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Archive for the ‘Abuse’ Category

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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Florida Couple Arrested for Child Abuse Highlights Need to Report Harm

June 20th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Throughout society, law enforcement officials and child abuse advocates and foster care attorneys implore citizens who witness crimes to take an important step: “See something? Say something.” An Okeechobee, Florida, mother has been arrested for not reporting suspected abuse of her two young children perpetrated by her husband.

Detectives with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office and investigators from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) reportedly arrived at the family’s home this month on reports of child abuse. Investigators reported that the children, aged 2 and 4, suffered bruises and black eyes. One child had hair pulled out, the police reported. It was characterized as “extreme physical injury,” according to news reports.

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Foster Care Documentary Shows the Need for Reform of Florida’s Privatized Child Welfare System

April 15th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Foster Care

Florida’s privatized system of foster care is still failing our children.  This documentary, which aired at the Palm Beach film festival, tells the story of many children who have fallen through the cracks of Florida’s experiment and who have been physically, sexually and emotionally abused in the system that was supposed to protect them. It begins the discussion as to what we must do next to protect our state’s children.

 

Foster Shock Documentary Trailer from Brian Bayerl on Vimeo.

Talenfeld Law Expands to Central Florida; Attorney Lisa M. Elliott to Head Children’s Rights Office in Daytona Beach

Talenfeld Law, Florida’s only law firm dedicated exclusively to protecting abused, disabled and injured children, has opened an office in Daytona Beach. Attorney Lisa M. Elliott will lead the office, and becomes the firm’s fifth lawyer. Ms. Elliott will now devote her practice to protecting these very special children throughout Central and Northern Florida.

Talenfeld - Lisa Elliott“We are thrilled that Lisa has joined our firm and will allow us to handle more cases and better serve children throughout Florida,” said Howard Talenfeld, the firm’s managing partner. “Lisa’s skills, reputation and advocacy for vulnerable children and her connection to Central Florida’s communities make her an invaluable addition to our firm.”

Mr. Talenfeld first met Ms. Elliott while working together with her on civil rights and damages cases with the late Gainesville lawyer and well-known child advocate Gloria Fletcher. While at her prominent Gainesville law firm, Ms. Elliott represented children who had been injured or abused in the Florida child welfare system, and advocated for clients in personal injury claims and other civil matters. She opened her own practice in 2015.

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Florida Claims Bills Seek to Help Abused Children Who Wait Years for Damage Awards

Children across Florida who have suffered rape, child sexual abuse, child abuse, and other personal injury often wait years to receive damage awarded by the court or juries – if they ever receive the money at all. Claims bills now before the Florida Legislature could make money available to help these victims receive the money they desperately need.

In one example, a Wellington boy, 9, was sexually assaulted by a foster child his parents had agreed to raise, not knowing the boy had suffered sexual abuse and had become a child-on-child predator. A Palm Beach County jury in 2013 found that the Florida Department of Children and Families was negligent and awarded the boy $5 million for damages and what could be a lifetime of treatment and therapy.

He’s yet to receive any money. “He’s living a life of paralysis,” said Howard Talenfeld, the attorney representing the now 22-year-old man.

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South Florida Judge Blasts Agency for Foster Kids Forced into Cockfights

Every South Florida child advocate and foster abuse attorney fights to prevent child abuse, personal injury and other harm or damages like those a Miami judge saw in a video this month. He called the events they endured the result of ineptitude and incompetence. The judge was responding to the violent “cockfights” and brawls children at a Miami group home for foster kids were forced to perform – with the encouragement of an adult supervisor.

“I saw a cockfight … between foster kids,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman said in court, according to news reports. The supervisor was “provoking and encouraging violence” as “these two boys battled it out and beat each other up.” The supervisor has since been fired.

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Phoebe Jonchuck’s Death Still Haunts Child Abuse Advocates

January 10th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Just about a year ago, Florida child advocates and attorneys who represent children who have been harmed by child abuse, sex abuse and other personal injuries were aghast at the story of Phoebe Jonchuck, the 5-year-old Central Florida girl whose father, John, threw her from a bridge into Tampa Bay. We all were left to wonder how a father could kill his daughter, what authorities might have known about Mr. Jonchuck’s and Phoebe’s lives leading up to this horrific event, and how it could have been prevented.

