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Archive for April, 2014

Miami Herald: Governor’s Office Moves to Weaken Provisions in Child Safety Bill

A last-minute amendment to SB 1666 submitted by the Department of Children and Families and the governor’s office Friday was withdrawn and the Senate passed the bill unanimously to applause, the Miami Herald reported. SB 1666 is the Senate’s overhaul of the child welfare laws.

“Sponsored by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the 135-page amendment so late in the process was significant enough to prompt Sen. Andy Gardiner to call for a time out to give members time to absorb what the proposal would do,” the Herald reported.

“The ‘strike-all’ amendment would make several significant changes aimed at tamping down some of the provisions and oversight over the department, according to a document obtained by the Herald/Times. The summary of the amendment says many of the reforms would cost too much money.”

Read the entire Herald story here.

Miami Herald: Judge Rebukes DCF Over Kids Placement in Home Where Boy Died

When child welfare authorities tried to keep three children in the home their cousin recently had died of apparent abuse, a Miami judge lashed out at administrators. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa Figarola labeled the Department of Children and Families’ handling of the case “troubling,” and refused DCF’s request Tuesday.

Figarola “instead ordered the children into foster care,” the Miami Herald reported. “The next day, Figarola shot off a blistering email to agency administrators, accusing them of seeking to leave three small chidlren in harm’s way.”

The case stems from the death of 3-year-old Gerardo Perez, who was unresponsive at Homestead Hospital with bruises and bite marks on his body. His teeth were severely rotten teeth. He died on Monday. Child welfare authorities first sought to remove the other children. Then they asked a judge to leave the children, ages 3, 2 and 1, with their father, who pledge to keep the dead boy’s mother and his sister out of the house.

“The handling of this case illustrates that the same systematic failures that have plagued the Department and given rise to the devastation we recently observed are still being executed,” Figarola wrote. Read the entire story here.

Florida Youth SHINE in Action at the Capitol for Children’s Week

During Children’s Week, over 35 Florida Youth Shine advocates flooded the Capitol steps to speak to dozens of legislators, staff and public officials bringing awareness to the issues affecting the child welfare system and to advocate for children in and transitioning out of the foster care system.

youth shine

In Their Own Words…

“Through Florida Youth Shine I have been able to increase my self-esteem and further my goals in life by developing relationships. In FYS, I have been able to create long lasting relationships and establish a family.”
Chelsea Bramblett, 19, Pensacola Chapter Member

“Being a part of this was an amazing experience. I loved the fact that we are able to make a difference. I really admire what we are doing and it means a lot for me to do something that really makes a difference.”
Christian Aguilar, 18, Miami Chapter Member

“FYS helps change the foster care system by bringing awareness to the people who have no idea of what it means to be ‘in the System.'”
Caprice Blizzard, Pensacola Chamber Mentor

“The things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met will forever be apart of who I am and who I’ve become.”
Jose Logrono, 23, Orlando Chapter Member


Children’s Services Council – A Critical Safety Net for Our Kids

How much is it worth to help and protect at-risk children? How important is it to ensure our kids have services essential to their health, education and well being? Broward voters will be asked those questions in November – with implications felt for years to come.

A referendum will ask county residents whether to reaffirm the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. The organization provides early learning and reading programs, after school programs, developmental health, preventive and other children’s support services. It keeps families together and their children out of foster care, delinquency programs and prison. The Council is funded by an annual homeowner tax assessment.

How much does this cost? By one calculation, it’s about $60 for a $125,000 home in Broward County, or about $60 million countywide, spent by various organizations dedicated to protecting our kids.


Florida Bar News: Foster Child Abuse Attorneys Back Bills to Provide Lawyers for Special-Needs Kids

The Florida Bar News this month discussed bills in both the House and Senate that would provide state-paid attorneys for dependent children with special needs. The publication spoke with Howard Talenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who serves as president of Florida’s Children First, an advocacy group pushing the proposed legislation, and Statewide Guardian ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz.

“It’s the first time in history we have a director of the GAL supportive of attorneys representing children,” Talenfeld said.

When Talenfeld was president of The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee in 2009, he fought unsuccessfully to persuade the former GAL director to support legislation that would provide attorneys for dependent children, a key recommendation of the predecessor 2002 Legal Needs of Children Commission. He referred to the child advocates’ clashing views on representation over the years as “the Crusades.”

“It’s very important to signal to the guardians of the world that the Crusades are over,” Talenfeld said the day before CS/SB 972, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 1.

Read the entire story here.

Florida’s Children First: Foster Child Welfare Bill Advances

April 4th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

Florida’s child advocates and attorneys who fight to protect the civil rights of foster children who suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse and personal injury are pleased that the Florida Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee this week approved a measure that, if passed and signed into law, would change how the Florida Department of Children and Families and its community-based care agencies serve Florida’s foster and at-risk children.

The legislation is sorely needed. It follows media reports in 2013 and again this year about the deaths of almost 500 children from abuse and neglect. Outrage only grew as media revealed that many of the children already were known to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida’s child advocates and attorneys are pleased with the progress of the bill, and are hopeful that it eventually will be signed into law. Read the entire story here.