A brief overview on child abuse according to Florida Law
Well, it’s not just Florida law. Federal law requires that every state has a law mandating that when there is a reasonable suspicion of child abuse, neglect or abandonment, it must be reported to a central abuse hotline for investigation.
Roles and responsibilities of an attorney in a child abuse case
Attorneys can have very different responsibilities in a child abuse case. There are prosecuting attorneys who represent the state’s interest in protecting children and removing them from their home if they are in danger. If there is sufficient cause to file a dependency case against parents to protect a child, then the prosecuting attorney for the state may file a dependency case for the purpose of trying to allow the parent who allegedly neglects, abuses or abandons the child to correct or cure the problems that exists. The parents are appointed attorneys that will defend those cases. There are also attorneys that represent children who protect the child, either as guardian ad litem or in some states as an attorney for the child. Finally, when children are badly physically abused or sexually abused, there are attorneys like me that file personal injury claims on behalf of the child so that the child can receive the help and therapeutic services that they need throughout the remainder of their life.
Child Abuse can happen at any stage or age
Child abuse can happen to children at any age or stage of their childhood. Children can be physically abused and suffer from bizarre forms of punishment, emotionally abused, sexually abused, suffer from medical neglect, malnourishment, and the list of the types of child abuse and neglect goes on and on. Far too frequently, these children who are in the care or custody of a state or private provider contracting with the state, can also be abused or neglected in the same manner. Abuse can happen at any age and multiple times to the same child.
How do children disclose their abuse?
Children can disclose this abuse in many different situations and locations. Typically, they disclose to a person when they feel safe. So, for example, children will disclose abuse at school and may feel safe telling a teacher or day care employee. They may tell medical professionals, social workers, a police officer, or somebody in a religious organization about their abuse. Often, they may tell their friends sometimes and their friends will tell their parents. Children, generally disclose their abuse when they feel comfortable and trust the person to whom they disclose their abuse.
As an attorney representing children who are abused, what are the challenges that you faced with any child abuse cases?
Well, when I become involved, it is usually because there was egregious or catastrophic abuse that caused a child permanent injury or death while in foster care or the child protection system. Most of my practice involves children who have come into foster care, group care or some form of substitute care, and then have been re-abused within the child welfare system that was supposed to protect them. We bring damages claims on behalf of these children who were re-abused in foster care as a result of the negligence and failures of the government or private organizations who have harmed the children. Sometimes there are abuse caregivers, pedophiles or persons who care for a child who evade the licensing or contracting processes in the child protection system. Then we might get involved and file a lawsuit against the state agency or private provider who was responsible for allowing the child to be harmed or injured. Resulting in permanent injury, damages, and traumas that were never imagined. When we represent a child, we want to be sure that they are in safe places and have the financial resources so that they can get the treatment that they need for the rest of their childhood and throughout their lives.
What are the steps that your firm takes to help a child after the abuse for the welfare of the child?
Depending on the severity of the abuse children endure, they can be left homeless and without an appropriate parent or placement. We try to see that they are placed with relative caregivers, foster parents, therapeutic foster parents, therapeutic group homes, therapeutic residential settings, and even adoptive parents. Abused children need to receive appropriate medical and mental health treatment and counseling based upon an assessment of their traumas and therapeutic needs. Once we know that a child’s placement is stabilized, then we can file a lawsuit seeking the resources necessary to be placed in a trust to support an appropriate life care plan.