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Welcome to Florida Child Advocate

February 4th, 2018   No Comments   Abuse, Adoption, Advocacy

(Scroll Beyond This Introduction to Read the Latest Blog Post)

Thousands of foster children, former foster children, developmentally disabled and medically needy children are part of the Florida child care system. If you’re currently or formerly a child in – or an advocate for or parent of a child in the foster care system, Florida Child Advocate is here to help.

Every year, thousands of foster children, medically needy children, or those physically abused, sexually abused, the victims of personal injury,  legal damages, and pain and suffering are left to seek solutions on their own. No child should go through this on his or her own. And for the almost 500 who have died while under state watch, they deserved better.

This site was created by the law firm of Talenfeld Law, which was founded by nationally known Florida child advocate Howard Talenfeld, the preeminent children’s rights attorneys focusing exclusively on protecting the rights of physically and sexually abused children, developmentally disabled children and other at-risk children. Florida Child Advocate is dedicated to protecting children and addressing key issues facing those with foster care, physical abuse, child sexual abuse, social services, dependency, disability or personal injury and damages claims or lawsuits against the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), lead agencies, community based care providers, and other child welfare providers.

We believe that children belong with their own families. However, we also believe that when protective investigations by the Florida DCF and its agencies reveal that children are at high risk of neglect, child sex abuse or physical abuse by their parents, they must be placed with suitable relatives when they are available, and if not, some children must be placed in foster care. Critically, if children are going to be taken into foster care, they should be protected by the Florida Department of Children & Families and their community partners from the risk of physical and sexual abuse and returned home or placed in loving and nurturing adoptive families as quickly as possible. Topics also include the rights of foster Children to be safe from harm in care, their right to medical, psychological care, and disability benefits, their educational rights, and their rights on the road to independence.

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Another Death of a Child Known to DCF

On November 6, 2020, Florida lost another child that had been repeatedly involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). 22-month-old Rashid Bryant was pronounced dead at Miami Jackson North Medical Center. The cause? Complications of acute and chronic blunt force injuries, attributable to “parental neglect,” according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner. Read more from the Miami Herald.

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Children’s Rights Lawyer Howard Talenfeld to Chair Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee for a Third Term

June 11th, 2021   No Comments   News & Events

Howard M. Talenfeld, a respected children’s rights attorney and Business Unit Leader of Justice for Kids, a division of Kelley Kronenberg, has been named Chair of The Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee, as appointed by Bar President Michael G. Tanner. This is Talenfeld’s third appointment as Committee Chair, having served in the role from 2009-2010 and 2020-2021.

 

The Legal Needs of Children Committee was established to find ways to implement the 2002 recommendations of The Florida Bar Commission on the Legal Needs of Children. This report is focused on ensuring that children in state custody receive the best legal representation possible. 

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Inspiring Story Told by Former Foster Care Child Who Was Abused and Neglected

June 2nd, 2021   No Comments   Foster Care, Sexual Abuse

Kenisha E. Anthony has become an agent for change within the foster care system.  She began her journey as a “ward of the state” when she was only four (4) years old.  Her parents struggled with drug addiction and Kenisha was taken from them.  She would then be placed in seven (7) different homes until finally “aging out” of the system at eighteen (18) years old.  Despite her optimism that things would get better with each home, Kenisha suffered terrible abuse and neglect.  The foster care system failed to protect Kenisha from sexual abuse and other dangers that they are required to prevent.  In the book, “Labeled: Ward of the State,” Kenisha writes her story and details her experiences in these homes.

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DCFS Criticized for Not Protecting LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care in Recent Report from Auditor General

May 26th, 2021   No Comments   Foster Care

The State of Illinois’ Office of the Auditor General recently published a performance audit report detailing the Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) care of LGBTQ youth. The children are in care because they have been abused and neglected. The report finds  LGBTQ youth in DCFS care are ostracized and bullied. Some foster kids have described instances during which LGBTQ youth were kicked out of a foster home by the foster parents for coming out as gay or bisexual. Equally, LGBTQ foster parents do not believe they are supported, depriving the youth from a potential home. Moreover, the position of DCFS LGBTQ Coordinator was vacant for an entire year during the audit period. Read more here.

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Northern Illinois Academy to Shutdown Permanently Following an Investigation Over Allegations of Child-on-child Sexual Abuse, Treatment & Safety Concerns

May 19th, 2021   No Comments   Abuse

A residential school operated by Sequel Youth and Family Services is set to permanently shutdown its operations. Northern Illinois Academy (NIA), located in Aurora, Illinois, is an 87-bed facility that receives funding from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). Children suffering from mental illness, autism, mood disorders, and/or developmental delays were sent to the facility for treatment. According to a recent report based on an investigation conducted by Equip for Equality’s Abuse Investigation Unit, NIA and its parent company, Sequel Youth and Family Services, are unwilling to provide sufficient resources to resolve the existing treatment and safety concerns. These identified problems include a lack of meaningful programing, unsafe restraint practices, problems with de-briefing, failure to identify/report incidents of restraints and seclusion, inaccurate reporting of incidents, complaints regarding time youth spend in their rooms, restricting residents from communication devices, and significant program failures in the Blackhawk unit.

