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Archive for November, 2012

Foster Child Advocacy Attorney Profiled in South Florida ‘Giving Guide’

November 28th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy

From caring as a youth for his special needs sister, Bess, to championing the rights of Florida’s at-risk populations facing physical abuse, sexual abuse, personal injury and wrongful death claims, Howard Talenfeld has made helping those in need his passion and professional practice.

His work was profiled recently in ‘Personal Experience Drives People to Pursue Philanthropy,’ an article in the South Florida Business Journal’s annual Giving Guide.

“Growing up, working very closely with Bess from when she was a child, I later discovered I had the opportunity to work with and fight for the lives of those in need,” said Talenfeld, president and chairman of Florida’s Children First and a shareholder with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb, in Fort Lauderdale.

“What drove me was knowing there are so many people in Florida who are like Bess,” he told the Business Journal. “Our lives can be so much more useful fighting for these folks than just fighting about money.”

Read the entire story here.

Newspaper Editorial: ‘Warehousing’ Disabled Children in Florida Adult Nursing Homes Not a Solution

November 26th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy

Child care advocates and those who fight for the legal rights of at-risk children have watched in horror as these kids have suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, personal injury and wrongful death in various settings while under state care. So the Miami Herald editorial chastising the state for the practice of placing disabled youths in adult nursing homes is all the more alarming.

The editorial began: “Here’s how the state of Florida justifies its practice of warehousing severely medically challenged children in nursing homes: ‘They are strictly regulated to ensure that the appropriate services are provided specifically for children,’ noted part of a defensive statement from the state Agency for Health Care Administration. ‘They provide a safe, secure and enriching environment for the children in their care.’

“State health officials, then, might deign to consider Doris Freyre’s experience,” the paper continued, “Marie, her profoundly disabled daughter, was sent to a nursing home at the insistence of social workers. Marie was 14. The Tampa mom had lovingly cared for her at home since birth…Marie died in that Miami Gardens nursing home, struggling to breathe. None of the staff members thought enough to call a doctor.”

Read the entire editorial here. Then decide for yourself if warehousing at-risk kids is any solution.

Questions About Florida Department of Children and Families Surround Murder Trial of Caretaker of Foster Child Rilya Wilson

Child advocates and child welfare attorneys are watching closely as a trial sparked by the disappearance of a young girl gets started. In the balance hangs how the state tracks youths – and how lawsuits, damages and personal injury stemming from children being physically abused or sexually abused, neglected or the subject of wrongful death may hold the state accountable.

As the murder trial starts for Geralyn Graham – the caretaker for foster child Rilya Wilson, who was last seen alive more than a decade ago while under the supposed watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families – many questions remain.

Rilya’s body has never been found. It had been more than a year since a state worker last saw the child. She’s long since been presumed dead. But the impact of this little girl has been dramatic upon Florida DCF, its leadership and the way kids under its watch are actually watched, documented and protected.

DCF went through an administrative house cleaning after news of Rilya’s disappearance emerged. Hearings were held. DCF employees were fired; the top administrator in Miami resigned and the DCF secretary left. A report was issued. The Florida Legislature got involved.

Advocates demanded transparency and accountability from the organization. Maybe this case will help deliver both. Read a Miami Herald article on the case here.

Noted National Foster Child Advocacy Attorney Howard Talenfeld Named South Florida Business Journal 2012 Key Partners Honoree

November 17th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy, News & Events

Howard Talenfeld, a nationally recognized children’s rights attorney and committed supporter of foster child causes, has been named a 2012 Key Partners honoree by the South Florida Business Journal. The annual event recognizes South Florida’s top attorneys and accountants, based on demonstrated success over the past 18 months. He and the other honorees were recognized at a Nov. 15 reception in Miami.

Talenfeld is a Shareholder with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb in Fort Lauderdale. He was honored for his ongoing industry leadership, commitment to community involvement, professionalism and his establishment of a successful niche practice area representing the rights of foster children and disabled persons.

Throughout his career, he has focused his legal practice on protecting the rights of these vulnerable individuals in civil rights cases, personal injury cases and systemic reform litigation.

Over the past 18 months, Talenfeld has made seven figure damage recoveries on behalf of foster children who were abused and neglected in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services and its private agencies.


