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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

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?

Child Abuse Attorney Letter to Florida Bar Applauds Children’s Services Council

November 28th, 2016   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary

Fort Lauderdale Children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld, who exclusively represents children abused, disabled and injured in foster care and other child welfare settings in personal injury and damages cases in Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and throughout Florida, recently had a letter published by the Florida Bar.

In his letter, Talenfeld, who also is the founder and president of Florida’s Children First, the leading statewide advocacy organization for at-risk children, wrote how the Children’s Services Council of Broward County recently took a significant step in its mission to protect at-risk children. The organization approved action needed to hire attorneys for children in the Broward child welfare system.

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Child Advocate: Attorneys’ Work Pays Off As State Settles Child Medicaid Class-Action Suit

April 9th, 2016   No Comments   Commentary, Court Cases

Attorneys who claimed millions of Florida children had failed to receive medical check-ups under Medicaid reached a milestone settlement with the state in the class-action lawsuit. The agreement followed federal lawsuits that claimed the children didn’t receive medical or dental care. In 2014, the judge in the case agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered both sides into mediation. The news is a significant win for the state’s neglected at-risk and foster children.

The attorneys representing children in this case, Stuart Singer and Carl Goldfarb with law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner, were presented by child advocate attorney Howard Talenfeld with the Florida’s Children First Child Advocates of the Year in a presentation earlier this year for their commitment to the decade-long case.

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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.

Florida Foster Child Adopted by Forever Family at 26

November 18th, 2015   No Comments   Commentary

During the holiday season, foster child abuse attorneys who represent kids who suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other personal injuries know it can be difficult to find foster children whose stories have happy endings. The life of Florida foster child Tyrone Burns Smith is just such a story. His life could have gone any number of ways. Shuttled between more than a dozen foster and group homes, he always hoped to find his forever family. Though he wasn’t the victim of foster child abuse, being moved about left Burns Smith worried he’d never find his forever home.

But he did. At 15, he was placed with Ann Marie and Peter Smith, foster parents to Tyrone’s two siblings. Then, earlier this year, Burns Smith, now 26, finally found what he was ultimately looking for: his forever family. The man, who works as a mechanic for Disney in Central Florida, was legally adopted by the Smith family. He earned their love early on and now has their name.

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Child Abuse Attorney: Death of Teen in Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Raises Concerns

Not all teenagers are model citizens. Those who find themselves in juvenile detention might have committed acts or crimes or otherwise left the police with no options but to detain them. But when a child in juvenile lock-up is injured while in detention, some child abuse attorneys believe it’s the responsibility of the authorities to attend to those injuries.

This week, a 17-year-old died while in the custody of Miami-Dade juvenile lockup. Elord Revolte was injured in a clash with other detainees but the staff waited until the following day to take him to the hospital. Read the story here.

County and state juvenile justice administrators are left to determine why Mr. Revolte’s injuries were not attended to, and attorneys who advocate for children abused or injured in the child welfare or criminal justice systems are left again to wonder what went wrong.

The tale is not unique. Mr. Revolte was a foster child who had been roaming the streets. When he died in detention following his arrest on Aug. 28, he became the second such child death in a Department of Juvenile Justice detention center this year, according to news reports.

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3 Tips to Avoid Abuse by Youth Sports Coaches: See Something, Say Something

August 14th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Commentary

The news media recently reported about a youth league baseball coach being arrested – for at least a second time – for molesting children under his supervision. He was identified as a longtime coach with a South Florida Optimist Club. Parents had allowed the coach to have unsupervised sleepovers with a player from his team, “despite the multiple previous arrests involving molestation on his record,” the media reported.

The previous arrests led to no convictions, so background checks the league says it performed came up clean.

That is not good enough. Parents with children in youth sports or cheerleading programs must be vigilant in protecting their children from physical abuse, sexual abuse and the harm from predators.

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Serious Red Flags Missed in Death of Hollywood Boy: Florida Child Abuse Lawyer

South Florida child abuse attorney and child sexual abuse lawyer Howard Talenfeld was interviewed this week on CBS News regarding the case of 3-year-old Ahziya Osceola. The Seminole Indian boy was discovered abused and dead in his Hollywood home after his family had reported him missing. Now, charges have been filed against his father and stepmother – and questions have been raised about how child protective service providers CHildNet, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families failed to communicate with one another to ensure Ahziya was safe.

