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Archive for April, 2010

Florida Legislature: Time Limits Will End to File Sex-Abuse Cases

Despite concerns expressed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Florida Legislature this week approved eliminating a statute of limitations on child-related sex-abuse cases, according to a Miami Herald story.

The Florida House of Representatives and Senate unanimously approved the measure to eliminate time limits and statutes of limitations for filing criminal and civil cases for sex crimes involving children. The effort has met resistance for years from the Roman Catholic Church, the Herald wrote.

The legislation (HB525), while too late for some victims, makes it easier for future victims to file suit, seek courtroom justice, and potentially to recover damages. Gov. Charlie Crist has said he would sign such a bill into law.

“This is one of the major undone pieces in regard to the state addressing the needs of sexual-violence victims,” Terri Poore, a lobbyist for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, told the Herald. Read the entire story here.

Florida Lawyer Fights for Rights of Foster Children

Although Florida is one of the top states in the number of foster children who are adopted, thousands of foster children lose their childhood by spending three or more years in care.

“We still have far too many foster children who spend years in the system instead of with their permanent families,” said Howard Talenfeld, founder of Florida’s Children First (FCF), an organization based in Coral Springs that works for children in foster care and those at risk.

Talenfeld was interviewed by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for this article on his — and Florida’s Children First’s — roles in advocating for children’s rights.

“Florida is at the bottom of the states when it comes to providing foster children an attorney in their own foster care case,” Talenfeld said. “As a result of shrinking revenues, we are now fighting threatened budgetary cuts to Florida’s independent living program, adoption subsidy appropriations and to the Guardian ad Litem Program.”


Medicaid Cuts Miami Psychiatrist Who Prescribed Psychotropic Drugs to Autistic Boy

The closely watched story of Denis Maltez, the 12-year-old Autistic boy who the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said died of “serotonin syndrome” after being prescribed several psychotropic drugs, took a new turn this week as the prescribing psychiatrist was dropped from Medicaid’s rolls as a medical provider serving the state’s insurance program for disabled and needy children.

More importantly, the Agency for Health Care Administration needs to monitor all physicians who blatantly ignore their “red flag” warning letters, said Howard Talenfeld, attorney for the boy’s mother, Martha Quesada.

“Unfortunately, Florida has no procedure to protect the patients of physicians who write behavioral healthcare prescriptions that exceed thresholds and who ignore the letters from the University of South Florida Medicaid Drug Therapy Program,” Talenfeld told the Miami Herald.

“Nor does the state tell the parents or guardians of mentally disabled persons or foster children that these drugs prescriptions may be dangerous or monitor whether or not the physicians obtained informed consent from them.”

Read the entire Miami Herald story here.

Miami Herald Story: Red Flags Overlooked in Prescription Drug Death of 12-Year-Old Denis Maltez

A Miami Herald story this weekend – Red Flags Overlooked in Prescription Drug Death of 12-Year-Old – highlights the troubling and allegedly deadly use of psychotropic, prescription drugs on young patients in group homes. And it raises troubling questions.

As the Herald reporter wrote, “The death of 12-year-old Denis Maltez raises troubling questions about the state’s safety net for disabled kids. The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office attributed the death to a life-threatening side effect of over-medication.”

Attorney Howard Talenfeld urged healthcare and disability administrators in a letter to better protect disabled children, “who are powerless to protect themselves from being unnecessarily drugged for the convenience of staff. . . . Without proper oversight and action by your respective state agencies, these individuals will continue to be in harm’s way.”

Among the questions the Herald raised in Denis’ case: (more…)

Web Links Help Florida Child and Foster Care Lawyers & Advocates

The area of adoption, foster child, vulnerable persons, and guardian ad litem law is dynamic and fast-changing. With the guidance of the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Programthe Voice for Florida’s Abused and Neglected Children – Florida Child Advocate has gathered some important links and resources to help advocates learn more about the process.

The National Center for Adoption Law & Policy at Capital University Law School publishes a weekly electronic summary of adoption and child welfare cases as well as a weekly summary of the latest news in child welfare.

The Legal Issues and Laws Section of the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides helpful publications and tools, including a State Statute search, federal and state laws, and other legal information.

Foster Care Reform Litigation Docket, a publication from the National Center for Youth Law provides basic information on 71 child welfare reform cases nationwide that are currently in active litigation, a pending settlement agreement, or are significant in some other respect.

Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption is a publication from the Child Welfare Information Gateway summarizes the major provisions of key Federal laws regarding child protection, child welfare, and adoption and includes a timeline of Federal child welfare legislation.

The Legal Resource section of the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Website offers searchable case summaries and library, archived Legal Briefs Newsletter (2004-present), archived Practice Bulletins, the Guardian ad Litem Dependency Practice Manual, audio recordings of past attorney training calls (2006- present), legislative updates, links to helpful websites, and Chapter 39 Florida Statutes. On this page you can also sign up to have the Legal Briefs Newsletter and Practice Bulletin delivered to your in-box.

For more resources, review the “Blogroll” to the left of this entry. If you discover any additional resources that might help others navigating child welfare and advocacy, feel free to send them to us by submitting a Comment on this post.

Incest Report Raises Alarms About Florida DCF ‘Family Preservation’ Policy

Recent news of an incest case raised alarms about the Florida Department of Children and Families’ child welfare policy. In the case of a man accused of sexually abusing his teenage daughter, child welfare advocates questioned keeping families together in a practice called “family preservation” – even when circumstances suggest greater caution.

The goal of family preservation, when secondary to a child’s safety, is a critical and fundamental mission of Florida’s child protection system.

However, in pursuing this goal, other preventative and protective measures must be utilized. Among them…

– Calls to the abuse hotline must be fully investigated.

– Recommended protective services, whether voluntary or mandated, must be monitored.

An article by The Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller on April 8 has once again reported a tragic story that evidences that Florida’s policy shift in this direction has yet to be accompanied by the necessary commitment to protect child safety with appropriate, mandatory supervision of protective service cases.

We hope that DCF’s task force that is now studying this issue moves quickly and decisively in this direction.