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Child Advocacy Blog



For more than two decades, the attorneys with Justice for Kids have established the premier Children’s Rights and Foster Care/Disabled Persons Damages practices in the country. Every attorney is exclusively focused on protecting the rights of Florida’s at-risk, foster care and abused children. They collectively have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage awards for foster children, the developmentally disabled, and others harmed by the Florida child care system.

Our Mission is to Protect The Rights Of Children, The Developmentally Disabled And Other Vulnerable Persons Injured In The Care Of The State And Other Providers.

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The following case studies are examples of various actions and complaints brought against state departments and employees who failed in their task of protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

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Jacksonville Jury Awards $13.5 Million in Negligent Adoption Case

The adoptive parents of a young boy with special needs have been awarded $13.5 million in damages against Jewish Family and Community Services, Inc. (JFCS) for negligently misrepresenting and failing to disclose material facts related to his history during the adoption process. The jury found that JFCS acted with wanton and willful disregard for the human rights and safety of the family and adoptive child.

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Jury Awards $15 Million to Brain Damaged 8-Year-Old Child in Damages Case Against DCF for Negligent Investigation

In one of the largest jury awards in Florida history, a young girl has been awarded a $15 million verdict against the Florida Department of Children & Families (”DCF”) for negligently investigating abuse reports that her mother had abused drugs endangering the child. The eight-year-old girl who is referred to as H.H., was tortured and suffered permanent traumatic brain injury and quadriplegia from repeated episodes of abusive head trauma and is now completely dependent on others for all aspects of her daily functioning.

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Jury Awards Father $4.5 Million in Damages in Wrongful Death Case Involving Broward Sheriff’s Office

Christopher Nevarez, the father of Makenzie Nevarez, a 6-month-old baby girl who suffered catastrophic injuries and later passed away from blunt force trauma, has been awarded $4.5 million in damages in a wrongful death case involving the Broward Sheriff’s Office for failure to protect his daughter.

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Governor Scott Signs $5 Million Claims Bill for Child Sexually Abused by Foster Boy Living in the Home

On Friday, March 23, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed CS/HB 6509, a claims bill that directs the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay more than $5 million awarded by a Florida jury to C.M.H., a victim of sexual abuse by a child in foster care. This marks the largest known recovery in Florida for one child who was emotionally and sexually abused against a governmental defendant, DCF. Children’s rights attorney and Talenfeld Law Founder Howard Talenfeld served as co-counsel for C.M.H.

Firm Sues Florida Dept. of Children & Families, Settles Negligence Case for $14.26 Million

* DCB1, et al, vs. Peg Shappell, et al, Case No. 06-60050-civ-Lenard In this case, the attorneys filed on behalf of 19 children a civil rights complaint in the Southern District of Florida in Miami against nine Florida Department of Children and Families employees who were responsible for the children’s adoption and / or the investigations of the abuse allegations. The State settled all of the Plaintiffs’ claims, including a negligence claim in Alachua County against DCF, for a total of $14.26 million.

Abused Florida Foster Children Win $2.9 Million in Landmark Civil Rights Decision

* H.A.L. v. Foltz, No. 07-15791 (11th Cir. 12/15/2008) (11th Cir., 2008) When the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta let stand an action brought by three young boys sexually abused by two older boys in the same Florida foster home, the court agreed in this significant civil rights case that the state had violated the children’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights to physical safety and to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. Lead counsel Howard Talenfeld won his clients a settlement of $2.925 million – and a change in how the state must treat foster children.

Civil Rights Win Brings Sexually Assaulted & Neglected Siblings $5 Million Settlement

* John Roes, et al, vs. Cynthia McCarthy, et al, , 2001 WL 1548687 (S.D. Fla. 2001)  (Click Here). This was a precedent-setting federal civil rights claim brought by six siblings (collectively called “John Roes” to protect the minors’ identities) who were egregiously physically, sexually and emotionally abused and neglected in a foster / adoptive home in Broward County, Florida.

Firm Establishes Precedent For Civil Statutory Damages Claim for Developmentally Disabled

* Baumstein v. Sunrise Communities, 738 So. 2d 420 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999) (Click Here). In this ground-breaking decision, the Third District Court of Appeal’s decision was the first to establish a private cause of action for damages based upon the violation of Florida’s Bill of Rights for the developmentally disabled under § 393.13, Florida Statutes. As a result, this led to a confidential settlement of this wrongful death damages claim.

Attorneys Establish Standard Used to Determine Eligibility Based Upon Mental Retardation in State of Florida

* Webb v. APD, 939 So. 2d 1182 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) In this important case, Howard Talenfeld established the standard used to determine eligibility based upon mental retardation in the State of Florida when for more than 20 years, the state of Florida arbitrarily denied eligibility to persons who met the threshold established by the Florida Legislature. Webb established the law that the Agency for Persons with Disabilities cannot pick and choose between available full scale IQ scores to defeat eligibility, but rather must consider all scores in making its determination and then look to the persons adaptive or survival skills in determining eligibility.

Firm Earns Consent Decree Leading to Reforms in Broward County (Florida) Foster Care System & Doubling of Budget

In 1998, the firm instituted a class action with the Youth Law Center against the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCF”), Ward v. Kearney, which led to a consent decree and significant institutional reforms in the Broward County, Florida, foster care system.  Broward’s foster children were being subjected to egregious institutional abuses, which included physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect, as a result of significant systemic flaws in Florida’s child welfare system.  Each of the class plaintiffs had experienced abuses while in foster care that evidenced these failures.  One of the main aspects of the class action focused on the fact that foster children in Broward County were subjected to an epidemic of institutionalized sexual abuse with unprecedented numbers of children being sexually abused while in care.  Contrary to state laws and regulations, which had been in existence since as early as 1992, foster children who had histories of sexually abusing other children were knowingly placed in overcrowded foster homes with no safety plans, no consideration for the safety and well-being of the children already in the home, and no consideration for the safety and well-being of sexually aggressive children.  In fact, one of the named class plaintiffs, “Valerie Ward,” had been repeatedly sexually abused in various foster homes and group home settings.  She continues to struggle with the psychological and emotional damage and to recover from the damage that was done to her while in foster care. As a result of the class action, the state’s budget for the county’s child welfare system was more than doubled.  Additionally, DCF enacted various operating procedures that were designed to prevent, inter alia, incident of child on child sexual abuse from occurring between foster children while in DCF’s custody.