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Archive for December, 2014

Keep Florida’s Children First in Mind When Planning Your 2015 Giving

December 30th, 2014   No Comments   Adoption, Advocacy

If making life better for Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children is not already on your charitable priority list, consider Florida’s Children First. Thanks to the unwavering support of child advocates and supporters statewide, we’ve been able to help some of the 20,000 children in foster care who depend Florida’s Children First to make improvements in the system of care that make their lives better.

You can read here about our most recent accomplishments. But we need your help to continue our good work. Your donation to Florida’s Children First helps children who have been abused or neglected or abandoned, and your money is used wisely. Instead of asking you for a donation today, we are asking that you plan for the future and put Florida’s Children First in your 2015 Charitable Giving Budget.

There are three things that set us apart from the rest:

1. Our work is informed by the voice of the youth – listening to and promoting our youth advocacy organization, Florida Youth SHINE (current and former foster youth).


Child Advocates: State Officials’ Lack of Transparency Places Foster Children at Risk

December 23rd, 2014   No Comments   Uncategorized

When a Miami Herald investigation, “Innocents Lost,” in spring 2014 revealed almost 500 children  had died while under the watch of the Florida Department of Children and Families and its contracted community based care providers, state child welfare officials promised kids, families, child advocates and child abuse lawyers who fight to protect the rights of abused children that changes would come. Now, another newspaper article questions if those promised changes and reforms have been shelved or shrouded in secrecy.

In its latest investigation, “Transparency Lost,” the paper has discovered that while DCF set aside nearly $50 million to investigators, the state legislature instituted laws designed to help ensure kids “in the system” are protected from abuse, and greater oversights were put in place, enactment and follow-through of those changes has been slow, even thwarted. 

Lawmakers stated that they wanted to see more openness from agency administrators, and mandated a website to track child deaths. DCF, in turn, vowed to learn from its mistakes, even if it meant enduring an occasional public relations beating,” the paper reported. DCF even promised following the deaths of six children shot this fall by their grandfather, “There will never be one child who dies without DCF working to determine what changes can be made or processes improved to prevent further tragedy.”


Rep. Erik Fresen Honored at Florida’s Children First’s Annual Miami Fundraiser and Awards Ceremony

December 19th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy

Florida’s Children First (FCF) recognized Miami-Dade County individuals for their tireless efforts to advocate for the state’s most vulnerable citizens at its annual Miami Reception at the Sabadell Financial Center on December 11, 2014. FCF is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting foster children and other at-risk youth.

Dozens of Miami-Dade County’s prominent business and community leaders, as well as citizens concerned about the future of Florida’s children, especially abused, abandoned and neglected children and youth, were in attendance.

This year, Rep. Erik Fresen, was named as Champion of Children’s Rights for his groundbreaking legislation that will provide attorneys the right to protect dependent children with disabilities who are in legal custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). He was also honored and for his continued fight for the rights of children in foster care. Rep. Fresen was the House sponsor for the Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs bill (HB 561). This bill is the culmination of many years of advocacy for representation for children and has been the core mission of Florida’s Children First since its inception.


Children’s Rights Lawyer / Veteran Child Welfare Worker Stacie J. Schmerling Named Partner at Talenfeld Law, Nation’s Leading Children’s Rights Law Firm

December 15th, 2014   No Comments   News & Events

STACIEStacie J. Schmerling, a children’s rights lawyer and former veteran child welfare investigator and case worker, has been named partner with Talenfeld Law, Florida’s only law firm dedicated exclusively to protecting abused, disabled and injured kids.

Stacie has worked with preeminent children’s rights lawyer Howard Talenfeld for six years and has been involved in many significant, multimillion dollar cases in the area of civil rights and child welfare.

“Stacie has earned her permanent place as an invaluable member of our team and a staunch partner in our mission to fight for the rights of society’s most vulnerable citizens,” Howard said. “During our time together, we’ve helped deliver life-saving results for children whose abuse and harm have been heart-wrenching and have required the skill of a dedicated and impassioned professional.”

As a partner in Talenfeld Law, Stacie will work to protect the rights of children, the developmentally disabled and others injured in the care of Florida agencies and contracted care providers.


Preeminent Foster Child Abuse Attorney Named Finalist as Most Effective Lawyer

December 9th, 2014   No Comments   Abuse, Advocacy, Court Cases

Preeminent foster child abuse lawyer and staunch advocate for child welfare reform in the state capital, Howard Talenfeld, was named a finalist as one of this year’s Most Effective Lawyers by the Daily Business Review.

Talenfeld Most Effective Lawyers AwardTalenfeld, who recently opened Talenfeld Law, one of Florida’s first law firms dedicated to protecting injured, abused and neglected statewide and around the country, was recognized for work done as head of the Children’s Rights practice area with his former firm, Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb, P.A., along with Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche, P.A.

Specifically, Talenfeld and the other attorneys were acknowledged for their work on the case of Judith Leekin. While in New York, and later in Florida, the woman assumed numerous identities to adopt mentally disabled children and defraud city welfare officials.

When police raided Leekin’s Port St. Lucie home and found adopted children starved and handcuffed, Leekin’s arrest blew open a tragic breakdown of the New York City foster care system spanning three decades and two states.

Leekin had fraudulently adopted 11 special needs children in Queens, New York, in the 1980s and 1990s, using various aliases. She then collected more than $1.68 million in government subsidies. While she lived in luxury, the children endured continuous torture, abuse, and squalor. Ten survivors were accounted for. An 11th child disappeared while in her care and is presumed dead.