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Archive for July, 2009

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…)

Florida Today: Sanction Doctors, Child Workers Who Ignore Rules in Prescribing Psychiatric Drugs

Florida Today writes about the Florida Department of Children and Families study of compliance by physicians and case workers with regard to legal rules related to prescribing mental health drugs to foster care kids. The publication commented that they report was “disturbing and demands action.”

The conclusions — of both the study and Florida Today’s editors — are correct: The practice is too widespread, with too little oversight.

Yet this should be just a starting point. If it were to conduct a similar study, I believe the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities ( APD ) would arrive at similar conclusions, namely that group home operators often are administering these medications without the proper power of consent from families or guardians, and physicians aren’t obtaining appropriate histories and conducting appropriate physical or behavioral examinations.

The improper use of psychotropic medications has hit near epidemic proportions in the Florida foster care and group home setting. The public first realized this with the April suicide of Gabriel Myers, 7, and weeks later, with a wrongful death lawsuit filed following the overdose of Denis Martez, 12.

Florida Today’s editorial helps raise public awareness of this important issue. We all should keep awareness high so we can remedy this serious situation. Read the full editorial here.

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…)

Florida DCF Makeover Helps Foster Families Stay United

July 3rd, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care, News & Events
With eight of her nine children, Peggy Bach holds her newest child, Israel Bach,1 week old. Others are from the baby, clockwise, Andrew Bach, Grace Fisher, Arik Bach, Amber Hurley, Faith Fisher, Jake Bach and Bruce Bach. DON BURK/The Times-Union

With eight of her nine children, Peggy Bach holds her newest child, Israel Bach,1 week old. Others are from the baby, clockwise, Andrew Bach, Grace Fisher, Arik Bach, Amber Hurley, Faith Fisher, Jake Bach and Bruce Bach. DON BURK/The Times-Union

For those looking for solutions to issues surrounding Florida foster children and families, look no further than to some of the innovative programs being implemented around the state.

By keeping vulnerable families together and providing financial and emotional support where possible, state agencies, their contracted providers and other child advocates are able to reduce or eliminate legal issues, damages, damage claims, lawsuits and other problems that can arise.

The more important result is a happier, more stable family. Below is the story from the Jacksonville Times-Union of how one family benefited from the redesign of the DCF model…

When Peggy Bach  and her eight children were asked to leave her boyfriend’s house in December, she wasn’t quite sure what to do.

The 37-year-old Jacksonville woman was on maternity leave, pregnant with her ninth child. She had no money and no place to go. Bach was afraid to ask for help in fear she would lose custody of her kids. But by March, she had no other choice. Because of a redesign of the state Department of Children and Families, Bach retained custody of her children. She also got $1,200 to move into a new house, food stamps, mentoring for her children and even gave her multiple Wal-Mart gift cards until food stamps were approved.

That wouldn’t have always been the case. In the past, Bach’s kids would have been added to the 1,012 Duval County children living in foster or relative care. But as part of the redesign, DCF is spending more time working with parents and placing fewer children in the foster care system.

Click here to read the rest of the story.