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Archive for April, 2011

In Florida and U.S., Advocates Work to Prevent Foster Youth Identity Theft

Foster children – whether in Florida or elsewhere in the U.S. – increasingly are victims of identity theft. Sadly, they often don’t realize it until they’re on their own, “aged out” at 18. This article explores issues related to ID theft, and what advocates and organizations can do to help keep kids in the system from becoming victimized.

The reporter wrote, “The fact that foster children are sometimes shuffled from home to home, with their personal information passing through different hands, makes it a recipe for identity theft, child advocates say. Once they turn 18 and are ready to live on their own, many foster youth discover that they have car loans, unpaid bills or mortgages in their names. Debts and bad credit can prevent them from renting an apartment, getting college financial aid, or opening a bank account. Finding culprits can be nearly impossible.”

Read the entire story here.

State Reviews, Revises Findings in Gabriel Myers Foster Care Suicide

The investigations, questions, hearings and discussions lasted more than a year following the apparent suicide in a Florida foster home of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old boy on the care of Florida Department of Children and Families — and under the influence of a cocktail of psychotropic medications.

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)But it wasn’t to be that easy. Florida child welfare administrators, who closed their case in 2010 after finding that none of Gabriel’s caregivers had abused or neglected him.

The agency soon reopened the case, backtracked, and according to reports in the Miami Herald, “verified allegations that Gabriel’s foster parents and their then-19-year-old son, who was baby-sitting that day, were responsible for Gabriel’s death — one of the most controversial in agency history.”

Discussions leading to the new outcome centered on a series of difficult questions that confronted the child welfare agency as it was seeking to redefine itself and promote a greater sense of family among foster children. Read the entire story here.

Child Advocate Howard Talenfeld part of $2.9 million settlement for child abuse victim Jace Manning

As reported by the Daily Business Review, Childrens advocate attorneys Howard Talenfeld of Colodny Fass Talenfeld Kalinsky & Abate and Gary M. Cohen secured a $2.9 million settlement for Jace Manning, who in the first seven months of his life was seen numerous times by physicians for symptoms indicating abuse and neglect.

According to the article: “The responsible agencies didn’t communicate. It was a complete system failure,” Talenfeld said. “What you have is many different agencies involved with child protection, and it’s very easy for the Jaces of the world to fall through the cracks.”

Read the entire story here

Florida Lawsuit Claims Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse in Foster Care

The Florida Department of Children and Families, area care providers and others have been accused in a lawsuit of allowing the abuse to happen, and then failing to seek mental health care for the then-10-year-old boy after he twice tried to commit suicide.

The mother of the former foster child describes in the lawsuit how the boy was moved to 11 different homes in 18 months. Now 13, he has been reunited with his mother since 2008, reports the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

The paper reports that defendants include the Sarasota YMCA, the local contractor for foster care services. Its chief executive declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. Read the entire story here.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Budget Cuts Protested by Disabled Advocates

April 7th, 2011   No Comments   Funding, News & Events

Parents and advocates for the developmentally disabled protest Gov. Rick Scott’s emergency cuts to their programs. Some pass out fake currency mocking the governor. Scores of parents of developmentally disabled children protested deep cuts that Gov. Rick Scott ordered last week to close a $174 million deficit a the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Miami Herald reported.

From families of children with developmental disabilities, to group homes, nurse and support coordinators, advocates and others, the protests of hundreds of Floridians facing sharp cuts in services rang out through the Florida Senate meeting hall.

“With all these cuts, what am I going to do?” one mother asked of the  Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee.

“The protesters weren’t just worried with the cuts. Some were angry,” the Herald wrote. “They chanted ‘no more cuts.’ They pointed out that the 15 percent across-the-board reimbursement rate cuts were far deeper for some – as much as 40 percent. Some people waved placards that called Scott a “crook” for heading a hospital company decades ago that was convicted of ripping off Medicare. Others passed out mock “State of Disability” dollar bills emblazoned with Rick Scott’s picture.”

Read the entire story here.

Foster Care Award Limits Stripped From Florida Senate Committee Medicaid Bill

A sweeping Florida Senate rewrite of the state Medicaid program, approved today by the health and human services budget committee will steer 2.9 million low-income Floridians into health coverage provided by managed care companies. Left behind: legal caps and liability limits for foster care providers.

According to the Palm Beach Post, “Trial lawyers and children’s advocates have been fighting the lawsuit limits, especially in the wake of the death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona and near death of her twin brother, Victor, allegedly at the hands of their foster parents who are now facing murder charges.”

Read the entire story here.

Social Welfare Workers Face Threats, Low Wages, Even Arrest Doing Their Jobs

Whether in Florida and the Department of Children and Families, or in any other state where government agencies are charged with protecting young lives, when child welfare workers investigate an abuse case, what will they face? A gun or hostile parent? A ferocious dog? A meth lab or criminal whose intentions are unknown?

Many child welfare workers do their jobs out of love and a mission to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet burn-out, low salary, and even fear of taking blame being arrested for missing clues that result in a child’s injury or death leave many wondering about careers with child welfare agencies.

A recent Associated Press article told the story of one New York worker. “Workers at child welfare agencies around the country tell similar stories of taxing, emotional and frustrating jobs that are low in pay and high in stress because of hostile families, tight budgets and overburdened court systems. Workers juggle several cases, make as little as $28,000 a year and usually burn out after a couple of years.”

Read the entire story here.

Florida Community Based Care Execs Reap Big Money; Foster Children Left to Languish

April 4th, 2011   No Comments   Abuse

What a waste of Florida taxpayer money, abuse of the public trust and departure from the Legislature’s original intent for the Florida Department of Children and Families when a CEO and other executives from Our Kids, South Florida’s community-based care provider serving foster and at-risk children, can earn six-figure salaries and take bonuses — while cutting the payments to foster children who are finishing high school and going to college.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Florida’s privatization of child welfare services was supposed to be good for kids and taxpayers. But in the decade since the state began making private agencies responsible for the care of abused and neglected children, one cost has soared — the salaries of top employees.”

The paper continued: “Child welfare executives throughout Florida are now making six-figure salaries, with some topping $200,000 — double what state employees used to be paid to do the same work.”

“They should not under any circumstances be paid these sorts of outrageous salaries,” paper quoted state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico and chairwoman of the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs. “If you get your money from taxpayer funds, you should not be paid more than the governor.”

Read the entire story here.