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Archive for February, 2012

Why Is Florida Department of Children and Families Pushing to Return Wandering Boy, 9, to Family He ‘Fears’?

February 29th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy, Court Cases

It’s a puzzling case: The Florida Department of Children and Families is pushing to return to his family a 9-year-old boy found wandering the streets of North Miami Beach naked and hungry. The boy has told doctors he fears his home. A judge, who said in court the boy looked like a concentration camp survivor, ordered the release of hundreds of pages of state documents – and then questioned the state’s intention to return him to his family.

It’s a complicated case. State child welfare administrators describe the parents – Edward Bailey and Marsee Strong – as loving parents who deserve to get their children back after the kids’ brief stay in foster care.

Administrators also urged prosecutors to seek the couple’s release from jail, telling Miami Judge Cindy Lederman that the couple had not harmed their children. Yet, the boy has told his doctors he’s afraid to go home.

There should be no rush to return this boy to his family until the truth comes out. Read the entire story here.

Florida’s Children First – State’s Premier Child Advocacy Organization – to Honor Broward County Bar Presidents, Advocates and Former Foster Children on March 22

February 24th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy, News & Events

Florida’s Children First (FCF), the statewide legal advocacy organization focused on protecting the legal rights of at-risk and foster care children, will recognize and honor supporters of The Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Dependency Recruitment Initiative at FCF’s 10th annual Broward awards reception. The event will be held Thursday, March 22, 2012, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale.

FCF Executive Director Christina Spudeas, along with FCF President and Fort Lauderdale children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld, will lead the event. It is expected to draw more than 300 child advocates, elected officials, judges and community and business leaders. Kristi Krueger, WPLG Local 10 Anchor, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.

The evening will recognize and honor supporters of The Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Dependency Recruitment Initiative, named in honor of the long-time child advocate attorney who passed away in 2010. The event also will recognize this year’s Broward Child Advocate honorees, including Broward County Bar Association past president Bruce Weihe; Broward County Bar Association President Jordana Goldstein; and Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Dependency Recruitment Project Director David Bazerman.


Attorney Asks: Were Mistakes Made By Florida Department Children & Families As Father Kills, Injures Family?

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – He’s a monster; that’s what one of William DeJesus sons called him, says CBS Miami. DeJesus is accused of stabbing his wife and his two young sons inside a Deerfield Beach RV, leaving his autistic 9-year-old dead. Neighbors said he also killed the man who lives here, then took his own life. It’s a violent end, to what DCF records show, was a horrific life for his children – including allegations of sexual abuse.

All of this infuriating to child advocates. “Unfortuatenly,” said attorney Howard Talenfeld, head of Florida’s Children First, “notwithstanding any of these red flags and concerns, the decision was made to return these children into harm’s way back to their parents.”

Watch the video below.

Florida Department of Children & Families & The Legacy of Nubia Barahona: When Warning Signs Must Be Taken Seriously

By Gloria W. Fletcher, Esq.

The South Florida murder case of Nubia Barahona had warning signs all over it. School teachers reported a thin, hungry child with a sickly appearance and who hoarded food. Social workers noted how the family rarely let them see Nubia and her twin brother, Victor.

In the end, Nubia was killed, her brother allegedly tortured – and both became the subjects of reports by commissions and blue ribbon committees. Their adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, stand accused of the horrific crimes.

The lessons made clear from the reports and committees and commissions: Warning signs were overlooked and opportunities were lost to save these two children.


Valentines Day One Year Later: Questions, Concerns Remain In Death of Nubia Barahona

February 14th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Exactly one year from the date that Nubia Barahona was found dead – and her twin brother, Victor, was found in serious condition doused in toxic liquids – their adoptive parents Jorge and Carmen Barahona may find out if they will be in the same courtroom when they face murder charges. And child abuse, foster care and guardian advocates and attorneys are still wondering whether the Florida Department of Children and Families and the community-based care providers paid hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure kids are safe are doing enough to ensure just that.

In the video below, child advocate attorney Howard Talenfeld tells NBC 6 in Miami that the system remains woefully unprepared to handle the vital tasks at hand.

View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.

Florida Child Advocates, Guardians, Attorneys Demand ‘No More Nubias’

February 13th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Damage Claims

In an editorial this weekend, the Miami Herald proclaimed, “No More Nubias.” The editorial board – like foster child advocates, guardians and attorneys who strive to protect children from child abuse, damages, personal injury and other heinous crimes – called for tougher child-protection laws being made the priority. It’s too late for Nubia Barahona, the 10-year-old child allegedly killed by her adoptive parents. But maybe her death was a wake-up call for the system.

