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Archive for the ‘Court Cases’ Category

Florida DCF Lawyer Warned in Case of Foster Child Suicide Aired on Facebook Live

Private attorneys who fight for the rights of at-risk and foster children are watching closely as a Miami judge overseeing a case related to a child’s January suicide that was streamed from her foster home on Facebook Live threatened a Florida Department of Children and Families lawyer to jail for reportedly misleading the judge.  The judge is exploring whether other children in the foster home may have witnessed Naika Venant, the 14-year-old emotionally troubled foster child as she hanged herself.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia, the judge overseeing the case, demanded Florida’s regional child welfare legal director to appear in her court in March.

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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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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 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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Florida Supreme Court Rules for Lawyers for Foster Children

When the Florida Supreme Court issued its Juvenile Rules Opinion this week on requiring attorneys for Florida foster children with special needs, it was the successful culmination of a 10-year effort by the state’s leading foster child advocates, including the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program and Florida’s Children First (FCF), as well as the Legal Needs of Children Committee of The Florida Bar.

The Court ruled to implement legislation requiring legal representation for at-risk children facing administrative hearings. Read the ruling here.

Since the 1990s, FCF, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, and the GAL have worked closely advocating the legislation. They two organizations jointly submitted comments to the court supporting advancement of state legislation providing for attorneys ad litem and other programs to require legal representation for children in the child welfare system.

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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

New Times: Boy Sues Community Firms, State Agency for Failing to Vet Foster Parent

For want of a criminal and personal background check, a young child was allegedly sexually abused by a foster parent after being placed in the man’s care by contracted providers, welfare providers Kids in Distress Inc. and ChildNet Inc. The two companies were hired by the Florida Department of Children and Families to vet foster parents and place children. Instead, all three – as well as the foster parent, whom the child claims sexually abused him.

“According to the lawsuit, the child — identified only as R.S. — claims 56-year-old John Michael McGuigan of Broward County sexually abused him while the child was under his care. But the lawsuit says there were multiple glaring red flags the agencies failed to see when McGuigan applied to become a Florida foster parent in 2008,” writes Broward New Times.

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WFOR-TV News: ‘Broward County Florida Foster Child is Suing the Agency That Was Supposed to Protect Him’

May 8th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Florida foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld holds a press conference after filing a lawsuit on behalf of a foster child who claims he was groomed and sexually abused by an alleged known child molester-turned-foster parent. The lawsuit was filed against the alleged abuser and child welfare providers Kids In Distress, Inc., and ChildNet, Inc., in Broward County, Florida, circuit court.

The suit alleges the private child welfare agencies failed to appropriately conduct standard background checks before granting the defendant a foster parent license.

In the lawsuit, the child, R.S., claims he was subjected to sexual abuse by defendant Michael McGuigan, allegedly a known child molester. Other defendants Kids In Distress and ChildNet are private companies contracted by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to implement and oversee child safety, welfare and foster placement services. The case was filed in Broward County Circuit Court on behalf of R.S. by his next friend, David Bazerman.

“Child advocate and attorney Howard Talenfeld says Kids In Distress failed to protect a foster child that he says was molested,” the reporter comments. “In a lawsuit filed against the agencies which are contracted to provide child welfare services in Broward County, he says the foster parents had been investigated by police agencies for abuse but whenever charged.”

Florida Child Abuse Attorney: News Stories Reveal Foster Care Privatization Experiment Failing Nationwide

March 7th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Court Cases

Among Florida foster child abuse attorneys and child advocates from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to throughout the state, it’s no secret that the Florida Department of Children and Family’s experiment in privatization of child welfare services has been a failure. Hundreds of children, many known to DCF officials to be at risk, have died at the hands of caregivers while agency supervisors or employees stood by. Many others suffered horrible sexual abuse, physical abuse or emotional trauma.

Now, a recent study reveals the failed experiment of privatization of child welfare stretches nationwide.

In its investigative report, Fostering Profits, online news organization BuzzFeed News identified sex abuse and blunders in screening, training, and overseeing foster parents at the nation’s largest for-profit foster care company.

Court documents revealed that abuse at one facility contracted by National Mentor Holdings resulted in “blunders in screening, training, and overseeing its foster parents” were “not limited to a few tragic cases but are widespread.”

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Man Faces Death Penalty, Florida DCF Revises Rules, in Death of Phoebe Jonchuck

January 13th, 2015   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Phoebe JonchuckChild advocates and children’s rights attorneys who fight to prevent child abuse and death of Florida’s at-risk children are concerned about the evolving case of Phoebe Jonchuck. During a court hearing, her father, Jon Jonchuck, had hoped his case would be “in God’s hands” but a court-appointed attorney now will help in the defense of the Florida man accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge to her death this month. If convicted, Jonchuck faces the death penalty.

Yet, even as the court case begins, the Florida Department of Children and Families has made several policy changes intended to change how state child welfare investigators respond to warnings of possible or impending child abuse or child neglect. The agency may also be called to answer how much it knew her to be at risk of harm, given it had previous interactions with the family.

Jonchuck reportedly had spoken to his attorney last week in advance of little Phoebe’s death. The attorney reportedly then called authorities to warn about the man’s strange behavior. When Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at his home, Jonchuck and Phoebe were acting normally, according to news reports.

Yet while all appeared normal, this wasn’t the first time DCF had visited Phoebe or the family, according to a release from the department.

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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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Preeminent Foster Child Abuse Attorney Named Finalist as Most Effective Lawyer

December 9th, 2014   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Court Cases

Preeminent foster child abuse lawyer and staunch advocate for child welfare reform in the state capital, Howard Talenfeld, was named a finalist as one of this year’s Most Effective Lawyers by the Daily Business Review.

Talenfeld Most Effective Lawyers AwardTalenfeld, who recently opened Talenfeld Law, one of Florida’s first law firms dedicated to protecting injured, abused and neglected statewide and around the country, was recognized for work done as head of the Children’s Rights practice area with his former firm, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb, P.A., along with Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche, P.A.

Specifically, Talenfeld and the other attorneys were acknowledged for their work on the case of Judith Leekin. While in New York, and later in Florida, the woman assumed numerous identities to adopt mentally disabled children and defraud city welfare officials.

When police raided Leekin’s Port St. Lucie home and found adopted children starved and handcuffed, Leekin’s arrest blew open a tragic breakdown of the New York City foster care system spanning three decades and two states.

Leekin had fraudulently adopted 11 special needs children in Queens, New York, in the 1980s and 1990s, using various aliases. She then collected more than $1.68 million in government subsidies. While she lived in luxury, the children endured continuous torture, abuse, and squalor. Ten survivors were accounted for. An 11th child disappeared while in her care and is presumed dead.

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