Florida’s Children First Hosts Northeast Florida Event Honoring Community Heroes Committed to Helping Local Foster Children

November 16th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy

Florida’s Children First (FCF) recognized local individuals for their tireless efforts to advocate for the state’s most vulnerable citizens at its annual Northeast Florida Reception Nov. 15 at the University Club in Jacksonville. FCF is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting foster children and other at-risk youth.

The 2012 Honorees include Brenda Stewart of Family Support Services, Carolyn King of the Nassau Guardian ad Litem Office, and the Justice Coalition. Tina and Burton Scaff will also receive the Foster & Adoptive Family of the Year award.

Additionally, Shawna Nealey and Malcolm Bright were recognized as this year’s Youth Honorees.


Children’s Rights Attorney: Child’s Death in Nursing Home a Civil Damages Case; Feds Investigating

November 11th, 2012   No Comments   Abuse, Court Cases, Damage Claims

The death of Marie Freyre – a 14-year-old child with cerebral palsy and prone to seizures – is a sad example of a preventable wrongful death that attorneys believe could result in a civil damages case and damage claims. One newspaper called her example a “bitter reminder of a dog fight” being waged between federal civil rights lawyers and the state health administration officials who attorneys and advocates accuse of warehousing sick and disabled children in adult nursing homes.

The agencies responsibility for cutting private duty nurses to Marie and others like her must be held accountable civil damages cases.

“The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights division has threatened to sue the state if it does not take steps to care for sick children outside of large institutions,” the Miami Herald wrote.

“Records obtained by The Miami Herald from the state agency that has defended the practice of housing children in nursing homes, as well as records from other agencies and advocacy groups, show the children in such facilities often receive little education, are provided few activities and can suffer grievous neglect,” the paper reported. “Two of the six nursing homes that house children are on the state’s ‘watch list’ of deficient facilities; one is on both the state list and a federal “special focus” list of marginal homes.”

Read the entire story here.

Broward Bar’s Young Lawyers Section Raises $31,000 at 25th Annual Charity Golf Tournament to Benefit Florida’s Children First

November 8th, 2012   No Comments   Advocacy

A sold-out crowd of 144 golfers and dozens of supporters of foster children, at-rick youth and other vulnerable Floridians hit the links in October for the Broward County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section’s (YLS) 25th Annual Charity Golf Tournament. The event raised a record $31,000 for its benefitting charity, Florida’s Children First (FCF). Over the past year, the Broward YLS has raised more than $60,000 for FCF, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the rights of at-risk children, especially those in foster care.

“As young lawyers, we want to be engaged in our community, and give back whenever possible. The funds raised last week will be used to support an organization that makes an invaluable difference in the lives of many Florida children.”

YLS will present a check to FCF at a luncheon ceremony on Dec. 6, 2012 at the Tower Club. For the past 25 years, YLS has hosted local charity events with all net proceeds going directly to selected nonprofit organizations. YLS also hosted a Tee-Off Happy Hour, sponsored by Kelley / Uustal, on Oct. 4, 2012, at American Social on Las Olas to kick off the event and raise additional funds for FCF. South Florida public relations firm Boardroom Communications served as the event’s Exclusive Title Sponsor. Boardroom has won awards from JAFCO, FCF and Legal Aid Service of Broward County for its outstanding pro bono efforts.


A Decade Later, Missing Child Rilya Wilson a Lesson For Us All

November 5th, 2012   No Comments   Commentary, Court Cases

Little Rilya Wilson was born in 1996 to a homeless cocaine addict. Within two months, she was in state custody. Within a few years, she was living with Geralyn Graham and Pamela Graham (who are unrelated). By 2002, the state realized Rilya was no longer at the house. She would never been seen alive again by Florida child welfare officials. But does her lesson endure?

Rilya Wilson - Photo Credit AP

That’s the question some will ask as jury selection begins this week in the state’s case against Geralyn Graham. Rilya was living with Graham, now 66, when the child was last seen. Graham has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. She insists she’s innocent. A jury will decide.

But a decade on, what has society learned from the tale of Rilya and so many kids like her? If not for the news of Graham’s case, would any Floridians even remember Rilya’s story? Thousands of kids live in the Florida child care system. Some a treated well by loving, caring foster families. Others, suffer lives and fates unknown. We owe them better than that.

Rilya’s name is an acronym for “remember I love you always.” We may never learn Rilya’s true fate. But we should always remember their needs and support their rights to safe, loving lives.