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Kelley Kronenberg Attorney Julianna B. Walo Appointed to Illinois State Bar Association Delivery of Legal Services Committee

May 3rd, 2021   No Comments   News & Events

Kelley Kronenberg is pleased to announce that Attorney Julianna B. Walo has been appointed to the Illinois State Bar Association, Delivery of Legal Services Committee.

The mission of the Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services is to encourage and support the most effective means to deliver legal services, including: making legal services easier to access, more affordable and more readily available to low-and-moderate-income individuals; to develop and sponsor programming and resources for the profession and the public; to maintain liaison relationships with other ISBA and external entities; and to increase pro bono participation and innovation.

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In Memory of a Foster Child that Died a Year Ago After a Chokehold, Michigan is to Ban the Use of Restraints on Children Living in Group Homes

April 30th, 2021   No Comments   Abuse, Foster Care

On April 29, 2020, 16-year-old Cornelius Fredrick  threw a sandwich at another child during lunch at Lakeside Academy, a Sequel Youth and Family Services facility for at risk children in Michigan. In response to the sandwich incident, seven adult male staff members held little Cornelius on the floor for more than 10 minutes, putting weight on his legs and torso. Cornelius died two days later at a hospital. He was a foster child whose mother had died four years prior.

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Current Florida policy leaves hundreds of foster children without Medicaid coverage

Until recently, the state of Florida has continued to abandon foster children who had already been abused and neglected, even after they left state care, by improperly removing 1,730 former foster children from Medicaid. Former foster children, under federal law, remain Medicaid eligible until age 26. However, a current Florida policy requires all former foster children to reapply for Medicaid at age 22, leaving hundreds of young adults without coverage.

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Kelley Kronenberg Adds Attorney Julianna B. Walo in Chicago

April 22nd, 2021   No Comments   News & Events

Kelley Kronenberg is excited to announce that attorney Julianna B. Walo has joined the firm’s Chicago office, where she focuses on workers’ compensation and business litigation. She is also expanding the reach of the firm’s Justice for Kids Division, a national practice dedicated to providing legal services to abused, disabled, and catastrophically injured children harmed in foster care, shelters, residential treatment centers, group homes, and other child welfare settings, as well as all children harmed by the acts of others.

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Father Christopher Ciomek of St. Peter Damian Parish in Bartlett, Illinois, has been removed from the ministry as a result of allegations of child sex abuse

April 21st, 2021   No Comments   Sexual Abuse

He is accused of abusing a minor approximately 30 years ago, during his years as a seminarian. The pastor has previously served at St. Monica Parish in Chicago, St. Theresa Parish in Palatine, the faculty of the Mundelein Seminary, and was an Associate Dean of Formation and Director of Chicago Seminarians. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) encourages victims of Fr. Ciomek and other priests to come forward: “Given that the average age at which a survivor comes forward is 52, and the fact that one allegation being made public often spurs others who were abused to speak out, we would not be surprised if more people come forward with allegations against Fr. Ciomek.” This one courageous victim has come forward, but there are many more victims of childhood sexual abuse that suffer in silence. Whether the abuse was caused by this priest, or other priests, victims should come forward to receive justice and closure.



Foster children are being sent to out-of-state mental health facilities where they are abandoned, abused, and sexually assaulted.

April 16th, 2021   No Comments   Abuse

A last resort procedure available to child welfare officials is sending foster children to out-of-state mental health institutions. Usually, these fragile children suffer from severe medical and psychiatric disorders that require specialized care. However, officials have been abusing this option, especially in Illinois, by using it far too often and then ignoring these children when they suffer physical and sexual abuse by other residents or facility employees. Although police and facility employees have documented instances of harm, far too often state officials fail to intervene and help these vulnerable youth.

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Father Known to DCF Who Abused, Neglected and Starved Toddler to Death Takes Plea, Gets 20-year Sentence

Five months after his wife, Kristen Meyer, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the death of their infant daughter, Alejandro Aleman pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a child and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, as reported by CBS 12.

This issue arises from terrible circumstances that took place in Palm Beach County back in 2016.  Alejandro and his wife had 10 children at the time and kept them all in “deplorable” living conditions.  Investigators discovered a home with mildew, insects, and feces smeared on the walls.  The victim, Tayla, was merely 7 pounds at the time of her death when she was 13 months old.  Tayla was severely malnourished and was infected with E. coli, influenza, and pneumonia at the time of her death.

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