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Archive for the ‘Foster Care’ Category

Florida’s Children First Honors Miami-Dade State Attorney, Senator and Public Defender’s Office at its Miami Awards Reception

Florida’s Children First (FCF), the statewide advocacy organization focused on protecting the legal rights of at-risk and foster care children, had a very successful Miami-Dade awards reception last week.

Dozens of community and business leaders, and all other persons concerned about the future of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children, were there to honor the 2016 award recipients. This year’s Champion for Children award went to Sen. Anitere Flores, who has been an active advocate since her teen years and has been in public service since 2004. Receiving Child Advocate of the Year Awards were Katherine Fernandez Rundle of the State Attorney’s Office and Carlos J. Martinez of the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office. Additionally, Edward Cody was honored as the 2016 Youth Advocate of the Year for Miami.

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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 Advocates’ Successful Push for Florida Foster Kids Gets Tuition Exemptions for College, Graduate Education

When a former foster child from Sarasota was accepted to Florida International University Law School, he wondered how he’d pay for it. After all, foster families often don’t have the money for such expenses. While state law granted tuition exemptions for foster kids seeking undergraduate and graduate educations, the State University System of Florida Board of Governors (BOG) refused to require state schools to grant exemptions.

That’s changing. After four years of work by Florida Youth Shine, Florida’s Children First, and other advocacy groups, committed lawmakers, and pro bono legal counsel that brought an administrative challenge, the BOG has directed state universities to grant exemptions to accepted students from foster care. A full repeal of the rule is said to be under consideration.

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Fort Lauderdale Event to Celebrate Florida’s Foster Children and Advocates

This Thursday, dedicated South Florida child advocates who fight to protect the state’s most vulnerable foster children and at-risk kids will gather for the Broward Child Advocacy Awards & Reception supporting Florida’s Children First, the state’s leading child advocacy organization.

The event will be held at The Riverside Hotel (620 East Las Olas Blvd. Fort Lauderdale, 33301) on Thursday, February 25 from 5:30pm- 7:30pm.

Register here. Sponsorships are still available.

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Florida Youth Shine Reaches 10 Year Milestone

Florida’s Children First (FCF) proudly celebrates 10 years of Florida Youth SHINE Advocacy! After FCF was established in 2002, Florida Youth SHINE was formed so that foster children could tell their stories and advocate for legislative change.

For the past ten years Florida Youth SHINE, a statewide organization now consisting of more than 200 former and current foster children, has been advocating around the state and in the Florida Legislature, for positive change to the system of care by using their experience and stories. In 2005, Florida’s Children First, a statewide group of child advocates (www.floridaschildrenfirst.org)  created Florida Youth SHINE because it believed that the youth are the experts and when making decisions about youth and it is critical to have a youth voice at the table. Florida Youth SHINE empowers their members to identify and share the issues they experienced and work for solutions through advocacy. One of the ways they do this is by educating others about the issues and improvements that need to be made.

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As ‘Crisis’ Looms, We Praise Florida Foster Families in Protecting At-Risk Kids’ Needs

The Florida foster child care system can be a challenging place for foster kids – and foster families. Much as the state encourages families to volunteer to provide stable, if temporary, homes to these at-risk children, foster parents find a blend of reward and difficulty in their tasks.

It’s an unenviable situation across the board. A newspaper investigation found that 477 kids who were known to be at risk by the Florida Department of Children and Families were not removed from their homes. Instead, the agency has supported a policy of “family preservation,” believing that a safe natural family home is the best place for at risk kids.

We agree. But for those kids who are truly in harm’s way, removal – at least temporarily – often is the answer.

In the wake of the investigation, experts believe more kids will be removed from their biological families. If that’s the case, adults and families must be encouraged to become foster providers to nurture at-risk children as attempts are made to help biological parents create safe and nurturing homes for their children.

Read this Florida Weekly story on the successes and trials of foster families. You’ll discover who they are, why they care for at-risk children, how they’re treated – and mistreated – by the system, and why many have fostered dozens of children and even helped some biological parents become better parents to their children.

We applaud their efforts.

Florida Legislature Passes Historic Law to Provide Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs; Vital Measure Wins Bipartisan Support, Heads to Gov. Scott for Signing

With bipartisan support spearheaded by Senator Bill Galvano (Bradenton) and Representative Erik Fresen (Miami), the Florida Legislature today passed a measure that will provide attorneys to protect dependent children with special needs who are in the legal custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The companion House and Senate bills (SB 972 and HB 561) would fund attorneys to represent these at-risk children, many of whom linger in foster care longer than their peers, often for an average of up to five years. The budget up for approval amounts to $4.5 million.

FCA Attorney Press Conference“Since 2002, The Florida Bar Commission On The Legal Needs of Children recognized the critical necessity to appoint attorneys for vulnerable, abused and neglected children in the custody of the state,” said Howard Talenfeld, President of Florida’s Children First, the statewide organization that has fought for this legislation since the report was issued.

