs Southeastern Military Academy. The agency says the home must be shut down because it operates with no state license and has failed to get other state-recognized credentials, such as private school accreditation.
Miami, Florida - December 29, 2012 - (AP) - Attorney Takes on Case Pro Bono: Helps Reveal How Florida Limits Care for Disabled Kids
-- "In September, the U.S. Justice Department said Florida had 'planned, structured and administered a system of care that has led to the unnecessary segregation and isolation of children, often for many years,' in geriatric nursing homes," reported the Miami Herald. "Children in such homes often spend their days in virtual seclusion, lying in bed or watching television, the civil rights division wrote." With children's rights attorney Howard Talenfeld at her side, a single mother sought to fight the way Florida cares for its most at-risk, disabled children.
Jacksonville, Florida - December 28, 2012 - (AP) - Florida Department of Children and Families Extends Contract for Welfare Services
-- Child welfare services for the county got a big boost recently when the state’s Department of Children and Families extended a contract with Family Support Services of North Florida to provide assistance and a variety of programs to families in need. The $48.7 million contract, which includes services in Duval County, lasts through 2018. FSS has provided core child welfare services in Nassau County since 2007. The agency is one of about 20 in the state that provides community-based care in child welfare.
Tallahassee, Florida - December 27, 2012 - (AP) - Non-Profit with State Contracts Pays Top Exec $1.2 Million
-- A nonprofit company that holds two dozen state contracts to care for troubled juveniles in Florida pays its chief executive more than $1.2 million a year in salary and benefits, most of it courtesy of taxpayers. Outraged, the state Department of Juvenile Justice says the money paid to William Schossler is excessive and should be spent to help kids. The state wants the hefty paydays to stop.
Miami Gardens, Florida - December 20, 2012 - (AP) - DCF Chief David Wilkins Inspects Adult Nursing Home Where Child Died
-- Florida's top child-welfare administrator secretary, Department of Children & Families Secretary David Wilkins, made a surprise visit to the troubled Golden Glades Nursing & Rehabilitation under investigation over its treatment of medically fragile children in state care and subject of one of the harshest federal fines in recent history after the death of a 14-year-old Tampa girl who was taken to the home last year despite her mother’s emphatic objections.
Tallahassee, Florida - December 2, 2012 - (AP) - DCF Chief David Wilkins: Rilya Wilson's Death Spurred Important Changes
-- In an editorial, Department of Children and Families chief David Wilkins writes, "As the current murder trial proceeds, it is important that Floridians know that Rilya’s tragic death was more than one awful incident. It spurred decisions that have made children safer today."
Tallahassee, Florida - November 30, 2012 - (AP) - More Than 500 Children Adopted Across Florida During November
-- More than 500 children from Pensacola to Miami were adopted during dozens of November celebrations of National Adoption Month.
“Our goal for children in foster care is to find a forever family who will love them, accept them and give them the home that they deserve,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. "I am so proud of our agency and our partners who are always looking for a permanent home for our kids.”
Miami, Florida - November 28, 2012 - Miami Herald - South Miami-Dade Woman Adopts Five Siblings
-- A South Miami-Dade woman, Katrina Deshazior, 32 and a single mother of a teenager, adopted her drug-addicted sister's five children, because she “wanted to give them love.”.
Miami, Florida - November 26, 2012 - Miami Herald - A League of Their Own: Special-Needs Kids Play Ball
-- The Miami-Dade Miracle League offers children with mental and physical challenges the chance to play ball. Players ranging in age from 3 to 22 gathered at Suniland Park in Pinecrest on Nov. 17 for the Miami-Dade Miracle League’s inaugural game.
Parkland, Florida - November 8, 2012 - (AP) - Broward School Bus Attendant Accused of Choking Autistic Boy, 13
-- A Broward County School District bus attendant is accused of choking an autistic boy on a bus ride from Westglades Middle School to the child's Deerfield Beach home, according to a Broward Sheriff's Office report.
Darryl Blue, 48, of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with aggravated child abuse. The child, Moises Mancebo, has not been himself since the alleged Oct. 9 incident, his mother said.
Coral Gables, Florida - October 31, 2012 - (AP) - Child Welfare Officials Discuss Human Trafficking
-- Florida's child welfare officials are discussing their plans to fight human trafficking. The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet will hold its regular meeting Wednesday in Coral Gables at the University of Miami. In attendance will be Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, Florida's Chief Child Advocate Zack Gibson and the Director of the Governor's Office of Adoption. The group will discuss the state's plans to fight human trafficking and provide assistance to victims. A new volunteer Advocate for Human Trafficking will also be named as part of the Governor's Office of Adoption and Child Protection.
Tallahassee, Florida - October 29, 2012 - WFSU - Foster Kids Turn Up In Unlicensed Facilities
-- The Florida Department of Children and Families is launching an investigation to figure out how a number of Florida foster children wound up in unlicensed homes. Florida DCF officials have identified a handful of kids who’ve been unlawfully placed in facilities that aren’t licensed by the Florida department. Spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said the department is working to make sure it won’t happen again. She said the placements were not made by DCF employees.
