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Child Rights Attorney: South Florida Children Sexually, Emotionally Abused by Human Trafficking

April 15th, 2017   No Comments   Abuse

Many think of “child abuse” as a physical act of abuse being committed upon kids who are emotionally, physically, or sexually harmed by others. The harm they face, whether as young children or teenagers in households with their families, living in the system, or enduring life on the streets, often is beyond the view of daily life.

Yet, there’s another peril infecting society that recently was raised by child advocates; Human trafficking. This form of abuse knows no bounds. If affects children – and adults – of almost all ages and socio-economic backgrounds everywhere in the world. It can start with an adult befriending an unwitting but vulnerable child and steering them toward a life of sexual slavery.

While government organizations and private groups work to help prevent at-risk kids from falling into the trap of human trafficking, it’s up to society to do more.

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Foster Child Suicide Shows Florida’s Failed Child Welfare Privatization Experiment

When the Florida Department of Children and Families responded to a records request by the media regarding the suicide of Lauryn Martin-Everett with the line, “We remain deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this child,” some could argue the admission itself was a reflection of the state’s failed experiment with privatization and outsourcing of child welfare services.

The 16-year-old girl was a ward of the state; her parents knew little about her care or what led to her death by hanging. Though she spent eight years in “the system,” a DCF “child fatality summary” was less than three pages long.

Whether Gabriel Myers;  Naika Venant, the 14-year-old who hanged herself in a Miami Gardens foster home little over a month later, or Lauryn, we’ve learned that privatization of the child welfare system has done little to improve the welfare of the state’s children.

Again, child abuse attorneys and others who fight for the rights of abused, neglected, sexually abused, or those minors otherwise harmed or the victims of wrongful death while in the Florida child welfare system are left to wonder: When will the final stories of these children’s sad lives amount to a three-page summary? And when will the lessons be learned?

Attorney: Girl Who Streamed Suicide on Facebook Live Was Failed by System

When a 14-year-old girl used Facebook Live to live-stream her suicide, the world came to discover the help she desperately needed and never received from Florida’s social services agencies, notes her attorney. Her destructive behavior and long stint in foster care should have been sufficient warning. But as with other cases, warning flags were missed, overlooked, or ignored.

Foster care had been part of Nakia Venant’s life since 2009 – 10 different foster homes and child shelters, even hotels and a child welfare office, since last April alone. Excessive corporal punishment initiated some of the outbursts; alleged sexual abuse by another child while in state care exacerbated her situation. Then, she committed suicide while streaming live on social media, notes Howard Talenfeld, the child welfare attorney representing Venant’s mother, in an article in the Miami Herald

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Child Abuse Attorney: Girl’s Suicide an Example of Failed Child Welfare Privatization

Florida child advocates and attorneys who represent children raped and abused in the child welfare system are struggling to comprehend how and why a 14-year-old girl, who reportedly had been sexually abused while in state care, hanged herself while streaming the event on Facebook Live this week. “I have to bury my baby,” her mother, Gina Alexis, said through sobs.

Screenshot 2017-01-26 at 9.22.56 AMIt’s another example of how Florida’s experiment with privatization of its child welfare system is a failure, said Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling. The Fort Lauderdale attorneys are representing Alexis, mother of Naika Venant.

During a press conference at their law office, Ms. Alexis cried, “I trusted Florida foster care. Instead she kills herself on Facebook.”

Some blame social media. Talenfeld told those seeking answers to look elsewhere. “We first need to look more than anywhere else at what is going on in our backyards in Florida,” Talenfeld told the media gathered in his Fort Lauderdale law office. “Facebook is a method of communication, a method where the message was sent, but the reality is Facebook didn’t rape her. Facebook didn’t fail to provide her services. Facebook didn’t take her into care promising her a better life.”

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Children’s Rights Attorney Barri A. Reisch Joins Fort Lauderdale-based Talenfeld Law

December 14th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Barri A. Reisch, Esq., has joined Talenfeld Law, the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm that is Florida’s only firm dedicated exclusively to protecting abused, disabled and injured children. Reisch joins the firm as an associate and will focus her practice on foster care and disabled persons damages, civil rights, personal injury, and child welfare litigation.

