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Class Actions to Protect Children


In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Justice for Kids Attorney Howard Talenfeld represented the state of Florida, Governors and Secretaries in defending class actions against almost every human service system in Florida including foster care, delinquency, children’s mental health, disability and Medicaid systems of care. In representing Governors Martinez and Childes and Secretaries Greg Coler, Robert Williams, and Buddy McKay, Talenfeld led states in changing the defense paradigm from denying the violation of rights to fixing these constitutionally failed systems of care. He chaired the National Association of Mental Health class action committee and presented to the American Public Welfare Association and the United States Congress on fixing failing child welfare systems throughout the United States. Later, in 1997 he brought the Ward v. Feaver Class action and certified a class action against Broward the Florida Department of Children & Families to address the epidemic of sexual abuse in Broward County, run away children and children who lost their educations in foster care. In doing so, he more than doubled resources available in Broward County for its underfunded system and then helped spearhead passage of a county-wide referendum creating a system of preventative services funded by more than $50 million per year.

  • Firm Earns Consent Decree Leading to Reforms, Increased Budget in Broward County Foster Care System. In 1998, Howard Talenfeld 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, significant institutional reforms and a near-tripling of the budget for the Broward County, FL, foster care system. The county’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 continued 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, incidents of child-on-child sexual abuse from occurring between foster children while in DCF’s custody.
  • Class Action to Expand the Number of Intermediate Care Facility Placements in Florida. Justice for Kids attorney Howard Talenfeld defended the state of Florida in this class action that was brought to expand the number of intermediate care facility placements in Florida. Most importantly, he defended the sovereignty of Governor Lawton Chiles, Secretary Robert Williams, and Assistant Secretary for Developmental Services Richard Lepore to expand the continuum of disability services in Florida by using the federal Home and Community Based Services Waiver to allow developmentally disabled persons to live in the community rather in these institutionally based placements. Florida was successful and the United States granted the largest application to date of more than 3,000 waiver placements in Medicaid history.
  • Class Action Seeks to Eliminate Waiting Lists for Therapeutic Services, Placements for Children in the Custody of the State of Florida. Justice for Kids attorney Howard Talenfeld defended Florida’s Governors Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles in this class action lawsuit seeking to eliminate waiting lists for therapeutic services and placements for children in the custody of the state of Florida. He successfully persuaded plaintiff class counsel to permit Florida to implement a program, “Building Futures for Florida’s Children” and avoided a consent decree and Court Monitor.

Legal Services Representing Children in Florida:

Fl Child Guardianship Lawyer

Fl Child Drug Injury Lawyer

Negligent Child Abuse Investigations Lawyer

Fl Child Product Liability Attorney

Fl Child Drug Treatment Attorney

FL Child Sexual Abuse Attorney

FL Child Therapist Negligence Attorney

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