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Archive for June, 2014

As Governor Signs Bills, Legislative Session Proves Good to Florida’s Medically Needy, Dependent Children

It was an especially successful legislative session for at-risk, medically needy and other foster care children throughout Florida. After passing the Legislature with bi-partisan support, two bills were signed into law this week by Governor Rick Scott ensuring Florida’s most vulnerable children have the best care from the Department of Children and Families, and skilled legal representation when in the dependency system.

The first bill was an overhaul of DCF’s child welfare process. The second bill “could begin to give voice to children long rendered voiceless,” the Miami Herald wrote. Howard Talenfeld, a leading child advocacy attorney and foster care damages lawyer and supporter of the new laws, had said this has been a long road.

“It’s been our mission since 2002 to enact a law like this because disabled children are the most vulnerable children to come into our child welfare system. Unfortunately, they have to face a maze of bureaucratic hurdles in order to obtain the benefits they need to be safe and to survive in the foster care system,” the Herald quoted Mr. Talenfeld, who also is president of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization.


Foster Child Attorney Praises Governor Scott for Signing Dependent Child Bill

June 26th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy, Dependency

Comments from North Florida foster child advocacy attorney Gloria W. Fletcher, who also is Vice President of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, were published in a press release from Florida Governor Rick Scott. The governor’s announcement discussed his signing of House Bill 561, which requires the appointment of an attorney to represent dependent children who have special needs, unless a pro bono attorney represents the child.

Ms. Fletcher had high praise for a number of advocates and lawmakers who sponsored, backed or supported this important bill. Read Gov. Scott’s release here.

In her comments regarding Gov. Scott, Ms. Fletcher wrote, “It takes more than leadership to sign a bill that will help a constituency who cannot vote, has no money to donate to campaigns, and may never know the heroes who came to their aid. But that’s the true definition of character.


North Florida Gainesville Foster Child Lawyer: We Must Break Cycle of Abuse to Keep Kids From Repeating It

North Florida and Gainesville foster child attorney and children’s advocate Gloria Fletcher wrote this letter in response to news that a 2-year-old boy, Justin Polk, was beaten and strangled to death in an Orlando-area hotel room. While no one’s been charged with his death, the Florida Department of Children and Families had been called to Justin’s home several times for reported domestic violence. If the reports were true and had Justin survived, writes Ms. Fletcher, who also serves on Florida’s Children First, he might have continued to live amid the cycle of abuse that scars society. We must break that cicle. Below is her letter…

Child advocate attorneys like myself in Gainesville, Ocala and throughout North Central Florida 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 the family’s closed doors.

That’s apparently where 2-year-old Justin Polk died this month. He died in an Orlando hotel room of blunt force trauma and strangulation. No one has been charged with his death, though his mother and her boyfriend were arrested on charges of child abuse.


Sen. Sobel Calls Florida Department of Children and Families Missing Records Inquiry a ‘Whitewash’

State Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), a staunch advocate for the state’s at-risk children and chairwoman of the Senate’s Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, has spoken out against the Department of Children & Families investigation records relating to kids who died under DCF watch “a cover-up and a whitewash,” according to news reports.

The investigation explored the agency’s inability to present documents and records regarding the kids’ deaths, especially those of 30 children in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Broward counties in DCF’s Southeast Region. Some have suspected possible destruction of child death records.

“I just think this is a huge cover-up that is going on to save their jobs and protect their public image at the expense of these kids,” Sen. Sobel was quoted in the Miami Herald. “They are obstructing information, they are obstructing justice, and they are obstructing transparency.”

At the request of the newspaper, the inquiry by DFC resulted in no records, files, emails or even hand-written notes.

“…though the inquiry was designed to quell criticism that DCF was hiding details — and entire records — regarding the deaths of children the agency is tasked with protecting, agency watchdogs and children’s advocates now have no means of scrutinizing the work product,” the paper reported.

Read the entire story here.

Cocktail Reception Next Week for Reauthorization of Children’s Services Council of Broward County

June 12th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

Talenfeld ReauthorizationDozens of Florida’s child advocates will gather to support Reauthorization of Children’s Services Council of Broward County. The cocktail reception will be held at Hawk’s Landing Club (500 Hawk’s Landing Circle, Plantation, 33324) on Thursday, June 19.

