Articles Posted in Guardianship & Power of Attorney

Cheer1.jpgRecently, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced that it had set a goal of reducing the number of children in the foster care system by fifty percent by 2012. According to the department’s own annual report, the Northeast Florida region is close to meeting this goal two years ahead of schedule. The success of the Jacksonville, Florida area Department of Children and Families has helped boost the entire state of Florida into first position in the nation for completing adoptions of children in the foster care system.

The Northeast Florida area has also led the state in its receipt of Prudential Davis Productivity Awards, which recognize innovation in serving the public. Much of the success can be credited to a successful partnership with Family Support Services (FSS) of North Florida, an organization that provides child-protection services in Duval and Nassau counties. The FSS currently has no children under the age of eight available for adoption.

According to Jim Adams, the Chief Executive Officer of FSS, 99.9% of children in foster care were visited by their assigned caseworker every thirty days. The increase in adoption rates has also reduced caseloads for caseworkers from thirty-five to eighteen children each.

SpecialNeeds.jpgWhen a Florida child enters the foster care system, he or she is supposed to be cared for or supervised by a large group of people including foster parents, case workers, and psychologists. Since foster children are already at risk of falling behind in school due to the stress in their home life, an undiagnosed or untreated learning disability can be disastrous for their chances of achieving success later in life.

In Florida and other states, judges have the right to appoint a surrogate parent to advocate for the educational needs of children in the foster care system who are suspected of having learning disabilities. These advocates can request testing and fight for extra help for these children in school. The main problem with the program so far is that there aren’t enough surrogates in the program to support all of the children who need help.

Surrogate parents are volunteers. Northeast Florida has been especially active in recruiting and training surrogates for Jacksonville, Florida area children. You can read more details of the surrogate parent program in northeast Florida at Surrogate parents fill needs of special-needs Jacksonville children.

criminal1.jpgThe Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Office made ten arrests recently, stemming from an investigation into an internet prostitution ring. The investigation took place over several weeks and included individuals in seven Florida counties. One of the alleged prostitutes arrested was a sixteen-year-old girl. She told police that her pimp was holding her five-month-old baby hostage, and that if she did not return to him with the money, he would keep the baby.

Deputies found the baby some time later with the girl’s alleged pimp, in a car in a parking lot at the Wal-Mart on South Kirkman Road in Orlando, Florida. The baby was unharmed; the pimp was arrested. The child has been turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families, which will determine if the infant should be returned to its mother.

It is sad enough that this young sixteen-year-old girl has become involved in a life of prostitution. But it is sadder still that her infant child has been mixed up in it as well. Children should be cherished and protected, not used as hostages held for ransom. Clearly this young girl is putting her child in harm’s way by associating with alleged criminals. It will be interesting to see how the Florida Department of Children handles this matter and what the future holds for the 16 year old and her child.

Box.jpgShannon Dedrick, the Florida seven-month-old who was reported missing from her home over a week ago, was found alive recently. The girl was found lying hidden in a small box under the bed of her babysitter / step-aunt, Susan Baker. Shannon appeared to be in good health. According to police, Ms. Baker had asked the child’s mother, Crystina Lynn Mercer, to give her permanent custody of the child, and Ms. Mercer handed the girl over to her.

Police became suspicious of Ms. Baker after learning that she and her husband had been arrested in 2000 in connection with the disappearance of their own three-year-old son over twenty years ago in South Carolina. That case has never been solved. Washington County, Florida Sheriff, Bobby Haddock, says that the women conspired to place the child with Ms. Baker, but they do not believe that Ms. Mercer was aware that Ms. Baker had hidden the child in a box under her bed.

According to the local news station, WLTX, Ms. Mercer has been charged with deserting a child, and Ms. Baker has been charged with aggravated child neglect. Both women have been charged with filing a false missing child report, filing a false report of a crime, interference with child custody, and contributing to the dependency of a child. Ms. Baker’s husband was arrested as well, but he has been released; police have not determined if they will charge him with a crime.

Conviction.jpg

Ivana Linic, age 23, of West Palm Beach, Florida was convicted of starving her 5-month-old son to death. She may be sentenced to as many as fifteen years in prison. Linic claimed that she fed the baby adequately, but the child’s autopsy results showed that he had only gained two pounds in the five months since his birth. The father, who was not named, reportedly told police that Linic was angry about having a baby and had asked him to take care of the child. He did not accept the responsibility, due to his own struggles with substance abuse.

Newborn children are totally reliant on adults to care for them. When the adults are unable to do so, the results are often tragic. Parents who are unprepared or unable to take care of their own children should reach out for help rather than taking it out on their child. You can find out more about Nehemiah Chavis at Florida Mother Convicted of Starving Child to Death.