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Florida DCF Lawyer Warned in Case of Foster Child Suicide Aired on Facebook Live

Private attorneys who fight for the rights of at-risk and foster children are watching closely as a Miami judge overseeing a case related to a child’s January suicide that was streamed from her foster home on Facebook Live threatened a Florida Department of Children and Families lawyer to jail for reportedly misleading the judge.  The judge is exploring whether other children in the foster home may have witnessed Naika Venant, the 14-year-old emotionally troubled foster child as she hanged herself.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia, the judge overseeing the case, demanded Florida’s regional child welfare legal director to appear in her court in March.

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Attorney: Girl Who Streamed Suicide on Facebook Live Was Failed by System

When a 14-year-old girl used Facebook Live to live-stream her suicide, the world came to discover the help she desperately needed and never received from Florida’s social services agencies, notes her attorney. Her destructive behavior and long stint in foster care should have been sufficient warning. But as with other cases, warning flags were missed, overlooked, or ignored.

Foster care had been part of Nakia Venant’s life since 2009 – 10 different foster homes and child shelters, even hotels and a child welfare office, since last April alone. Excessive corporal punishment initiated some of the outbursts; alleged sexual abuse by another child while in state care exacerbated her situation. Then, she committed suicide while streaming live on social media, notes Howard Talenfeld, the child welfare attorney representing Venant’s mother, in an article in the Miami Herald

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FCF Broward Event Raises Thousands to Protect At-Risk, Foster Children

February 26th, 2017   No Comments   Advocacy, Florida's Children First

The Florida’s Children First 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Broward Child Advocacy Awards and Reception, held this Thrursday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Riverview Ballroom, was a remarkable success in raising awareness and funds in the pursuit of protecting the rights of foster and at-risk children.

The event honored FCF’s Champion for Children, the Children’s Services Council of Broward County; the Media Advocate of the Year, Gia Tutalo-Mote, the Founder, Host & CEO of Forever Family, an award-winning, multi-market TV initiative for foster children; and the Outstanding Youth Advocate, Brian Thompson.174 Web
In all, more than 200 people attended and thousands of dollars were raised in pursuit of protecting Florida’s at-risk children from child abuse, harm, and other injuries.

Couldn’t attend? Click here to donate.

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Florida Foster Families Help Children Find a Brighter Future

February 23rd, 2017   No Comments   Uncategorized

How important are foster families to Florida’s kids? Statewide, more than 6,000 children have found homes and adoption through Florida’s foster families. That’s an important figure. But their stories tell a more rich tale.

Statewide, foster children, and others face unknown futures and possible harm on the streets or in social service settings. Foster families provide protection, safety, and a roof to protect them from otherwise stormy lives.

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Florida’s Children First to Host Broward Child Advocacy Awards Feb. 23 in Fort Lauderdale

January 31st, 2017   No Comments   Advocacy

Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier organization helping protect the rights of foster and at-risk children, will hold its 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Broward Child Advocacy Awards and Reception in February.

The event will be held at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Riverview Ballroom (201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33312) on Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 5:50 p.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to register.

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Child Abuse Attorney: Girl’s Suicide an Example of Failed Child Welfare Privatization

Florida child advocates and attorneys who represent children raped and abused in the child welfare system are struggling to comprehend how and why a 14-year-old girl, who reportedly had been sexually abused while in state care, hanged herself while streaming the event on Facebook Live this week. “I have to bury my baby,” her mother, Gina Alexis, said through sobs.

Screenshot 2017-01-26 at 9.22.56 AMIt’s another example of how Florida’s experiment with privatization of its child welfare system is a failure, said Howard Talenfeld and Stacie Schmerling. The Fort Lauderdale attorneys are representing Alexis, mother of Naika Venant.

During a press conference at their law office, Ms. Alexis cried, “I trusted Florida foster care. Instead she kills herself on Facebook.”

Some blame social media. Talenfeld told those seeking answers to look elsewhere. “We first need to look more than anywhere else at what is going on in our backyards in Florida,” Talenfeld told the media gathered in his Fort Lauderdale law office. “Facebook is a method of communication, a method where the message was sent, but the reality is Facebook didn’t rape her. Facebook didn’t fail to provide her services. Facebook didn’t take her into care promising her a better life.”