Hosts include Julie and Howard Talenfeld, Ellen Bogdanoff, Ron Book, Anita Byer, Mike Colodny, Gary Elzweig, Joel Fass, Nikki Fried, Jim Gale, Alan Cohn, Dr. Fred Lippman, Bruce Lyons, Ronnie Oller, Eugene Pettis, Hon. Nan Rich, Bill Rubin, Troy Sorel, and Jesse Diner and Adele Stone.

The Children’s Services Councils in Broward and Palm Beach counties will hold a referendum in November, asking voters whether taxpayers should fund agencies. The councils collect money every year from property taxes and award the money to a number of nonprofits that work with disadvantaged children.

To attend this event, RSVP required. Email Events@CitizensforBrowardsChildren.com. Learn more at www.CitizensforBrowardsChildren.com

Child Deaths Grow: Sheriff Says Child Known to Florida DCF Strangled; Mother, Boyfriend Charged with Abuse

Attorney and lawyer advocates for Florida foster care children and at-risk youth are following the story of a boy strangled in Central Florida. The Florida Department of Children and Families reportedly had visited at least three times over the past few years the family of a boy whom the Orange County Sheriff office says was strangled this week. His mother and her boyfriend have been arrested and charged with abuse. This brings closer to 500 the number of deaths of children who were known to be at risk by DCF.

In this sad case, 2-year-old Justin Polk was found unresponsive at an Orlando-area motel. Investigators attributed his death to blunt force trauma and strangulation. His mother, Merissa Anderson, and her boyfriend, Jonathan Charapata, were arrested on child abuse charges.

In documents released later by Florida Department of Children and Families, it was revealed DCF had investigated the family three times in the last two years, according to News13.


Florida Child Advocate Receives 2014 Best of Fort Lauderdale Award

June 5th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy, News & Events

Florida Child Advocate has been selected for the 2014 Best of Fort Lauderdale Award in the Child Guidance category. Florida Child Advocate is a leading statewide advocacy and information website created to help families with at-risk children and to raise Floridians’ knowledge and awareness of foster children, special needs kids and other vulnerable citizens.

FCA Award ZGQ-NJEEach year, the Fort Lauderdale Award Program identifies companies and organizations that its believes have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category.

The 2014 Fort Lauderdale Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Fort Lauderdale Award Program and data provided by third parties.

These are local companies and organizations that enhance the positive image of small business and community outreach through service to their customers and the community at large. Such exceptional companies and organizations help make the Fort Lauderdale, South Florida and the entire Sunshine State area a great place to live, work and play.


Florida’s Children First 12th Annual Broward Child Advocacy Awards Featured in Weston Lifestyles

June 1st, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

FCF Broward Awards 2014 - LifestylesFlorida’s Children First, the state’s premier organization that fights for the legal rights of foster care children and other at-risk and vulnerable kids, was featured in Weston Lifestyle magazine for its 12th Annual Broward Child Advocacy Awards & Reception.

The event was held earlier this year in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It was attended by hundreds of attorneys, judges, elected officials, and members of the business, legal and civic community – all of whom are dedicated to advancing the cause of protecting Florida’s at-risk youth.

Each year, the event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for kids statewide. To learn more, visit Florida’s Children First.org. We thank all those who attended the event this year – and support this vital cause every year.

Florida Foster Child Abuse Attorneys Shocked as Herald Reports That DCF Hid More Child Deaths

June 1st, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

When Florida child attorneys and foster child advocates read with horror “Innocents Lost,” the Miami Herald’s reports of almost 500 Florida foster children and at-risk kids who died while under the watch or awareness of the Department of Children and Families, outrage focused on how kids known to the agency could have died.

Now, the outrage is growing anew. According to today’s Miami Herald, “Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that starting at least as early as last November, as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems in preventing the deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books — ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.”

If true, the reports show an inexplicable pattern of non-transparency and a deliberate effort to hide from the public an ongoing epidemic of children’s deaths. Read the entire story here.