What is FCA?

Child Advocacy Blog

Search

Archive for the ‘Legislative & Regulatory Issues’ Category

Broward Businesses and Children’s Rights Advocates Push Re-Authorization

The work of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County cannot be overstated. The organization oversees spending of some $60 million annually into county-wide programs that help children in need. Efforts include everything from after-school programs and family counseling to swimming lessons and other important services. According to a Sun-Sentinel article, such programs “help parents work easier, youth become productive and the business climate stronger.” In all about one in four Broward kids benefit.

It’s a role not lost on businesses throughout Broward County. The business community is gathering forces to ensure funding continues. Their efforts will come to a head on Nov. 4, when county voters will decide whether to re-authorize a property tax that funds the council.

Those who back the group are household names. JM Family Enterprises and Castle Group property management support a Yes vote, as does the Broward Workshop of county CEOs.

Such “front-end” services can help avoid foster care and juvenile detention for the county’s most vulnerable youth, said Howard Talenfeld, a leading children’s rights attorney and founding president of Florida’s Children First. The organization is the state’s premier children’s advocacy group. The result: families remain unified, kids stay in school, summer jobs are more common, and Broward’s children get the counseling they need, he said.

Vote Yes for re-authorization of the Children’s Services Council on Nov. 4. Success will prove beneficial to more than just the county’s businesses. Citizens throughout Broward will realize the positive results.

Hard Work Pays for Premier Florida Foster Child Advocacy Group

From Tallahassee to Main Street, Florida’s Children First enjoyed remarkable success over the past year in its mission to help the state’s vulnerable, abused and at-risk children. The organization and its supporters helped usher in several new laws and public interest efforts that together make life safer for Florida’s foster children and others. 

Among the initiatives, two bills the organization and its backers had proposed were made into law. They included the Counsel for Dependent Children with Special Needs (HB 561), which will help ensure legal counsel is provided to special-needs children in the state dependency system. The other was Juvenile Sentencing Reform (HB 7035), in which FCF served as part of a vital coalition of backers who helped advocate for the measure.

FCF also helped to get key language incorporated into important laws that were enacted this session. The language and bills included creation of a Website to Report Child Deaths or Neglect (SB 1666); Child-on-Child Sexual Assault (SB 1666); Services & Provision Tracking (SB 1666); and Accountability on Delivery of Services Through Community Alliance Boards (SB 1666).

(more…)

Florida Department of Children and Families Adds New Data to Child Deaths Site

Florida child abuse attorneys and advocates are watching a move to boost transparency around the deaths of children known to the Florida Department of Children and Families to be at risk of harm. The agency has added to a new website five years of data regarding child abuse deaths.

The pubic site, which was mandated by the Florida Legislature in the wake of the deaths of almost 500 children over the past several years, is being updated each week. It includes new data on the fatalities children stemming from neglect, abuse or other harm.

(more…)

New Law a Start, Now Florida Legislature, Agencies, Advocates Must Monitor Children’s Safety

With regard to The Herald’s series, Innocents Lost, about the 477 children who died while known by the Department of Children and Families to potentially be at risk, the cases all involved DCF’s knowledge from prior investigations of multiple red flags for children who would be at significant risk of future serious harm or death if left with their families.

In no system should children die at the expense of keeping families together, and this is where the Florida Legislature new enactment SB 1666 placed child safety as paramount. However, this law does not change federal mandate under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 for states to use reasonable efforts to preserve families where it can, without jeopardizing the lives of children.

(more…)

Critical Florida Children’s Advocacy Bill Awaits Governor Scott Signature

For as long as any Florida child advocate or children’s rights attorney can recall, Florida case law has said children have no constitutional right to an attorney in dependency court. That has meant kids’ futures would be decided with no attorney advocating for their needs, lives or futures.

In what some believe is a watershed moment for at-risk and vulnerable children statewide, the Florida Legislature this year passed House Bill 561. The measure requires the appointment of and payment for an attorney ad litem for Florida’s at-risk children facing court or dependency court proceedings. Read a Daily Business Review article.

Written in part by Howard Talenfeld, a leading Florida child advocacy attorney and shareholder with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate and Webb, P.A., the measure awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Scott. With widespread, bipartisan support – and the backing of advocates statewide – it is hoped this measure will be signed and children will received the professional advocacy they so desperately need.

Florida Child Advocates Help Legislature Pass Historic Law for At-Risk Kids

Florida’s Children First with the assistance of many child advocates was able to help pass historic legislation that created sweeping changes in children’s rights issues, including the right for disabled children to have an attorney in their dependency cases. Read a recap of the legislation here.

Florida LegislatureThanks to Carol Marbin Miller with the Miami Herald for shining the light on such tragedies like the death of Tamiya Audain, the 12-year-old autistic girl whose mom died and agencies never got her Medicaid Waiver benefits or found a safe home for her to live in.

Thanks to Senator Bill Galvano (Bradenton), Representative Erik Fresen (Miami), and Senator Rob Bradley (Orange Park), Department of Children and Families Secretary Esther Jacobo, Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis and Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz for making this legislation a top priority.

Children’s Services Council – A Critical Safety Net for Our Kids

How much is it worth to help and protect at-risk children? How important is it to ensure our kids have services essential to their health, education and well being? Broward voters will be asked those questions in November – with implications felt for years to come.

