What is FCA?

Child Advocacy Blog


Archive for January, 2013

Divided Verdict in Rilya Wilson Child Abuse, Murder Case Raises More Questions

When jurors this week convicted Geralyn Graham of abusing and kidnapping foster child Rilya Wilson, who had been left in her care and later lost for almost two years by the Florida Department of Children and Families – but deadlocked on the murder charge — it represented a partial victory for the system and little Rilya. The kidnapping charge comes with 30 years to life in prison, with the aggravated child abuse bringing 30 years with five additional years for child abuse. But 10 years after her disappearance, questions and concerns still remain for those concerned about avoiding child abuse, personal injury and damages t0 Florida’s most vulnerable.

Although justice was done today when the jury finally convicted Graham of kidnapping and aggravated child abuse, Florida DCF has forgotten many of the lessons learned from the Blue Ribbon Panel about the 193 other children who are listed n DCF’s web site as missing from their placement today.

They are ages 6 through 18 and the public has no idea how long each of the children has been missing. One is as young six years old girl, and DCF does not know where she is today.

How many other Rilya Wilsons are out there. How many will perish? How many are victims of physical and sexual assault? How many are in harm way?

These are questions we need asked – and answered. Read more about Geralyn Graham’s verdict here.

Sexual Assault of Teens at Kids Shelter Has Foster Child Abuse Attorney Concerned About Security

January 25th, 2013   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb shareholder and foster child advocate and personal injury attorney Howard Talenfeld was interviewed on WSVN 7 News Miami regarding a suspected sexual abuser who attacked two teens at Kids in Distress in Wilton Manors. In the aftermath of the assault, two child care workers at the emergency shelter for abused and neglected children were fired. But the two victims could suffer life-long mental pain following the assault, Talenfeld said.

Meanwhile, police continue to search for man who jumped the fence, sexually assaulted the two teens, then ran off. Police now are distributing a police sketch of the man, who police believe has a tattoo on one shoulder and the scar from a gunshot wound on the other shoulder, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Advocates Wonder About Another Lost in South Florida Child Protection Maze

Several years ago, Rilya Wilson went missing while under the care of a foster parent – and the apparent watchful eyes of Florida Department of Children and Families case workers. Now, word has emerged that Dontrell Melvin hasn’t been seen by county and regional child protective services since summer 2011.

Another child slipped through the cracks and is lost. The news raises serious questions about the Florida Department of Children and Families, its children hotline and the wisdom of recent budget cuts. To be sure, these two cases are dissimilar. Rilya was in foster care; Dontrell is more a case of investigative woes by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Child Net’s failure to provide protective services.

Yet, the end result is the same. A child is missing – and no one knows where he or she is. Read the story here.

More to the point, in the case of little Dontrell, no one even looked for about 18 months. Now, Hallandale Beach Police are on the hunt.

Unlike Rilya’s case, where her foster mother, Geralyn Graham is being tried in Rilya’s purported death (as no body ever has been found), one can only hope for a positive outcome. UPDATE: Police on Friday reportedly found human remains in the Melvin yard.

Still, police are asking anyone who knows anything of Dontrell’s whereabouts or details to call 954-457-1400 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.

Foster Child Attorney: Proposed Federal Changes to Florida Disabled Child Program Welcome

Florida child advocates, attorneys and legal guardians who have seen physical abuse, mistreatment and neglect of the state’s most medically and at-risk disabled children applaud the U.S. Department of Justice proposed overhaul of the state’s programs for these vulnerable populations – even as  leaders from the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Healthcare Administration defend their practices.

The federal government this week pressured state leaders to improve its care and treatment of those children who suffer from severe medical conditions. The harsh indictment of Florida’s program and history of care for this population came in the form of a 17-page settlement proposal from federal civil rights lawyers, who offered “a comprehensive blueprint for overhauling the state’s system of care for frail youngsters,” wrote the Miami Herald.

In it, the DOJ “demands the state stop slicing in-home nursing services for frail youngsters, stop ignoring the requests of family doctors who treat disabled children and stop sending hundreds of children to geriatric nursing homes — where they often spend their childhoods isolated from families and peers,” the paper wrote.

Meanwhile, leaders from heads of three state agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Administration and the Florida Department of Children and Families, defended at a Tallahassee news conference the state’s process of housing of hundreds of disabled children in nursing homes.

Read the entire article here.

At-Risk, Foster Child Attorney: Parents Speak Out about State’s Care of Disabled Children

As parents this week complained about the care of their disabled children – claiming the state chooses to warehouse these medically fragile youths in senior nursing homes instead of letting them be cared for by family in their own homes – Florida child advocates, attorneys and legal guardians wonder when the state’s practice will stop. The lack of appropriate oversight, as well as the potential physical abuse, mistreatment and neglect of the state’s most medically and at-risk disabled children, leaves this vulnerable populations crying for better care.

In one case, lawmakers heard about Christian Perez. Twice in the past year, state health administrators ignored the boy’s pediatrician’s prescribed care regimen and reduced how many hours caregivers assisted the severely disabled boy at his Miami-area home.

Parents at the meeting rebuked state agency leaders who said private vendors contracted to administer care and oversight huddled with children’s primary care physicians before making decisions regarding care.

Read the entire story here.

A Child Advocate Attorney Considers Sandy Hook’s Legacy and the Commitment to Real Change

January 7th, 2013   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary

North Florida and Gainesville foster child advocate attorney and Florida’s Children First Board Member Gloria Fletcher wrote the following commentary on the lasting impact of December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – and the need to press for real change in the laws and statutes that can better protect Americans.

Newtown, Aurora, Sanford, Tucson, Blacksburg, Fort Hood, Littleton. The names of these towns and locations – and the haunted memories of the killings committed there – have been seared into the collective American consciousness like scars on our psyches. As a North Florida and Gainesville foster child advocate attorney who’s seen the abuse of at-risk and foster children, I’m as saddened and heartbroken as any witness anywhere.

We’re all left to find solace. To soothe our pain and even our guilt following each, we promise change – to gun laws, to access to firearms by those deemed incompetent by the courts or physicians, to information-sharing and protections that may help prevent such incidents from ever happening again. We’re emboldened by a purpose-driven mission to right our course.

Then, over time, our outrage fades. Inevitably, something else – a “fiscal cliff” debate, a bowl season, the malaise of summer, the deceptive healing power of time itself – overtakes our seemingly limited capacity to sustain outrage and follow through on our demands for change.

We let our guard down. We forget. And it happens again.