As was made clear in the reporting and Talenfeld’s interview, Ahziya’s case was well known by various organizations. But the sharing of information critical to ensuring his safety was “inconsistent and insufficient.”

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A Sad Refrain: Broward’s Privatized Child Abuse System Does Not Protect Abused Children

It’s becoming an all too common refrain in Florida. Gabriel Myers, Tamiya Audain, Antwone Hope and now Ahzia Osceola, each slipped through the cracks of Broward’s Child welfare system and died.

A child dies or suffers serious child abuse, sexual abuse or neglect at the hands of his parents, guardians or caregivers. Once the Department of Children and Families launches its investigation, it’s discovered that the child was known to be at risk by ChildNet, Broward child investigators, and many others, but little to nothing was done to protect the child.

This sad refrain has come true again in the case of 3-year-old Ahziya Osceola. Though abuse investigators with the Broward Sheriff’s Office saw the signs of repeated abuse – bumps, bruises, fingerprints, scratches and abrasions on little Ahziya’s body – they failed to act or even acknowledge the “a pattern of repeat injuries” outlined in a report released this week by the Department of Children and Families.

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Peers Mourn Loss of Florida’s Leading Child Advocate, Foster Child Abuse Attorney

February 27th, 2015   No Comments   Adoption, Commentary

gloria_fletcherAs an attorney, Gloria W. Fletcher was the staunchest advocate for her clients. As a champion for the children, she was one of Florida’s great child advocates. Though a formidable, tenacious criminal defense attorney for her clients, including many law enforcement personnel, Gloria arguably had her greatest impact on the lives of children. From the streets of Gainesville, to the federal and state courts of Florida, to the halls of the Florida Legislature and even the governor’s office, she was a force to be reckoned with when arguing on behalf of the state’s neediest children. That was where many knew her best. With her passing this week, that’s where many will miss her most.

Gloria for years served as Vice President and an active board member of Florida’s Children First, a statewide child advocacy organization, where she pressed for foster children to have attorneys. With her relationships in the capital and her unwillingness to take “No” for an answer, she pursued key legislation from sponsors through committees straight to the governor’s desk.

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In Florida and US, Child Welfare Privatization is a Failed National Experiment

Florida’s child welfare experiment in the privatization of child care and oversight has proven to be a failure. Children suffer sexual abuse, physical harm, and – as a Miami Herald expose revealed – death, even of those children known by the Florida Department of Children and Families to be at risk. As attorneys and lawyers for at-risk children in the child welfare system know, no data supports the cause of privatization. And Florida is not alone.

Talenfeld - Alexendria HillIn a sad tale of child abuse and capital murder similar to some of those we’ve witnessed in Florida, 2-year-old Alexandria Hill of Texas died in 2013 at the hands of a foster parent hired to care for her by a company hired, in turn, by the state to oversee her care. Read her story here.

The story, “The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill,” reports that Alex was removed from her parents, in part, because the father admitted to smoking marijuana after he put her to bed in the evening. She was placed with a former crack addict and an out-of-work bus driver, the article claims, paid by a billion-dollar contractor just over $44 a day to be “mentors” to two foster children.

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Florida’s Child Advocates Laud Judge’s Ruling on Medical Costs for At-Risk Kids

January 2nd, 2015   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary, Court Cases

In an important win for Florida’s most vulnerable children – and the doctors and advocates who serve them, a U.S. federal judge this week ruled that the state’s healthcare system for those children violates various federal laws. The move follows a decade-long battle by pediatricians who care for those kids, but have done so at fees sufficient to ensure adequate care.

In his ruling, US Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan pediatricians and various specialists were subject to a Medicaid budget set by the state at an artificially low level. As a result, many of those doctors elected not to participate in the insurance program that serves the needy. Kids were receiving sub-par medical and dental care, or none at all, especially when families were forced to drive long distances to find doctors still participating in the state program.

“This is a great day for the children in this state,” Dr. Louis B. St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician and executive vice president of the Florida Pediatric Society, told the Miami Herald. Dr. Petery helped spearhead the suit.

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