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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:


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.

In Florida and U.S., Aging Out Means New Issues for Foster Care Kids

In Florida and nationally, foster care was designed to provide a safe haven for society’s most vulnerable citizens – the abused, neglected and overlooked children. Yet, what happens when they “age out” — turning 18, independent and no longer wards of the state? As this article shows, in Washington state, as well as in Florida and nationwide, advocates, rights attorneys and guardians ad litem have worked tirelessly to help kids find independence once beyond the support of the foster care system.

In the article, “State’s foster care system discharges ill-equipped young adults; Despite program’s good intentions, teens are out on their own and unprepared,” The Spokane Review writes of a national issue: Kids who on their 18th birthday, some with behavioral health problems, are turned out of group or foster homes where they’d spent their lives in the state’s care. They are to start on their own — often unprepared.

“Recently cut off of the powerful psychotropic drugs that had been used to control his aggression, Tyler Dorsey ended up in the Spokane County Jail on a domestic violence charge six weeks after aging out of child welfare,” the publication wrote.

“A new state law might have protected Dorsey, who was turned away by numerous agencies because of his juvenile record of assault…[The law] entitles foster youth without a high school diploma or GED to remain in foster care until age 21 by opting into the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.”

Read the entire story here.

Research Backs Need to Help Foster Kids Aging Out of System

July 12th, 2011   No Comments   Aging Out, Foster Care

Foster kids who “age out” or turn 18 and are forced to leave state care face a daunting future. Whether in Florida or elsewhere in the county, they often have faced emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Many lack emotional maturity needed for self-sufficiency. Rarely tasked with handling their own finances, they’re forced to do so soon after release from foster care. Never or rarely having lived on their own, their “independence” comes quickly — often faster than they’ve been prepared to handle. One study found that about 16% of kids aging out will end up homeless.

Various research reveals how unprepared foster kids are for their new-found independence. A groundbreaking 2010 report from the University of Chicago delved deeply into the effects of aging out on former foster care kids.

With the Florida Department of Children and Families and national-wide with state-run organizations charged with protecting foster kids and preparing them for their futures, many kids “fall through the cracks.”

Research shows how vulnerable they are once released from care — and how some organizations are helping with the transition. One report, from the National Alliance to End Homelessness in America 2011, found that that “one in six young adults who age out of foster care is likely to experience homelessness.”

Read this article on National Public Radio about kids aging out of foster care — and efforts to help them.

Florida DCF Rule: Positive Drug Test Will Lead to Child Abuse Hotline Referral

Florida’s child advocacy community is watching closely as the Florida Department of Children and Families institutes a new policy regarding drug testing of welfare recipients. Starting next month, Florida’s social service agency will refer every welfare applicant who fails a drug test to a child abuse hotline, reports the Tampa Tribune. While some state officials claim such results will be used to remove children from their parents, civil rights activists fear it will do just that.

“Beginning Friday, anyone applying to the state for temporary cash assistance must pass a drug test to receive benefits,” the paper reported.  “Applicants must pay the test’s cost, which will be refunded for those who pass. That upfront expense could exceed $100, according to state documents, for those who need a medical review to confirm that the drug detected is one for which they have a legal prescription,” it reported.

Read the entire story here.

State Reviews, Revises Findings in Gabriel Myers Foster Care Suicide

The investigations, questions, hearings and discussions lasted more than a year following the apparent suicide in a Florida foster home of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old boy on the care of Florida Department of Children and Families — and under the influence of a cocktail of psychotropic medications.

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)But it wasn’t to be that easy. Florida child welfare administrators, who closed their case in 2010 after finding that none of Gabriel’s caregivers had abused or neglected him.

The agency soon reopened the case, backtracked, and according to reports in the Miami Herald, “verified allegations that Gabriel’s foster parents and their then-19-year-old son, who was baby-sitting that day, were responsible for Gabriel’s death — one of the most controversial in agency history.”

Discussions leading to the new outcome centered on a series of difficult questions that confronted the child welfare agency as it was seeking to redefine itself and promote a greater sense of family among foster children. Read the entire story here.

Howard Talenfeld Appeared on CNN to Discuss Red Flags Missed by DCF

Advocates: Florida No Fan of Foster Children, Facebook Tagging

December 27th, 2010   No Comments   Advocacy, Foster Care

FloridasChildrenFirstDid you know that kids in foster can’t be “tagged” in Facebook photos, or have their pictures published in the newspaper – even for good things. It’s not fair and it’s not normal.

Florida’s Children First works every day to make things more fair for children in the state’s system of care. This year, with the youth in Florida Youth SHINE, we will again push for broader “normalcy” reforms.

Will you help us? (more…)

Child Advocates Celebrate Funding Program for Adopting Disabled Florida Foster Kids

October 1st, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Foster Care

The news is good for disabled foster children hoping to find permanent homes through adoption. Advocates applaud a new Florida program that could enable adoption of hundreds of disabled kids.

A new program from the Florida Department of Children & Families and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities will earmark financial resources for care and services for foster kids with special needs. The hope is this will help encourage adoptive parents who might not be able to adopt and raise the children otherwise.

It’s a big issue. Some 638 Florida foster children had developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism and other issues. . Some 224 of the kids are on a waiting list for services.

To learn more, read a recent Miami Herald story on the issue.

Tale of Florida Law, Court Ruling & Gay Foster Parent Adoption Captures Wide Attention

September 27th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Court Cases, Foster Care

Advocates, children’s rights attorneys and others aren’t the only people closely following the story of Martin Gill and his two foster children. The story has caught the attention of local and national media.

The experienced foster parent and his partner took the brothers several years ago when the boys had nowhere else to go and the Florida Department of Children and Families sought a home for them. Then, Gill hoped to adopt the boys.

One problem: Florida law says gay couples cannot adopt foster children.

A Florida state appeals court struck down the law last week. While the story is not yet final, it still has captured national attention. Read some of the coverage here, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Slate Magazine.

Warning to Prospective Parents: Swindle Foster Kids’ Money and Face Jail Time

News that a Tampa, Florida, area couple allegedly stole more than $400,000 from a foster child’s life insurance payout reveals how society’s most vulnerable children remain susceptible – even while in a system designed to protect them or once they’ve aged out and are on their own.

To prospective parents the indictment against the Davenport, Florida, couple also should stand as a warning to those who would swindle money from kids who need it badly: Get caught, and jail time may await.

According to news reports, Radhames Antonio Oropeza, 53, and Asia Concepcion Oropeza, 52, are said to have invited to Florida a foster child whose mother had died, and whose father was in jail. The child was given the proceeds of a $400,000 life insurance policy when he turned 18. The young man’s name has not been released.

Authorities claim the couple convinced the boy he was making real estate investments. The couple faces charges of conspiring to commit fraud and wire fraud. (more…)