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Death of Autistic Girls at Residential Facility has Child Advocate Attorneys Hoping Lessons Will be Learned

September 20th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

For any child advocate or attorney who represents at-risk children facing wrongful death, neglect, physical or sexual abuse or other personal injury, the complaints surrounding Carlton Palms Educational Center in Lake County seemingly are continued cause for alarm.

The July 2013 death of Paige Elizabeth Lunsford, a 14-year-old autistic girl, have state officials looking into Carlton Palms, a residential center for severely disabled children and adults. Officials with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities are calling for the center to stop accepting new patients. APD officials also are calling for the firing of Carlton Palms’ medical director.

The most recent calls stem from the death of Miss Lunsford, who came to the center from South Florida child. Her disability rendered her unable to speak. Soon after her arrival, she began vomiting, which lasted for several days. Her illness was made worse by medical neglect and inadequate supervision, noted the Florida Department of Children and Families.


New Report Shows Counties Suffer in Caring for At-Risk Children

September 16th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

A recent report issued by child-welfare professionals has found Miami-Dade and Monroe counties’ efforts and systems to protect vulnerable and at-risk children suffers “major problems.” The news comes on the heels of a recent investigative report that found that almost 500 kids statewide had died or suffered wrongful death while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Every day, kids under state watch or in the care of its community based care providers suffer physical, emotional or sexual abuse. For all the money spent on child welfare services in Florida, these truths are stark and saddening.

The most recent report was issued by experts enlisted earlier this year by the Department of Children and Families and its Interim Secretary Mike Carroll. The system is strained by a rise in kids in state care, and the DCF and its network of service providers are struggling to handle the burden.

Miami-Dade and Monroe counties outpace the state in the children receiving in-home services, the report noted. In those two counties alone, numbers rose more than 63 percent; statewide, the figure was 1% between May 2013 and July 2014. Read a news article on the report here.

Meanwhile, names like Nubia Barahona, Rilya Wilson and others are seared into our collective memories as children who suffered and died after finding their way through the state child welfare system.


Florida Foster Child Abuse Attorneys Shocked as Herald Reports That DCF Hid More Child Deaths

June 1st, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

When Florida child attorneys and foster child advocates read with horror “Innocents Lost,” the Miami Herald’s reports of almost 500 Florida foster children and at-risk kids who died while under the watch or awareness of the Department of Children and Families, outrage focused on how kids known to the agency could have died.

Now, the outrage is growing anew. According to today’s Miami Herald, “Documents obtained after Innocents Lost was published show that starting at least as early as last November, as the Herald was grilling DCF on its problems in preventing the deaths of children under its watch, one branch of the agency deliberately kept as many as 30 deaths off the books — ensuring they would not be included in the published tally.”

If true, the reports show an inexplicable pattern of non-transparency and a deliberate effort to hide from the public an ongoing epidemic of children’s deaths. Read the entire story here.

Florida’s Children First: Foster Child Welfare Bill Advances

April 4th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

Florida’s child advocates and attorneys who fight to protect the civil rights of foster children who suffer physical abuse, sexual abuse and personal injury are pleased that the Florida Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee this week approved a measure that, if passed and signed into law, would change how the Florida Department of Children and Families and its community-based care agencies serve Florida’s foster and at-risk children.

The legislation is sorely needed. It follows media reports in 2013 and again this year about the deaths of almost 500 children from abuse and neglect. Outrage only grew as media revealed that many of the children already were known to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida’s child advocates and attorneys are pleased with the progress of the bill, and are hopeful that it eventually will be signed into law. Read the entire story here.

Florida Child Advocate: State, Department of Children and Families Must Protect Kids From Future Abuse

March 18th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

In this letter to the Miami Herald, child advocate and foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld applauds the Florida Legislature for tackling the issue of children harmed or killed while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families – and he identifies key areas of additional change.

Read the letter below or on the Miami Herald website here.

The Miami Herald’s March 16 investigative report, Innocents lost, which examines the deaths of 477 children who were known to be at risk by the Department of Children & Families, shockingly revealed the abysmal failure of DCF and its community partners to protect these children.

As DCF reduced the number of children in its dangerous, burgeoning out-of-home care system from 50,000 in 2002 to 16,000, it failed, along with its private partners, to take action to protect the children that investigators determined were in harm’s way.


Florida Child Abuse Attorney: Five Years Later, Lessons Learned Lie Dormant

February 7th, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)After Gabriel Myers, 7, killed himself while the foster child was being treated with a “psychotropic cocktail,” Florida foster care advocates hoped momentum had built sufficiently to get through the state Legislature a series of laws designed to protect children already traumatized by sexual abuse by other abused children. Instead, the proposed rules – and momentum – died.

Now, advocates are hoping to built momentum anew. They hope to push through several measures during the coming legislative session.

If any child could serve as a case study for the need for such rules and laws, it was Gabriel. He exhibited sexual behavior problems at school and had lost a foster placement due to his troubling behavior, according to news reports.

“One of the major things we learned was that the reason he was so disturbed was that he had been sexually abused himself,” said attorney Howard Talenfeld, president of the advocacy group Florida’s Children First. “As a victim of sexual abuse, he was acting out. This was a significant part of his problem that went unaddressed.”

Read the entire story here.