A referendum will ask county residents whether to reaffirm the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. The organization provides early learning and reading programs, after school programs, developmental health, preventive and other children’s support services. It keeps families together and their children out of foster care, delinquency programs and prison. The Council is funded by an annual homeowner tax assessment.

How much does this cost? By one calculation, it’s about $60 for a $125,000 home in Broward County, or about $60 million countywide, spent by various organizations dedicated to protecting our kids.

(more…)

Florida Bar News: Foster Child Abuse Attorneys Back Bills to Provide Lawyers for Special-Needs Kids

The Florida Bar News this month discussed bills in both the House and Senate that would provide state-paid attorneys for dependent children with special needs. The publication spoke with Howard Talenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who serves as president of Florida’s Children First, an advocacy group pushing the proposed legislation, and Statewide Guardian ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz.

“It’s the first time in history we have a director of the GAL supportive of attorneys representing children,” Talenfeld said.

When Talenfeld was president of The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee in 2009, he fought unsuccessfully to persuade the former GAL director to support legislation that would provide attorneys for dependent children, a key recommendation of the predecessor 2002 Legal Needs of Children Commission. He referred to the child advocates’ clashing views on representation over the years as “the Crusades.”

“It’s very important to signal to the guardians of the world that the Crusades are over,” Talenfeld said the day before CS/SB 972, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 1.

Read the entire story here.

Tampa Bay Times Letter: Legislature, DCF Must Act on Behalf of At-Risk Kids

For foster child advocates and the attorneys who strive to protect at-risk children from assault, physical abuse, sexual abuse and other personal injury, the word is getting around: The Legislature must act to protect these children. It also must compel the Florida Department of Children and Families to do more to meet its mandate to see that kids under its watch are, in fact, protected.

In that regard, the Legislature has led the charge for change. DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo has welcomed more collaboration to protect children. And the news media, which released an investigative report on the deaths of 477 children under DCF watch, has been working in the public interest in covering this closely.

The Tampa Bay Times this week published a letter to the editor on the issue. Written by child advocate and foster care abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld, the letter applauded the Legislature’s actions, while calling for closer oversight of DCF. Read the entire letter here.

The more that Floridians know about these issues, the safer our children will be.

Foster Child Attorney: Proposed Law to Provide Attorneys for Children with Disabilities Passes Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee

By a unanimous vote, SB 972, sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano (Bradenton), was approved by Florida’s Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee today with overwhelming support. The bipartisan, bicameral initiative would provide attorneys to children with disabilities in foster care, many of whom linger in foster care longer than their peers, for an average of up to five years, and sometimes longer. Representative Erik Fresen (Miami) is the sponsor of the House companion bill HB 561, which also passed unanimously during its first committee meeting.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers across the state who give their time to help our children through programs like GAL and other local legal aides, but we have a moral obligation to make sure all of our medically fragile children and their families get the care they need,” said Sen. Galvano.

Under SB 972, the attorney would provide necessary legal representation in administrative and court hearings to help children obtain the services and support they need to be safe and well and to find permanent families. Recognizing the need for skilled representation, these lawyers would represent disabled children in applications for benefits and denial of benefits from the state and federal agencies, such as the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration or the Social Security Administration.

(more…)

Child Abuse Attorney, Florida Senate Committee Address Issue of Children’s Deaths in ‘Porous’ Welfare System

Leading Florida child advocate and children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld addressed the Florida Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee this week, as they sought to stem a year’s worth of damning news of dozens of children who died from abuse and neglect while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families and its various community based care providers and private contractors.

HT at Senate HearingLater, the Florida Senate committee passed several proposals advocates and leaders hope will improve the quality and quantity of regulation over the state’s child welfare system. The goal, in part, is to improve what Senate President Don Gaetz called “a porous system,” according to the Miami Herald.

Addressing the wide-ranging areas in need of correction, Talenfeld spoke of the need to directs DCF to keep siblings together when placed into foster case, as well as tackling child-on-child sexual abuse, expanding child safety plans and extending 60-day case reviews.

“After 60 days, it’s over,” Talenfeld said. “There’s no one watching the children. There’s no one watching the family and someone is waiting for the next shoe to fall.”

Read the Miami Herald coverage here.

Florida Youth Shine: We Came, We Spoke, They Voted – Thank you to Florida’s Legislators

A note from Florida Youth Shine: Since 2010, Florida Youth Shine has been working with on bills that would ensure normalcy while in care and that would extend foster care to 21. As a part of our outreach, you all have come to the Capitol time after time to share your stories during meetings with legislators, for conversations with Senate staff, and to testify countless times before House and Senate committees.

This year, in partnership with the Guardian ad Litem program, your hard work paid off during the 2013 legislative session when “The Quality Parenting Act” and the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act” were passed in both the House and Senate. Congratulations to all of our members of Florida Youth SHINE who have shared their story and their voice over the last 3 years. You did it!

A special FYS thank you goes out to Senator Detert for sponsoring both of these wonderful bills in the Senate and to the entire Senate for co-sponsoring SB 1036 on Independent Living. We also send a heartfelt thank you to Representative Albritton for sponsoring The Quality Parenting Act, Representative Perry for sponsoring HB 1315 on Independent Living, and to so many of our Representatives who signed on as co-sponsors to both of these bills.

These substantial changes became law because of you. We came together to identify these challenges, we spoke to our legislators and shared our stories, and they voted in favor of a stronger support system for each of you. Congratulations for being part of Florida’s history!

Read FYS’s entire newsletter here.