“Barri’s commitment to child advocacy makes her the perfect fit for our firm,” said Howard Talenfeld, firm managing partner.

barri-r-bioWhile studying at Emory University School of Law, Reisch was a part-time legal intern for the Barton Child Law and Policy Center’s Appeal for Youth Clinic. In this role, she provided post-conviction relief for former foster children as well as representation for foster children in administrative disciplinary hearings before several Georgia County School Boards. Additionally, she served as a clerk for Judge Clarence F. Seeliger in the DeKalb County Superior Court of Georgia.

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Young Man Dies at Broward Youth Treatment Center

October 14th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Child advocates and attorneys who fight to protect from abuse teens and youths in the Florida juvenile justice system are watching closely the case of a teen who died at a drug treatment center in Pembroke Pines. The youth’s case also has raised the interest of police and state juvenile justice administrators.

The 17-year-old boy was housed at the center for delinquent youths, having been ordered there by the courts. The private “Broward Youth Treatment Center” is contracted by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

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Soccer Coach’s Arrest for Alleged Teen Sex Abuse Reveals Need for Vigilance

August 31st, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

When a Plantation soccer coach was arrested this month on multiple charges of sexual battery on a minor, the case revealed again how parents must be alert to the sexual abuse even “trusted” adults can perpetrate on young victims.

The victim was in her teens when the alleged sex occurred several times between 2003 and 2007. The accused abuser, Juan W. Ramos, 43, has been over the past decade a school employee and soccer coach at American Heritage and other schools.

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Florida Child Abuse Attorney: Journal Reveals Allegations of Child Sex Abuse

August 9th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

When a judge admits that a case of suspected child sexual abuse is “by far one of the worst allegations I have ever seen in my career and it greatly disturbs this court,” it should raise alarms among child advocates, South Florida child abuse lawyers, and Fort Lauderdale foster child supporters.

That was Broward Judge Michael Davis’ comment following the revelation of a child who said that the child and two siblings had been sexually abused. The defendant, Amber Williams, 29, has been charged with molesting a child under age 12 and child neglect.

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Court to DCF: ‘Astounding’ that Agency Didn’t Follow Case of At-Risk Child Whose Mother Now Says is Dead

A Miami-Dade Circuit Judge chastised the Florida Department of Children and Families Broward County office for not following more closely the case of a toddler whose mother now reports the child has died.

According to news reports, after Judge Cindy Lederman learned that Broward DCF was not monitoring the family, whose children had previously been removed following the mother’s arrest, the judge said, “It seems like someone in Broward is sleeping, all the priors here and nothing was done. It’s astounding, quite frankly.”

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Florida DCF Investigating Death of Infant Taken From Family

Another infant has died while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families and one of its privately contracted providers, spurring child advocacy attorneys and lawyers who fight for at-risk children or those suffering abuse or harm to closely follow this case.

Miracle Collins, only 7 months old, was taken from her mother in February after reports of domestic violence, according to news reports on a Tampa Police Department report. Eckerd Kids, a contractor to the Florida DCF, placed the child with a family friend. The child was sleeping on the couch, and later was found unresponsive.

A DCF critical incident team is investigating the death.

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Florida Foster Child Abuse Attorney Named to ‘Super Lawyers’ List

Howard M. Talenfeld, the preeminent Florida foster child abuse lawyer and children’s rights attorney, has been included in the 2016 Florida Super Lawyers list. Talenfeld was selected to the 2016 Civil Rights Super Lawyers category. Talenfeld has been listed in Florida Super Lawyers Magazine since 2006 and was named in the “Top 100: 2014 Miami Super Lawyers” list.

Talenfeld is the Founder and Managing Partner of Talenfeld Law, the first law firm in Florida to focus exclusively on protecting the rights of physically and sexually abused, medically fragile, foster and other at-risk children. Known throughout the legal community and national media as having established the nation’s premier children’s rights practice, his work on behalf of at-risk individuals has earned multimillion dollar awards and resulted in sweeping judicial and legislative reforms.

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Before Mother Reportedly Smothers Two Children in Broward, Warning Signs Were There

June 27th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Aging Out

The deaths of two young children in Miramar, Florida, allegedly at the hands of their mother, should serve as yet another warning of how children’s protective services need to be more protective of the children. Ariel, a toddler, and St. Leo, 7 months old, were taken from and later returned to their mother by social service authorities in their hometown of Philadelphia.

Then this month, their mother – Sophia Hines – allegedly smothered both children while staying in South Florida. The woman previously had been under care for severe depression, and the children “were receiving in-home services” from a Philadelphia social services agency, according to the Miami Herald, which fought Philadelphia authorities and the Florida Department of Children and Families successfully to review the family’s case file.

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