Florida’s Vulnerable Children Need Your Support This Holiday Season – And All Year Long

December 23rd, 2013   No Comments   Uncategorized

Did you know some 19,000 children in the state of Florida won’t have a permanent and loving home this holiday season? Your financial support can help to protect these children. Help a foster youth have love and support this holiday season with Florida’s Children First.

Florida’s Children First is the state’s premier child advocacy organization. Donating just $10 today will help FCF protect the rights of not just one child, but all children in care – all year long.

Florida’s Children First receives no state or federal funding. We rely on the generous donations of people like you to continue advocating for the rights of children.

Donate Here


Florida Child Abuse Attorneys, Advocates Watch as Another Child Dies Under Agency’s Watch

June 12th, 2013   No Comments   Uncategorized

Child advocate attorneys who fight for at-risk youth are watching closely as Florida officials investigate the death of Antwan Hope, 4, who died a week after being reunited with his mother – and under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families and a contracted community-based care provider.

The death of the boy, whom his aunt described as “cute and innocent” and in need of being “rescued” from his situation, has left child advocate attorneys again asking questions. How could a boy already on DCF’s radar for past claims of abuse fall victim to the very abuse social workers were called in to prevent? In 2011, he was removed from his mother for her allegedly trying to suffocate him; in 2013, he’s gone after an unsupervised visit with her. Coral Springs police call his death “suspicious.”

“The boy’s distraught relatives said it was clear Antwan’s mom was disturbed and that she should not have had unsupervised access to him,” the Miami Herald reported. “‘They put him in the hands of death,’” the paper reported Antwan’s aunt, Deborah Jackson, as saying.

DCF officials, who contracted the boy’s case through a private Broward foster care agency, declined to discuss the matter. “We take child deaths very seriously, and we take this case very seriously,” spokeswoman Alexis Lambert told the Herald.

It’s a horrible story – one all too often repeated throughout Florida’s at-risk populations. Read the entire Miami Herald story here.


Child Advocate Attorney Featured in Prominent South Florida Magazine

August 31st, 2012   No Comments   Uncategorized

Howard Talenfeld, a dedicated attorney and legal advocate for foster and at-risk children throughout Florida, and a partner with Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, & Abate, has been featured in Lifestyle Magazine.

The story speaks of Talenfeld’s focus on addressing abuse and personal injury suffered by at-risk children, and his efforts to sue DCF (the Florida Department of Children and Families) and community-based care providers who often fail in their jobs to see to the needs of Florida’s kids

Read the profile here.

Florida Child Advocacy Lawyer Guest Post: ‘Right for Kids’ a First Step – Yet Florida’s At-Risk Kids Need More

August 8th, 2012   No Comments   Uncategorized

Gainesville, Florida-based child advocacy attorney and Florida’s Children First board member Gloria Fletcher offers the following commentary on the “Right For Kids” report…

As an advocate and attorney for foster children and at-risk kids in Gainesville, North Central Florida and throughout the state, I support any effort that advances the cause of protecting our most vulnerable citizens statewide. But the new “Right for Kids” report, while laudable in its the effort to chronicle improvements in Florida’s child welfare system, is to many overreaching in its feting Florida with praise and high rankings.

Frankly, as reported by the leading statewide child advocacy organization, Florida’s Children First, such ratings may leave residents believing “everything is fine” in Florida and our work is done here.

That simply is not the case.


Florida Senator Questions Department of Juvenile Justice Use of Psychotropic Drugs, Chemical Restraints on Kids

October 21st, 2011   No Comments   Uncategorized

A key senator is raising questions of the Department of Juvenile Justice apparently using psychotropic drugs and “chemical restraints” on youth in its lockup facilities statewide – and whether the state agency responds seriously enough to the issue. Agency officials have failed to acknowledge the situation, which infuriated Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, according to WCTV-TV.

The action follows reports that some 34% of children in DJJ facilities are on psychotropic drugs, the station reported. Storms then demanded agency officials report on details of their prescribing practices and keep her updated her on their own investigation. One DJJ official said it is “against agency policy to use mind-altering drugs for discipline or punishment, which opponents of the practice describe as chemical restraint, the news organization reported.” Read the entire story here.

Editorial: Gov. Scott Should Quash Plan to Cut Budget, Eliminate Positions at Florida DCF

March 17th, 2011   No Comments   Uncategorized

Editorial boards, guardians, attorneys and advocates are lining up against proposed cuts to the Florida Department of Children and Families budget. According to today’s editorial in the Florida Treasure Coast Newspaper, “Gov. Rick Scott just doesn’t get it.” Florida’s new Chief Executive called for slicing $172 million from DCF’s current $2.77 billion budget. That 1,849 positions.

The editors asked, “Has Scott familiarized himself with the details of the Nubia Barahona case? She’s the 10-year-old girl whose decomposed body was found last month in the back of her adoptive father’s pickup truck in West Palm Beach. Nubia’s twin brother, Victor Barahona, was found hours earlier. He was coated with toxic chemicals.”

The editorial board concluded, “No doubt the Department of Children and Families can — and will — learn to ‘work smarter’ in the wake of this egregious tragedy. But does Scott really think the agency can improve the state’s protective services for tens of thousands of Florida children by slashing the budget and cutting positions at the Department of Children and Families?”

Read the entire editorial here.