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Posts Tagged ‘Rights of Foster Children’

Florida Trend Story Highlights Foster Kids’ Need for Attorneys

ht-florida-trendIn a report issued this fall by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and First Star, Florida and six other states got an “F” for the legal representation and attorney services it provides to abused, neglected and foster children, notes a story in the December issue of Florida Trend.

“Very few of these children have lawyers, and yet their entire life is on the line,” says Howard Talenfeld, Chairman of the Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee. Talenfeld is pushing for legislation to require that children in the state’s welfare system have an attorney. Read the Florida Child Advocate blog on Florida’s Failing Grade here.

The Florida Trend story helps highlight the plight of these children — and the Committee’s work on their behalf.

Jesse Diner: ‘Seven Years & Counting’ for Foster Children & Attorney Representation

Florida is one of ten states that do not provide attorneys to children in foster care and the dependency system. They are the only party  in a dependency case who are not represented and thousands do not have Guardians ad Litem.


Florida Bar Pres. Jesse Diner

This year, Florida Bar President Jesse Diner is making the passage of legislation that would provide attorneys for foster children one of his top priorities. The commentary below appeared in The Florida Bar Journal…

Children are entitled to the same zealous advocacy adult clients expect of their lawyers. Yet, too often, children come to court powerless, with no one representing them at all. . . .

“If children are lucky enough to have lawyers, too often those lawyers are underpaid, inexperienced, and overwhelmed by huge caseloads. Judges are left to make life-altering decisions about a child without sufficient information to back up sound decisions.”

Those excerpts are plucked from the 2002 final report of The Florida Bar Commission on the Legal Needs of Children, a hardworking group of Florida judges and lawyers and experts on children’s issues chaired by 11th Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan. (more…)

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…)

Five Florida Agencies Unite to Improve Educational Opportunities for Foster Youth

August 12th, 2009   No Comments   Education Issues, Foster Care

The heads of five Florida state agencies formally agreed today to work together to ensure that children in state care — including foster children — receive an appropriate, high-quality and stable education.

Signing the Interagency Agreement to Coordinate Services for Children Served by the Florida Child Welfare System were the heads of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), and the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI).

Click here to see the Guide to Improve Educational Opportunities for Florida’s Foster Youth.

Signers say that the agreement will go a long way toward ensuring that foster children receive the coordinated services and the stability they need to succeed in school and beyond. (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.

Tracey McPharlin Elected Chair of Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section

July 16th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care, News & Events

Tracey K. McPharlinTracey K. McPharlin, a partner in Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate P.A., and specialist in foster children, foster care abuse, and damage claims, was elected 2009-2010 Chair of the Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section (“PILS”) on June 26 at the Florida Bar’s 2009 Annual Meeting.

McPharlin had served a statewide capacity as PILS Chair-Elect for the past year, during which she worked closely with outgoing Chair Maria Elena Abate, also a partner at Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate. Together, the two worked to build the PILS membership base through added CLE programming and awareness efforts.

Both Abate and McPharlin, who works extensively on the firm’s cases involving foster children, foster care abuse, and damage claims, chaired the PILS Legal Needs of Children Committee in successive terms. (more…)

Birthdays & Independence Tough for Kids Aging Out of Foster Care

July 6th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care

This editorial originally appeared in Hernando Today

By Jennifer Anchors, Executive Director of Children’s Home Society of Florida, Mid-Florida Division.

Happy Birthday, America. This week, we gather to celebrate the independence of our country and the freedoms we enjoy.

Independence is a recurring theme throughout our lives, beginning with our very first steps. We celebrate our 18th birthdays amidst plans for high school graduation, college enrollment, military enlistment or employment. These and other important life choices are made with the support and guidance of loving families.

Not so for Suzi. At 18, she was escorted to the door of a foster care facility, suddenly homeless. Sadly, Suzi had “aged out” of the foster care system, a harsh reality facing foster youth who are not adopted before their 18th birthdays. The traumatized teens, victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment, are handed notebooks containing their important personal papers and sent into the world ill-equipped, frightened and vulnerable. Carli, also among about 800 youth who age out of Florida’s foster care system each year, says “It’s like becoming an instant adult – I felt so alone.” (more…)

Attorneys: Florida Agency for Persons With Disabilities Must Curtail Psychotropic Use in APD Residential Facilities

June 4th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care, Psychotropic

Psychotropic medications used without appropriate consent of parents and guardians has hit near epidemic proportions in the Florida foster care and group home setting. The public first realized this with the suicide of Gabriel Myers, 7, and weeks later, with a wrongful death lawsuit filed following the overdose of Denis Martez, 12.

The situation needs improved oversight — and the practice must stop.

In the following letter to Jim DeBeaugrine, Director of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Maria Elena Abate, partners with the Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., call for Mr. DeBeaugrine to survey all licensed group homes working with his Agency as a first step in curtailing such use.

See the original letter here.

June 4, 2009
Jim DeBeaugrine, Director
Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities
Tallahassee, FL  32399

Re:  Death of Dennis Maltez–Investigation of Psychotropic Drug Use in Group Homes

Dear Director DeBeaugrine,

As attorneys for the estate of Denis Maltez, and long-time advocates for the rights of society’s most vulnerable citizens, we are very concerned about the role psychotropic drugs played in his death from serotonin syndrome. I know that you are quite familiar with this case as your agency took emergency action and suspended the license of Rainbow Ranches, in part because of the inappropriate use of such drugs. (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 Secretary Sheldon Convenes Psychotropics & Foster Kids Workgroup

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.

At issue: The level of use of psychotropic and psycho-therapeutic medications among foster care children.


Florida Foster Care Round-Up: Leekin Damage Suit for Fraud — & Kids Failed by the System

A 7-year-old foster child, a career criminal and the Florida Department of Children and Families led the headlines regarding the foster care and child welfare arena across Florida and the nation over the past few weeks. Here are summaries of some of those and other stories…

In one of the biggest stories, The New York Times reported on April 30 in Suit Contends City Failed to Prevent Adoption Fraud, how lawyers contended in a lawsuit that New York City violated the rights of 10 disabled children who were adopted more than a decade ago by Judith Leekin, a former Queens woman now in a Florida jail and who abused them and used government subsidies meant for their care to support a lavish lifestyle.

The Miami Herald on April 30 wrote State probes apparent suicide of foster child, 7, an opening reporting salvo by journalists and columnists in what we expect to be a very chilling and alarming case – that of Gabriel Myers, the boy who took his own life at a Broward County foster home after a stormy nine-month odyssey through the state foster-care system and the questionable use of psychotropic drugs used to quell problem children.


Stop Warehousing Florida’s Foster Children

May 4th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care

By Brian J. Cabrey, Esq.

The April 16 suicide death of 7 year old Gabriel Myers, a foster child in the custody and care of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), shocks the conscience.

Little Gabriel apparently hung himself with the shower hose in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate, Florida. The victim of sexual abuse, as well as other abuse and neglect that resulted in him being removed from his family and placed in foster care, Gabriel had been prescribed a variety of mind altering psychotropic medications while in foster care to deal with the myriad behavioral problems he was experiencing, no doubt largely the result of the abuse he had suffered. Reports are that he was on 3 or 4 different drugs, or combinations thereof, at the time of his death, all at the tender age of 7.

What is almost as shocking to the conscience as a 7 year old wanting to, knowing how to, and actually committing suicide, is that a 7-year-old would be on not just one, but multiple psychotropic medications. (more…)