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US: Florida Department of Children & Families Needs Foster Kids Plan

January 20th, 2017   No Comments   Uncategorized

A study from the Children’s Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has found that the Florida Department of Children and Families is underperforming related its care of foster children in several critical areas. HHS reviewed 80 such cases and has given the state 90 days to deliver a plan to improve its delivery of care.

From removal of kids from homes under the order of child welfare agencies “without first providing appropriate services and were lax in following safety plans” to “struggling to provide counseling and therapy for every foster kid who needs them,” state services were found wanting, according to a Tampa Bay Times article on the study.

“This holds up a light to the people in the state and helps us see how our agency is doing,” Robin Rosenberg, deputy director of Florida’s Children First, told the Times. “For so many areas to be falling below standard is a wakeup call.”



Children’s Rights Attorney Barri A. Reisch Joins Fort Lauderdale-based Talenfeld Law

December 14th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Barri A. Reisch, Esq., has joined Talenfeld Law, the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm that is Florida’s only firm dedicated exclusively to protecting abused, disabled and injured children. Reisch joins the firm as an associate and will focus her practice on foster care and disabled persons damages, civil rights, personal injury, and child welfare litigation.

“Barri’s commitment to child advocacy makes her the perfect fit for our firm,” said Howard Talenfeld, firm managing partner.

barri-r-bioWhile studying at Emory University School of Law, Reisch was a part-time legal intern for the Barton Child Law and Policy Center’s Appeal for Youth Clinic. In this role, she provided post-conviction relief for former foster children as well as representation for foster children in administrative disciplinary hearings before several Georgia County School Boards. Additionally, she served as a clerk for Judge Clarence F. Seeliger in the DeKalb County Superior Court of Georgia.

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Child Abuse Attorney Letter to Florida Bar Applauds Children’s Services Council

November 28th, 2016   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary

Fort Lauderdale Children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld, who exclusively represents children abused, disabled and injured in foster care and other child welfare settings in personal injury and damages cases in Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and throughout Florida, recently had a letter published by the Florida Bar.

In his letter, Talenfeld, who also is the founder and president of Florida’s Children First, the leading statewide advocacy organization for at-risk children, wrote how the Children’s Services Council of Broward County recently took a significant step in its mission to protect at-risk children. The organization approved action needed to hire attorneys for children in the Broward child welfare system.

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Young Man Dies at Broward Youth Treatment Center

October 14th, 2016   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Child advocates and attorneys who fight to protect from abuse teens and youths in the Florida juvenile justice system are watching closely the case of a teen who died at a drug treatment center in Pembroke Pines. The youth’s case also has raised the interest of police and state juvenile justice administrators.

The 17-year-old boy was housed at the center for delinquent youths, having been ordered there by the courts. The private “Broward Youth Treatment Center” is contracted by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

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Autistic Miami Man Incompetent to Stand Trial on Charges of Child-Porn

October 1st, 2016   No Comments   Uncategorized

“Tony Rodriguez, an autistic Miami man with an IQ of 73, is no longer a criminal defendant facing trial on charges of downloading child porn. The 25-year-old is finally free after two years under indictment, thanks to a federal judge who found him “incompetent” to assist in his own defense. Rodriguez’s mother, Maria, cried in court Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro asked her how she felt about the decision and about placing her son in a group home in Homestead that “addresses behavioral excesses” under the supervision of the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities,” according to the Miami Herald.

Read the entire story here.



3 Accused of Beating Mentally Impaired Man at State Hospital in Pembroke Pines

As a children’s rights law firm representing Florida foster children and others at risk of child abuse, child sex abuse, and other harm, Talenfeld Law is aware of the perils society’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens face. But developmentally disabled adults are not immune from physical harm.

In Pembroke Pines, three former employees of the South Florida State Hospital have been accused of beating a mentally impaired patient, according to reporting of court documents. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the plaintiff, identified as C.S., was 25 when three employees in 2014 tried to restrain him after C.S. allegedly struck a female staffer, who declined to pursue charges.

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