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Central Florida Child Advocates to Celebrate Children, Supporters and Big Legislative Wins

Foster child advocates and supporters of at-risk children from across Central Florida will join Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier foster child advocacy organization, in September as FCF hosts its annual fundraiser and awards event. This year’s event will be special cause for cheer as advocates celebrate recent successes in the Florida Legislature – and the child advocates who help the state’s at-risk kids throughout the year.

Florida’s Children First 2014 Orlando Reception will be held on Thursday, September 18, 2014, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM at the Law Offices of Broad & Cassel.

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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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Palm Beach Post: Children’s Services Council Cuts Tax Rate, Budget; Services the Same, Exec Promises

September 28th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy, Funding

The Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County’s governing board voted unanimously this week to reduce the tax rate it assesses on county property owners by 2.3 percent, the Palm Beach Post reports. The result – about 2% less in funding, or $91.8 million. It’s total budget for 2012-13 will be $110 million, down just under 4%.

But less money does not translate to less service for children and families, CEO Tana Ebbole told the paper. “…[N]ew programs beginning within the coming months are proven programs that will help the council have an even bigger impact on the lives of Palm Beach County’s children and families.”

From its mission statement, “The Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County is an independent special district established by Palm Beach County voters, who dedicated a source of funding so more children are born healthy, remain free from abuse and neglect, are ready for kindergarten, and have access to quality afterschool and summer programming.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Budget Cuts Protested by Disabled Advocates

April 7th, 2011   No Comments   Funding, News & Events

Parents and advocates for the developmentally disabled protest Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency cuts to their programs. Some pass out fake currency mocking the governor. Scores of parents of developmentally disabled children protested deep cuts that Gov. Rick Scott ordered last week to close a $174 million deficit a the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Miami Herald reported.

From families of children with developmental disabilities, to group homes, nurse and support coordinators, advocates and others, the protests of hundreds of Floridians facing sharp cuts in services rang out through the Florida Senate meeting hall.

“With all these cuts, what am I going to do?” one mother asked of the  Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee.

“The protesters weren’t just worried with the cuts. Some were angry,” the Herald wrote. “They chanted ‘no more cuts.’ They pointed out that the 15 percent across-the-board reimbursement rate cuts were far deeper for some – as much as 40 percent. Some people waved placards that called Scott a “crook” for heading a hospital company decades ago that was convicted of ripping off Medicare. Others passed out mock “State of Disability” dollar bills emblazoned with Rick Scott’s picture.”

Read the entire story here.

Social Welfare Workers Face Threats, Low Wages, Even Arrest Doing Their Jobs

Whether in Florida and the Department of Children and Families, or in any other state where government agencies are charged with protecting young lives, when child welfare workers investigate an abuse case, what will they face? A gun or hostile parent? A ferocious dog? A meth lab or criminal whose intentions are unknown?

Many child welfare workers do their jobs out of love and a mission to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet burn-out, low salary, and even fear of taking blame being arrested for missing clues that result in a child’s injury or death leave many wondering about careers with child welfare agencies.

A recent Associated Press article told the story of one New York worker. “Workers at child welfare agencies around the country tell similar stories of taxing, emotional and frustrating jobs that are low in pay and high in stress because of hostile families, tight budgets and overburdened court systems. Workers juggle several cases, make as little as $28,000 a year and usually burn out after a couple of years.”

Read the entire story here.

Florida Gov. Scott: Department of Children & Families Does ‘Good Work’; Cuts Still Loom

Florida’s child and foster care advocates, guardians and attorneys who work to prevent abuse of the state’s most vulnerable citizens were concerned when Gov. Rick Scott’s budget included deep cuts to the Department of Children and Families. During a visit to the agency this week, he lauded its work. Advocates remain hopeful for future spending.

The Governor visited DCF employees on Valentine’s Day. touring the agency and discussing the “thankless job” they perform. This came a week after he proposed cuts many DCF programs.

According to WCTV, Scott spoke with employees – some of whose jobs may be targeted – under a handmade “Welcome Governor Scott” banner. He acknowledged the effort of the people and agency that work with broken homes, abused children, and other social ills — many times which are exacerbated by tough economic times.

