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Archive for the ‘Department of Children & Families (DCF)’ Category

Foster Child Deaths Again Highlight Failed Privatized Welfare System

A letter to the editor from preeminent foster child rights attorney Howard Talenfeld was published in the Miami Herald and the Naples Daily News this week regarding the tragic deaths of teens like Giulianna Ramos Bermudez, Lauryn Martin-Everett and Naika Venant.

Their suicides prove again that privatization of the child welfare system has done little to improve the welfare of Florida’s children.

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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?

Fort Lauderdale Lawyer: Two Suicides In 60 Days Means Florida’s Foster Care Privatization Is A Failure

Pioneering South Florida child advocacy attorney Howard Talenfeld, who fights for the rights of children harmed, injured, physically and sexually abused, or who have died while under the watch of Florida’s child welfare system, recently spoke with WLRN to discuss the need to end Florida’s tragic, failed experiment with child welfare privatization.

“It’s the Department of Children and Families that gives the job to a contractor like Our Kids, and they contract out with case management agencies,” Talenfeld says. “We’re seeing kids that just aren’t in the right kinds of placements, don’t receive the right kinds of services. In her case, she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the Internet…We’re trying to get at the truth. Until we know what the truth is, we couldn’t even begin to try to determine what’s appropriate.”

As Florida’s premier law firm exclusively dedicated to fighting for and protecting the rights of abused, disabled and injured children in personal injury and damages cases, our lawyers have earned their reputations nationally by earning precedent-setting verdicts and rulings, delivering multimillion dollar settlements and providing pro bono legal counsel that helps our clients on their paths to recovery.

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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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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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 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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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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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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