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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Foster Child Abuse Attorney: Psychotropics and Kids Wrong Mix

The 2009 death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, an abused foster child found hanging from a shower fixture in his foster home in Margate, Florida, shone a bright light on the state’s policy of allowing doctors to prescribe psychotropic drugs on foster kids. His suicide was a horrible tragedy – one that led to outrage and supposed reform. Six years later, advocates and attorneys who fight for the rights of foster children who suffer child abuse, sexual abuse, and other physical and personal injury have discovered little has changed.

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)The same “black box” medications Gabriel had received, even though they were intended for adults, at the time were part of a list the Department of Children and Families found were given to 16 percent of cases where foster kids were medicated – often without the consent of a parent or judge.

Despite all this, the practice continues. The preliminary report from the researchers with Florida’s child-protection system revealed that 11 percent of foster kids today are prescribed these psychotropic medications without caregivers following proper procedures, according to the Florida Institute on Child Welfare at Florida State University.

That’s 2,434 of 21,899 children who had open prescriptions for at least one psychotropic drug. Further, of 140 of the children’s files reviewed, only one in five met the requirements for administering psychotropic medications, often with consent forms that were completed late – if they were completed at all.


Advocates Ask: Sarasota Girl Stabbed after DCF Knew of Family Risks?

Florida child advocates and attorneys who fight for the rights of abused, neglected and physically abused and sexually abused children are awaiting more information following the stabbing of a young Sarasota, Florida, girl, allegedly at the hand of her mother.

The 6-year-old girl was left fighting for her life in the hospital. Meanwhile, her mother, Ashley Parker, was jailed on charges of attempted murder. In late June, Sarasota police were called to the family home to find the daughter stabbed in the stomach and legs. The child’s “insides were hanging out with Band-Aids on her stomach,” according to police reports.

To those who know the family, this isn’t the first time the authorities have had to respond to the family’s home. Some reportedly believe that the Florida Department of Children and Families should have done more and ultimately failed the young girl.

“What I really think they should’ve did is took the little girl out of the house,” a neighbor told the news media. “The little girl would go to crying and shaking and stuff like that she was very afraid of her.”

DCF reportedly isn’t saying much. Some recall the case of Phoebe Jonchuck, the 5-year-old whose father threw her off a bridge into Tampa Bay. Her father, who later was charged with her murder, was known to be a risk to the child.

If the Department of Children and Families knew of problems in the Parker household, then questions will arise anew about what DCF officials knew, when they knew it, and – if they failed to act – why the girl was left in harm’s way.

Florida Child Advocates Offer Summer Safety Tips

As the school year comes to a close, families throughout the state will be seeking programs to ensure their children are safe while the parents work. With many kids each year becoming the victims of child abuse by caregivers, sitters and employees of summer camps, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is warning families to take precautions. Below are tips and reminders to help parents keep their children safe during the summer season.

The campaign explores three common areas: choosing a summer camp, finding a caregiver, and ensuring your child is safe around water.


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.”


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.