“Almost every family in this country deals with some of the issues you deal with everyday,” Scott said, according to the news report. “There is almost nobody that is unscathed, whether it’s drug abuse, substance abuse, child abuse.”

That said, his mission of cutting state government down to a proper size to get spending under control and create private sector jobs remains, Scott warned. Read the entire story here.

Florida DCF Alleges Abuse of Foster, Day Care Kids, Faces Budget Cuts

The Florida Department of Children and Families found itself in the news this week. Stories included an investigation of foster child’s serious injuries, the DCF-ordered closure of an illegal day care linked to child sex acts, and concern over Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed deep budget cuts to the agency created to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget lays off 1,849 Department of Children and Families employees and slices $278 million out of the agency that oversees homelessness and health care; substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health. Read a Tampa Tribune article here.

Meanwhile, DCF is investigating the fractured skull of an 11-month-old Fort Lauderdale foster child the same week as the agency ordered the closure of an illegal day care center where a vice president with the center faces two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation and showing obscene material to a minor.

U.S. Sends Florida $5.7M for Boosting Foster Care Adoptions

September 16th, 2010   No Comments   Adoption, Funding

According to the Associated press, Florida has received some $5.7 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for increasing the level of adoptions of children in foster care.

HHS stated this week that Florida was one of 39 states rewarded for boosting numbers of adoptions since 2007. The states use the incentive money to improve their child welfare programs, the AP reported.

The news report continued: The 12 months ending June 30 saw 3,368 foster children adopted in Florida. That was fewer than the two record years before it, but still more than before the state started an aggressive public awareness campaign three years ago. Read the entire story here.

Decline in Florida, Nat’l Foster Youth Stats Good News – But More Work Remains

September 4th, 2010   1 Comment   Funding, News & Events

When the number of U.S. children in foster care drops 20 percent over the past decade – and 8 percent in one year, the figures lead caregivers, administrators, advocates and children’s rights attorneys to cite positive changes in the foster care system.

From Florida to New York to California, foster care enrollment – and how long kids are spending in the system – is dropping, according to statistics from the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration’s annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report.

“This is very good news. The statistics and results show how concerted, collaborative efforts by various organizations and caregivers can really make a difference in the lives of so many children,” said Howard Talenfeld, a child advocacy attorney and president of Florida’s Children First. The statewide organization fights for improvements in foster care and children’s issues.

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Gov. Crist 2010 Budget Boosts Funding for Florida Children, Families, Foster Kids and Aged-Out Graduates

February 18th, 2010   1 Comment   Foster Care, Funding

At a time when tough economics call for fiscal belt-tightening across the state, Gov. Charlie Crist this year has shown tremendous resolve and vision.

This year, the Governor has recommended $77.5 million to support a variety of Florida Department of Children and Families initiatives designed to protect current foster children and those graduating out of care.

Attorneys, guardians, advocates and others who provide legal representation for these citizens laud the governor for his recommendations.

According to a document from the DCF, the governor’s budget proposals are anticipated to protect critical services for vulnerable Floridians.

“We are grateful that Governor Charlie Crist places such a high priority on continuing DCF’s progress in increasing adoptions of children in foster care, keeping children and families together and safe from abuse, preventing domestic violence and homelessness, and providing treatment for mental illness and substance abuse,” noted DCF Secretary George H. Sheldon. (more…)

Florida’s Adoption Program Earns National Respect, Awarded $10 Million

September 18th, 2009   No Comments   Funding, Psychotropic

We at Florida Child Advocate.com congratulate Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon and former Secretary Robert Butterworth for initiating an effort that recognizes that every child, regardless of age or disability, is adoptable. This is a great start, but we have a long way to go.

We’re not alone in recognizing this effort. The Miami Herald reports that Florida leads the nation in finding permanent homes for abused and neglected children.

Washington has recognized the work of what has become a model program, too. Reporter Carol Marbin Miller writes that Florida child-welfare administrators have received nearly $10 million in federal aid for Florida’s adoption program.

“For the second year in a row, the Department of Children & Families has led the nation — by a wide margin — in the number of children successfully adopted from foster care,” Miller writes. “For their efforts, DCF will receive a hefty bonus that can be used to boost next year’s adoption program.” Read More…