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Archive for the ‘Rights of Foster Children’ Category

When is a Florida Foster Child Not a Foster Child? When Disabled and Needing Care

When is a disabled foster child not really a foster child? Apparently, Florida’s disabled foster “children” aged 18 to 22 are not foster kids in the eyes of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities, whose officials believe the Department of Children and Families or Medicaid are responsible for paying for the extended care of disabled individuals in foster care between ages 18 and 22.

For advocates and attorneys who champion and represent foster kids who face potential abuse, personal injury and other harm, this is another issue of key importance, especially for those whose daily life is a caregiver’s struggle.

It was a situation the Florida Legislature thought it had resolved in 2013, when it passed a law ensuring disable foster persons were allowed to stay in state care until they reached age 22. The new law lacked one key element: Direction as to which agency would pay for the care.

In an effort to provide guidance, Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) is pushing for a solution. She has discussed the issue with children’s advocates and service providers. It’s a critically important issue for Florida’s disabled foster persons.

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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.

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.

In Florida and U.S., Advocates Work to Prevent Foster Youth Identity Theft

Foster children – whether in Florida or elsewhere in the U.S. – increasingly are victims of identity theft. Sadly, they often don’t realize it until they’re on their own, “aged out” at 18. This article explores issues related to ID theft, and what advocates and organizations can do to help keep kids in the system from becoming victimized.

The reporter wrote, “The fact that foster children are sometimes shuffled from home to home, with their personal information passing through different hands, makes it a recipe for identity theft, child advocates say. Once they turn 18 and are ready to live on their own, many foster youth discover that they have car loans, unpaid bills or mortgages in their names. Debts and bad credit can prevent them from renting an apartment, getting college financial aid, or opening a bank account. Finding culprits can be nearly impossible.”

Read the entire story here.

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…)

Most Effective Lawyers: Four Years of Work Led to Settlement in DCF Case

The Daily Business Review, a leading legal and professional publication in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and South Florida’s tri-county community, recently named law firm partners Howard Talenfeld and Tracey McPharlin among its Most Effective Lawyers.

To the two foster care and child advocacy attorneys, partners with Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky & Abate P.A., the proposition seemed simple: placing children who are known sexual offenders into a foster home where other foster children reside is a dangerous practice.

But it took nearly four years to persuade a court to recognize that the Department of Children and Families workers who placed two teenage boys with a known history of sexual predation into a home with three younger children acted with deliberate indifference. The workers were not, the lawyers argued, entitled to qualified immunity. Read the original article here…

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Florida DCF Secretary Sheldon Says Agency Changing Culture

September 3rd, 2009   1 Comment   Rights of Foster Children

This article from the News Service of Florida reveals Florida Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon’s belief that the agency at the center of state foster care issues is changing its culture.

“Gov. Crist made it very clear that if you make a mistake, admit it and try to fix it,’’ Sheldon said.

“Despite recent critical reports, Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon said this week that he is convinced the beleaguered agency is beginning to change a long-engrained culture,” the article began. “A recently-completed internal report raises questions as to whether the agency has the right kind of employees who are willing to use common sense to avoid ongoing mistakes, such as one that came to light with the suicide of a 7-year-old child in South Florida.

“These mistakes wind up costing taxpayers millions of dollars because the state ends up settling lawsuits that accuse the agency of negligence.”

See the entire article here…

Florida Governor, Legislature Must Curtail Use of ‘Chemical Restraints’ on Foster Children

“It seems to be a prerequisite for foster children to be on medication.”

These words were spoken by the adoptive father of two 12-year Florida girls. And the reality he spoke of just shouldn’t be the case.

As Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was barnstorming the state discussing Florida’s successes in fostering adoptions, Mirko Ceska was telling the governor about the continued prevalence of psychotropic drugs in the lives of foster kids and others in the state’s care. Read the Miami Herald article here.

Powerful psychotropic should not be used as “chemical restraints” for minor foster children. But such use is widespread instead of behavioral approaches designed to address the real losses in their lives. (more…)

Lawyers Go to Bat For Children in Florida Care

Plantation lawyers Howard Talenfeld & Jesse Diner hope to improve legal representation of kids in state care.

Jesse Diner, left, and Howard Talenfeld are working together to help Florida's foster care and vulnerable children.Jesse Diner, left, and Howard Talenfeld are working together to help Florida’s foster care and vulnerable children.

Two Broward lawyers are hoping to work toward a major change for kids who have been taken from troubled homes.

Howard Talenfeld and Jesse Diner, both of Plantation, say they want to make sure every child in state care has a voice when moving through the court system. Both have taken on lead roles in recent months with the Florida Bar Association and one of their main priorities will be to improve the legal representation of children in foster care.

“I realized the single greatest improvement we can make in the child welfare system is to give every child a voice when they are taken away from their parents,” said Talenfeld, a longtime foster care and child advocate attorney.

Read Complete Miami Herald Story Here.


FlaBar President Diner Makes Legal Representation of Foster Children a Critical Priority

For far too long, Florida foster children haved needed their own voice and legal counsel in their own dependency case and now before other state and local agencies that make critical decisions that critically affect their lives.

Representation should be of primary concern. Currently, only 60-80% of children in the dependency system are represented by the GAL program – and very few by attorneys. Quality representation of each child in foster care, before School Boards, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the Agency for Healthcare Administration, to name a few agencies, may be the single most important step we can take to positively impact the lives of foster children.

This year, Jesse Diner, President-Elect of the Florida Bar, has placed among his highest priorities taking the recommendations of the 2002 Commission on the Legal Needs of Children and introducing legislation to create a Statewide Office of the Children’s Advocate.

My appointment this May to chair the Florida Bar Association’s Legal Needs of Children Committee is part of that goal. Our committee will help write legislative language and seek passage of laws and regulations critical to fulfilling the state’s mandate to serve the best interests of the children in its care. (more…)

Round-Up: Crist Signs Records Law, State Reviews Foster Care Cases

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida’s foster children have been both a source of both eye-opening revelation about how they’re cared for, as well as the recipients of legislation designed to help them in the future.

In some good news for foster kids, Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed into law bills designed to help grant them access to records for medical and educational needs.  The Foster Folly News wrote  that the legislation benefits children in foster care as well as young people leaving foster care. The move “provides children in foster care better access to their own personal records often needed for medical and educational purposes.  Senate Bill 1128 ensures that disabled homeless children and children in foster care receive appropriate educational services.”

WEAR-TV reported that the bills can be credited, in part, to members of Florida Youth Shine, a statewide advocacy group that specializes in foster care and child welfare issues. “You’re great advocates, you truly are,” Crist said.

Recent news in Florida’s foster child and foster care landscape continued to center on the fall-out of the Department of Children and Families response to Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old child who committed suicide in his foster home. Reporters and government leaders are scrutinizing how Gabrielwas prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs, and how the DCF plans to deal with such cases in the future. Among the stories… (more…)

Florida DCF Workgroup to Research Death of Foster Child, Gabriel Myers

Department of Children and Families Secretary Convenes Workgroup to Evaluate Circumstances Surrounding Death of 7-year-old in Foster Care

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary George H. Sheldon today announced that the Department is establishing a  workgroup to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the tragic death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers.

Gabriel died on April 16 when police indicated he apparently hanged himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home.

Following Gabriel’s death, the Department of Children and Families petitioned the court to release case files and notes relating to the child while in state care. Normally, case files are only made public following a death that is verified as a result of abuse or neglect, per Florida Statutes. However, DCF believed it was in the public interest to open the records to public scrutiny. A judge agreed and the petition was granted on April 22, 2009. (more…)