Miami, Florida - October 25, 2012 - Miami Herald - Miami Archdiocese Suspends Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse
The Archdiocese of Miami changed course Wednesday and suspended the Rev. Rolando Garcia, pastor of the St. Agatha Church, after an Iraq veteran accused him of abuse in the 1990s in Hollywood.
Treasure Coast, Florida - October 24, 2012 - TC News - Thumb Down: Domestic Violence Remains a Major Problem in Florida
FAMILY VIOLENCE: Last year, in Florida, there were 111,681 reports of domestic violence. Clearly, there were many more such situations that were not reported. Of those that were reported, 192 individuals died from that violence, representing almost 20 percent of all homicides in the state…The cycle of domestic abuse in Florida must end. Recognizing the problem and taking action are critical steps.
Tallahassee, Florida - October 5, 2012 - 10 News Tampa Bay - Child Abuse Reports Increase Under New Florida Law
Anyone in Florida can be charged now with a felony for failing to report child abuse. A new state law took effect this week that's being called the "Penn State law" because it followed the Jerry Sandusky child molesting scandal. The Protection of Vulnerable Persons law requires anyone to report child abuse to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Failure to do so could result in felony charges, or if someone at a university fails to report, the school could face fines of up to $1 million.
Pembroke Pines, Florida - October 1, 2012 - Pembroke Pines Juvenile Center to Close After Contract Isn't Renewed
A Pembroke Pines juvenile center with a history of complaints is scheduled to close its doors in January, officials say. The decision comes after the Broward Public Defender's Office in July had asked a three-judge panel to help scrutinize the academy — a 154-bed youth offender and treatment facility — over allegations of children being physically abused at the facility..
New Smyrna Beach, Florida - September 18, 2012 - Deputies: DCF Worker Wanted Sex With Woman in Exchange for Clean Drug Test
A former Florida Department of Children and Families investigator was arrested Friday for soliciting sexual favors from a New Smyrna Beach woman in exchange for using his own urine for her drug screening. Andrew Thomas, 32 (10/22/80), was taken into custody at his current home in Carlisle, Pa. on a warrant charging him with bribery by a public servant, official misconduct, and falsifying records.
Tallahassee, Florida - September 10, 2012 - Mother Jones Rick Scott Rejects Health Care Funds That Would Keep Disabled Kids Out of Nursing Homes
Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott loathes Obamacare so much that he turned down $40 million in federal health care funds that would keep hundreds of disabled kids at home with their parents, rather than warehoused in nursing homes. So says the Department of Justice, whose civil rights division recently investigated the situation in Florida.
Miami, Florida - September 6, 2012 - State of Florida Child Abuse Hotline Upgraded
Child welfare officials are overhauling the state abuse hotline, adding faster technology and retraining staff so they can provide investigators with more updated information about alleged abuse and a family's background before a home visit.
Hollywood, Florida - August 15, 2012 - Police: Parents Arrested After Leaving Toddler Alone in Hard Rock Casino Hotel Room
The parents of a 20-month-old were arrested after allegedly leaving the boy alone inside a Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hotel room while the two went out for dinner and drinks. According to officials, the couple put the child to sleep on a bed and unplugged the telephone so he wouldn't be disturbed. Investigators with the Seminole Police said the child was left inside the room for at least 45 minutes.
Central Florida - August 12, 2012 - Florida Hospital Claims Fertilizer Company Pushing Probe by Department of Children & Families
The Department of Children and Families — with two other state agencies — conducted an unannounced inspection of The Florida Institute of Neurologic Rehabilitation last week, just days after Bloomberg News published a story outlining abuse allegations. The Institute says a local fertilizer company is pushing the probe and claims the charges are old and being rehashed as part of the nearby fertilizer company's efforts to gain a lucrative permit to extract millions of dollars of phosphate.
Miami, Florida - August 12, 2012 - Miami Herald: Nightmare on Flagler Street: After Arrest of Parents, Neighbors, Cops Find Filthy Mess
The arrest form was shocking, but so was the home on West Flagler Street. Used needles littered a dirty windowsill beside a bilingual Bible. Piles of brightly colored toys and soiled, smelly clothes covered the floor where cockroaches scurried through kitty litter between two stained mattresses. The smell was overwhelming; a blend of human filth, animal excrement and the stench from an empty, mildewed refrigerator.
Los Angeles, California - August 6, 2012 - AP: Boy Scout Files Reveal Repeat Child Abuse
Internal documents from the Boy Scouts of America reveal more than 125 cases in which men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators, the Los Angeles Times reported. A Los Angeles Times review of more than 1,200 files from 1970 to 1991 found suspected abusers regularly remained in the organization after officials were first presented with sexual misconduct allegations. In at least 50 cases, the Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover they had re-entered the organization and were accused of molesting again.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida - August 3, 2012 - Miami Herald: Broward Sheriff's Office Investigates Death of Boy, 4, Left in Sweltering SUV
Broward authorities are investigating the death of a 4-year-old boy left in a sweltering SUV for more than two hours by the 20-year-old daughter of a Sunrise day-care operator. Sources told The Miami Herald Thursday that the boy, Jordan Coleman, and seven other children had been taken to a Tamarac apartment complex by van on Wednesday, allegedly because the owner of 3C’s Day Academy was afraid that child-care-licensing administrators would visit and discover she was caring for more children than her license allowed.
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