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Archive for March, 2012

Florida’s Children First – State’s Premier Child Advocacy Organization – Draws 250 Attendees, Raises $100,000 at Event Honoring Broward County Bar Presidents, Advocates and Former Foster Children

March 23rd, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy

Fort Lauderdale, Florida – The 10th annual Florida’s Children First (FCF) Broward Awards reception yesterday raised $100,000 and drew more than 250 child advocates, elected officials, judges and community and business leaders in support of the state’s foster, abused and neglected children.

FCF, the statewide legal advocacy organization focused on protecting the legal rights of at-risk and foster care children, recognized supporters and groups committed to helping Florida’s most vulnerable children. The event was held on March 22 in Fort Lauderdale.

The event recognized this year’s Broward Child Advocate honorees. They included Broward County Bar Association Past-President Bruce Weihe; Broward County Bar Association President Jordana Goldstein; and Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Dependency Recruitment Project Director David Bazerman.

“Florida’s Children First Broward Awards honor those who give of their time and expertise in helping children across the county. But it’s so much more than that,” said Howard Talenfeld, FCF President and Fort Lauderdale children’s rights attorney, who hosted the event with FCF Executive Director Christina Spudeas. “Each year, the event showcases the change that advocates who are committed to a cause can bring on behalf of those whose voices cannot be heard. Tracey would be proud of the legacy of advocacy that lives on in her honor.”


Lawsuit Claims Florida Pays to ‘Warehouse’ Disabled Children Rather Than Send Them Home

March 15th, 2012   No Comments   Court Cases

Two cases filed in Fort Lauderdale courts this week have Florida child advocates, foster child rights attorneys and others who follow issues regarding disabled children closely interested.

In one case, a 16-year-old girl who cannot talk or walk and needs help breathing part of the day, lives “warehoused” by the state in a Plantation nursing and rehabilitation center, says her attorney, who filed the case in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. She’s one of 250 such disabled or severely sick children Florida pays to keep in nursing homes – when alternatives exist. Their families would prefer them to be at home or in the community.

The lawsuit claims Florida keeps these sick and disabled kids trapped in nursing homes and institutions by denying services, “even when doctors have cleared them to go home with their families,” the Sun-Sentinel reported of the suit.

In a separate suit, a second group of families claim the opposite – fearing 3,300 at-risk children living at home may be forced into institutions or nursing homes if Florida Medicaid denies services.

Lawyers claim the law is on the plaintiffs’ side. The Americans With Disabilities Act and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling require states provide services that keep such individuals in the least restrictive settings possible, the paper reported. Read the entire story here.

Advocates, Attorneys, Guardians: States Save When Providing Lawyers to Foster Kids

March 12th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy

Nationwide, from Florida to California, some 400,000 foster kids struggle to find their place in the system, whether it’s the dependency court or life in a group home. This Associated Press story discusses the need for legal help for foster kids. Some states, like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and more than a dozen other states, appointed attorneys are required for foster children. Yet, the story notes that shrinking budgets make compliance sporadic.

On a high note, a Florida pilot program has advocates pushing other states to try. Here, advocates say children with attorneys move through the system faster.

“A pilot program in Palm Beach County showed children with effective counsel in dependency cases found permanent homes at about twice the rate of unrepresented children,” the AP wrote. “The program, which has 14 attorneys with an average caseload of 35 kids, works with about 800 foster children a year, costing taxpayers about $1.7 million. Advocates say that’s less than what the state would pay for extended stays in foster care. Florida spends between $150 to $200 a day to care for each child.”

The AP continued, “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded a $5 million grant to the University of Michigan to study how to better connect foster children with legal help. The American Bar Association recently wrote legislation and is urging lawmakers in several states, including Florida, to require attorneys for all foster children.”

Read the entire story here.

Florida Department of Children and Families Sued by Father of 3 Children Slain in Riviera Beach

A restraining order, verbal threats of personal injury, physical assaults, an open-and-shut investigation closed too soon by the Florida Department of Children and Families and news her estranged husband was looking to buy a handgun weren’t enough for DCF to protect Natasha Whyte-Dell and her seven children.

Then, in September 2010, the estranged husband, Patrick Dell, kicked in her door and shot dead Whyte-Dell and three of her children and injured a fourth before killing himself.

Now, Michael Barnett, father of the three children, is suing DCF for negligence. Read the entire story here.

Florida Department of Children and Families: Too Much Child Sexual Abuse Goes Unreported

March 6th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Child sex abuse, physical abuse, personal injury and other harm comes to Florida children, according to child advocates, child advocacy attorneys and personal injury lawyers who help foster children and other kids in vulnerable situations. But we all can help by reporting what we see to the Florida Department of Children and Families at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

In the case of a 6-year-old girl, the DCF says she and her sibling are safe now. But her mother had traded the girl for sex to get drugs.

“You know in my seven and a half years with DCF, we’ve never seen a case like this,” DCF spokesman John Harrell told WOKV.

Now, as with all cases of possible sex abuse and child abuse, the DCF owes it to the little girl to do a thorough investigation. Authorities also are giving the girl counseling.

“But we want to make sure that the child does not have to recount what happened to many times,” he says.

Now, adults around these vulnerable children have to speak up. “There’s a lot of child sexual abuse that goes unreported. That’s unacceptable.”

Reporting child abuse and sexual abuse is required by law. If you suspect something is going on, call DCF at 1-800-96-ABUSE.