The Herald wrote, “If state lawmakers really want to prevent any other child in the state from meeting Nubia Barahona’s tragic fate, then they will do everything possible to toughen child-welfare laws before attaching her name to them in her honor. So far, it’s been a mixed bag, legislatively speaking. Some proposals bring a dose of accountability and common sense to make the system better. Others, however, show that some lawmakers need to get real.”

Read the entire editorial here.

Florida Foster Kids Who ‘Age Out’ Face a Tough World Ill-Prepared for What’s Next

February 12th, 2012   No Comments   Aging Out

America’s children-turned-adults present a stark dichotomy of “independence.” Many adult children well into their 20s, even their 30s, still are financially dependent on their parents. They’re called the “boomerang generation.” Can you blame the parents for taking them back? The economy remains weak. Jobs are scarce. And no matter how well educated they are, these kids still have few options.

Now, imagine being a foster child – with scant education, few business or money-management skills, and forced to “age out” and face the world alone with no “parents” in the traditional sense to fall back on. While boomerangers often stay home into their late 20s or even 30s, foster kids are required by Florida law to become “independent” at 23.

That could change.

According to the Miami Herald, “the budget bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives lowers the age when the state’s foster children, even those still in school, are cut loose. Support for former foster care students would end at 21, instead of 23.

“The Road to Independence Act, passed back in a more enlightened 2002, recognized that children aging out of Florida’s often overwhelmed, sometimes negligent foster care system were hardly ready to face the world alone.”

Read the entire story here.

Child Rights Attorney: Barahona Audio Statement Reveals Horrors of Child Abuse, Torture

February 6th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Tied together in the family bathtub, Victor Barahona and his sister, Nubia, were denied food, doused with water or bleach, neglected and subjected to horrible child abuse, personal injury and damages that eventually – for Nubia – allegedly led to death, according to police and prosecutors.

Now, the horrors are being revealed in graphic detail. On Monday, Miami-Dade prosecutors released caretaker Katia Garcia’s audio-recorded statement, in which she shared with investigators Victor’s heartfelt and shocking account of the twins’ treatment at the hands of their adopted father, the Miami Herald reported.

“Garcia recalled Victor’s attention to detail in sharing memories of his own abuse. But when it came to his slain sister, the boy was beset with agony,” the paper reported.

“He stutters when he talks. He can’t finish his sentences,” Garcia said in the recorded statement. “He has nervous twitches with his eyes. He had one with his mouth. He doesn’t want to talk about what his sister went through.”

Read the entire story here.

Justice Delayed: After 15 Years, Mom Charged With Child Abuse

February 4th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases

Fifteen years after allegedly inflicting a horrible beating on her 3-year-old daughter, a South Florida woman is facing justice for the personal injury, harm and damages she caused the child. As advocates and child abuse lawyers closely watch the case, she faces aggravated child abuse, according to Broward court records as reported in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The woman, Raquel Knowles, 38, fled the hospital emergency room where she’d taken her daughter with serious injuries in 1997. She reportedly then flew to Jamaica, where she remained until 2009.

The child – now an adult – had bruises to her chest, back, buttocks, upper legs, arms and earlobes, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “The child had great bodily harm,” Judge John Hurley said. “[She had] permanent disfigurement due to surgical scarring when they had to sew up your daughter from the internal injuries after they did surgery.”

Read the entire story here.

Ninth Vulnerable Child Dies Under Watch of Hillsborough Kids

February 3rd, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

In January, child advocates, guardians, child welfare attorneys and others watched as the Florida Department of Children and Families pulled its $65.5 million contract from community based care provider Hillsboro Kids, in part because eight children had died under its supervision in two years. Add one more to the list.

Young child Gabrielle Crawford, born with multiple birth defects, died in December while under the care of his mother – who’d already had four children taken from her. Though he was never expected to live past 2 – he was was 8 months old at the time of his death – Gabrielle had broken bones and a bruise on his face.

“On Thursday, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office called Gabrielle a homicide victim,” wrote the Tampa Bay Times. “The state Department of Children and Families called his death another example of the failure of Hillsborough child protectors to avert a tragedy unfolding before their eyes.

“No other region in the state has a child death rate as high,” the Times wrote. The nine deaths, said Mike Carroll, DCF’s Suncoast regional director, ‘were the driving force to change lead agencies.’ He said DCF and (new CBC) Eckerd would immediately began reviewing ‘every single child’ under supervision in Hillsborough County, about 2,500 children.”