The Tampa Bay Times recently wrote a compelling story that compiles police, court and Florida Department of Children and Families records to recreate the brief history of Phoebe’s life. Reporters spoke with Phoebe’s mother and other relatives; in all, 50 people helped paint the story of the little girl – “a happy child who helped her kindergarten classmates zip their jackets and brought out the best in everyone who loved her. And they knew her father, a violent and unstable man.”

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Lead Agencies Must Acquire Appropriate Insurance Coverage

December 30th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Sexual Abuse

The Florida Legislature requires that lead agencies obtain a minimum of $1 million per claim and $10 million per incident in general liability coverage. Yet, many of the state’s lead agencies have not acquired appropriate amounts of coverage to protect children who are harmed while in their care.

Sadly, one West Palm Beach teen recently dealt with this issue when a now-defunct social service agency agreed to pay her to help overcome years of sexual abuse, but didn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay the claim. A lawsuit has been filed against the insurance company, claiming it did not make sure the agency had the proper coverage to compensate children who were victims of sexual abuse while in the care of the agency.

While millions of dollars of insurance coverage is required, the agency reportedly held only $250,000 in coverage.

Read more here

Kan. Lawmaker Explores Ending State’s Private Child Welfare Program

Florida child welfare administrators have had a long, troubled history with privatization of foster care services provided to the state’s at-risk, harmed, abused, and needy children. Our children have suffered sexual abuse, child abuse, personal injury, and other harm for years. Florida, it seems, wasn’t the only state with issues. A lawmaker in Kansas, the first state in the U.S. to privatize such care, has written a report on that state’s failures with foster care privatization and now is seeking to rescind the state’s program.

In what had been the first-in-the-nation privatized foster care system, the state legislator looked back on the program’s 20 years, only to see “increasing scrutiny and a record number of children in foster homes,” local media reported. In his report, “When Children Die We Must Act,” the lawmaker concluded that “the mid-1990s privatization wasn’t successful, the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/1RxWskK ) reported.

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Florida DCF Reviewing Child’s ‘Suspicious’ Death ‘Consistent with Child Abuse’

Florida child advocates and child abuse attorneys who represent children and families in cases of wrongful death, child abuse and other personal injuries, are watching closely as the Florida Department of Children and Families reviews the death of Knowellan Kelly, a 15-month-old who died at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg Sunday night.

Though Florida DCF had received a report on suspected abuse four months ago, allegations were unsubstantiated and the DCF Critical Incident Rapid Response Team was not been dispatched to investigate this incident, according to news reports.

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Florida Foster Child Abuse Attorney to Florida Legislature: Cut Bad Group Homes, Boost Child Placement Choices

November 20th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Commentary

Fort Lauderdale foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld this week wrote an editorial on privatization of Florida’s child welfare system. He summarized how contracting of such services by the Florida Department of Children and Families to such lead agencies like ChildNet and Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc., ostensibly to cut costs, actually results in higher costs, while introducing dangerous, substandard child placements.

The result has been higher costs, poor placements, and long-term issues for children in the system. If passed, legislation now before the Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee headed by Sen. Eleanor Sobel and supported by Sen. Nancy Detert, would create stability and safety for foster children by pursuing the best possible placement opportunity.

Read the entire editorial here.

Child Abuse Attorney: Will DCF Chief’s Admitting Failure in 2 Cases Lead to Improved Care?

As Florida’s child advocates and attorneys who fight for the rights of kids who suffer child abuse, sexual abuse and other physical personal injury mourn the finding of the bodies of two children in recent days, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll had an admission. The Florida DCF chief admitted this week that Florida’s child-protection system failed in both cases.

Speaking to the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, Carroll said that in both the case of 2-month-old Chance Walsh and 11-year-old Janiya Thomas, who was found to be missing for more than a year when authorities sought to remove five kids from their mother’s home, the agency could have done more.

A call to a child abuse hotline regarding Walsh was dismissed by a hotline counselor. The discovery of a body in a freezer is suspected of being that of Thomas. The autopsy is not yet complete. Read more here.

While Carroll’s admission is laudable, children under the watch for suspected child abuse or sex abuse still are slipping through the cracks. It’s similar to the case of Phoebe Jonchuk, whose father was accused of dropping her from a bridge into Tampa Bay. The man’s attorney reportedly had called the abuse hotline warning of potential harm. Still, she died.

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