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Archive for February, 2015

Peers Mourn Loss of Florida’s Leading Child Advocate, Foster Child Abuse Attorney

February 27th, 2015   No Comments   Adoption, Commentary

gloria_fletcherAs an attorney, Gloria W. Fletcher was the staunchest advocate for her clients. As a champion for the children, she was one of Florida’s great child advocates. Though a formidable, tenacious criminal defense attorney for her clients, including many law enforcement personnel, Gloria arguably had her greatest impact on the lives of children. From the streets of Gainesville, to the federal and state courts of Florida, to the halls of the Florida Legislature and even the governor’s office, she was a force to be reckoned with when arguing on behalf of the state’s neediest children. That was where many knew her best. With her passing this week, that’s where many will miss her most.

Gloria for years served as Vice President and an active board member of Florida’s Children First, a statewide child advocacy organization, where she pressed for foster children to have attorneys. With her relationships in the capital and her unwillingness to take “No” for an answer, she pursued key legislation from sponsors through committees straight to the governor’s desk.


In Florida and US, Child Welfare Privatization is a Failed National Experiment

Florida’s child welfare experiment in the privatization of child care and oversight has proven to be a failure. Children suffer sexual abuse, physical harm, and – as a Miami Herald expose revealed – death, even of those children known by the Florida Department of Children and Families to be at risk. As attorneys and lawyers for at-risk children in the child welfare system know, no data supports the cause of privatization. And Florida is not alone.

Talenfeld - Alexendria HillIn a sad tale of child abuse and capital murder similar to some of those we’ve witnessed in Florida, 2-year-old Alexandria Hill of Texas died in 2013 at the hands of a foster parent hired to care for her by a company hired, in turn, by the state to oversee her care. Read her story here.

The story, “The Brief Life and Private Death of Alexandria Hill,” reports that Alex was removed from her parents, in part, because the father admitted to smoking marijuana after he put her to bed in the evening. She was placed with a former crack addict and an out-of-work bus driver, the article claims, paid by a billion-dollar contractor just over $44 a day to be “mentors” to two foster children.


Child Advocacy Group Florida’s Children First to Host Broward Fundraiser, Advocate Awards

Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier advocacy organization for at-risk children, will host the Florida’s Children First 2015 Broward Reception tonight – Thursday, February 26 – from 5:30-7:30PM at the Riverside Hotel (620 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301). The organization will honor child advocates in Broward at its annual fundraising and awards event. Community and business leaders, and all other persons concerned about the future of Florida’s children, especially abused, abandoned and neglected children and youth, will be in attendance.

Among those being honored this year are Child Advocate of the Year Senator Eleanor Sobel; Corporate Partner of the Year G4S; and Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Counsel of the Year Stacie Schmerling. The Youth Advocate of the Year is Lamont Dennis.


Domestic Violence Must Join Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse as Red Flags in DCF Cases

Any child advocate or child abuse attorney who fights to protect children from child abuse or other harm knows the confluence of domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness create a toxic cocktail that can place children in harm’s way. Little Phoebe Jonchuck, 5, reportedly was surrounded by all three. She no doubt knew the horrors. Problem is, those who are paid to protect children like Phoebe missed the signs.

Word that John Jonchuck, the father who allegedly threw his daughter off a bridge into Tampa Bay in January, reportedly had been cited for alleged domestic violence, battery and stalking raises yet another red flag in the case of Phoebe.

Sadly, though his history was known, it didn’t sound alarms among officials at the Florida Department of Children and Families or those who granted Jonchuck custody of his daughter. One child advocate called hers “a preventable death.”


Department of Children Rapid Response Team Report Cites Faults in Jonchuck Case

After reading news accounts of the report issued this week by the Department of Children and Families in the case of Phoebe Jonchuck, the 5-year-old girl killed when her father allegedly tossed her into Tampa Bay, Florida child abuse attorneys and lawyers who represent at-risk children believe ample blame and areas of improvement exist as lessons from this episode. From operators at the Florida Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-962-2873) to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department to DCF itself, the report highlights what went wrong – and where areas of improvement exist – so future cases like Phoebe’s don’t happen again.

Among the most important points, at least two calls to the state’s abuse hotline were not escalated for intervention. One came in December, the other on January 7, one day before Phoebe drowned in Tampa Bay.

The family was not recommended to receive intervention by family service advocates following a call in 2013 warning about abuse to Phoebe. When the Sheriff’s Office did intervene following a call, they reportedly failed to refer the family for intervention as well.