Recently, the Miami Herald conducted a special investigation regarding 477 children in Florida who have died from abuse and neglect, including many children with special needs. One such child, Tamiya Audain, a 12-year-old Broward girl who had autism and a rare medical disease, starved to death in September 2013 as a result of neglect in the home of a relative with whom she was placed after her mother died.

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Florida Legislature Appropriates $323,000 for Medically Fragile Foster Kids, Earns Thanks from Attorneys, Advocates

May 29th, 2013   No Comments   Advocacy, Foster Care, Funding

Advocates, guardians and attorneys for Florida’s at-risk youth are commending the Florida Legislature for approving more than $300,000 to provide legal counsel and representation to the state’s medically fragile foster children. Appropriation 744, as part of Senate Bill 1500, provides $323,000 in recurring general revenue funds for the Justice Administrative Commission to contract with attorneys selected by the Guardian ad Litem Program to represent dependent, foster children with disabilities in, or being considered for placement in, skilled nursing facilities.

UPDATE: The news was covered in a Daily Business Review story.

The need for such representation for medically fragile foster children with no parents or legal guardians has never been greater. In the past year, children in nursing homes and private residences have seen funding for vital nursing care cut. Without legal representation, it is likely these children will spend their childhood in nursing homes without any chance of living with a family, said Howard Talenfeld, president of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier advocacy organization for foster children and at-risk youth.

“It’s been a crisis situation for children and their families, especially foster children, who have suffered significant cuts in the number of hours that skilled, private-duty nursing care is being provided,” he said. “We acknowledge the Florida Legislature for recognizing how important this money is. It represents an important step in securing attorneys who will represent these children and helping ensure they have a better chance of getting the medical care and families they desperately need.”

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Florida Child Attorneys & Advocates Celebrate National Foster Care Month

May 14th, 2013   No Comments   Advocacy, Foster Care

May is National Foster Care Month. In Florida, foster children and their advocates, guardians, attorneys and foster families have more reasons to celebrate this annual event than ever before.

The Florida Legislature passed a “Normalcy” law that allows kids to live lives more like those of their non-foster peers. As fellow child advocate Gloria Fletcher wrote in Ocala.com, foster kids on school field trips, play dates and sleepovers required approval from case managers, at best, or at worst, fingerprints and background checks. “Some 19,000 kids in Florida foster care cannot live the life of a normal child and participate in normal childhood activities.” The new law changes that.

In another change, the Legislature extended the age that young adults “age out” of the foster care system from 18 to 21 years of age.

Amid it all, we must remember the work of dedicated foster families. Regardless of whether we step up and choose to be foster families ourselves, we should support those who do. Theirs is a vital role played in the lives of young, developing children.

As Florida and the nation celebrate National Foster Care Month, we have reason to celebrate indeed.

Sen. Nancy Detert Testifies Before U.S. Congress About Florida’s ‘Normalcy’ Law for Foster Kids

Florida Sen. Nancy Detert

Florida Senator Nancy Detert testified today before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means about the new law in Florida to allow children in foster care to live more normal lives. Florida HB 215, is called the “normalcy” bill because it gives foster parents more power and less liability in approving normal activities for their foster kids. It was signed into law last month by Gov. Rick Scott.

Detert also testified about SB 1036. This bill will extend care for foster children until age 21 for those young adults who choose to remain in the system. The bill passed both chambers of the Legislature, and will be presented to Gov. Scott for signing. Read Detert’s full testimony here.

With only 5 minutes to speak, in part here’s what Detert said:

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Florida Man Recovers $409,662 Embezzled by Former Foster Parents

Chalk one up for the good guys. Based on an alert by Howard M. Talenfeld, a Fort Lauderdale children’s rights attorney and foster child advocate, federal authorities were able to help former Florida foster child Markus Min Ho Kim recover $409,662 embezzled by his former foster parents.

Recovery gives Markus Kim reason to smile

Recovery gives Markus Kim reason to smile

Kim had contacted Talenfeld in 2008 about the theft. Talenfeld then alerted federal authorities to the embezzlement by his adoptive parents, Radhames and Asia Oropeza of Davenport, Florida. They had stolen life insurance money that came from Kim’s mother, who was slain in 2000 by his father, leaving Kim an orphan. Kim’s father currently is serving a life sentence in New York.

U.S. attorney for the Middle ­District of Florida, Robert E. O’Neill, said full recovery of a court-ordered victim restitution of such a large-scale fraud is rare, wrote the Ledger.

“The amount symbolized his slain mother’s hope for a better future and his adopted parents’ betrayal,” the paper wrote. Said Kim, now 25, “I don’t think I can put into words what it truly means to me.”

Read the entire story here.