Florida’s Child Welfare System is in Crisis
The system is broken and must be fixed!
This is Baby Jordan
Baby Jordan Belliveau’s smile could light up a room. The joyful 2-year-old toddler was thriving in foster care with loving parents when Jordan was returned to live with his biological mother. It was a flawed decision, with too many missed red flags, leading to a horrific ending. Less than four months later, Jordan was murdered. In a moment of rage, Baby Jordan’s mother struck him in the head, leaving him for dead in a wooded area in Largo.
Rep. Chris Latvala discusses Jordan's Law legislation
Rep. Latvala discusses why politics got in the way of approving Jordan’s Law in 2019 and his efforts to try again in 2020.
Baby Jordan’s death has put the spotlight on a serious issue:
Florida’s Child Welfare System is in crisis – the system is broken and must be fixed.
Jordan’s life was taken far too soon because of an unimaginable long list of failures and missed warning signs
TOO MANY RED FLAGS IGNORED
Child welfare case manager failed to make required weekly visits
Jordan's mother's request for anger management help not included in her case plan
Jordan's mother got into a fight while holding baby Jordan, injuring the child's lip
Jordan's father hit his mother, but case workers weren't notified of police report
Case workers said nothing when Jordan's mother lied in court about completing mandatory counseling classes to get her son back
The week before Jordan's death, case manager unable to reach Jordan's mother
Day before Jordan's death, case worked warned parents the 2-year-old could go back to foster care
WE MUST PUT AN END TO FAILING OUR CHILDREN… BEFORE MORE PRECIOUS LIVES ARE LOST.
If these provisions had been in place, Jordan might be alive today.
JORDAN’S LAW IS THE SOLUTION
You can click on each of the three solutions below to get detailed overview about them.
#1 Reduce the caseloads for child welfare workers
Jordan’s Law would set a 15 child maximum caseload for child welfare workers “when possible” to ensure more attentive services. Right now, workers are paid about $17 an hour to manage 30 cases or more, causing them to be overwhelmed, with serious warning signs slipping through the cracks. Turnover is outrageous. In the Pinellas-Pasco Judicial District, three agencies that manage cases average a staggering 80-percent turnover rate during the last year. In Hillsborough County, the turnover rate for three agencies was more than 50 percent.
#2 Streamline communication among child welfare agencies
Jordan’s Law would streamline child abuse reporting between case workers and law enforcement so vulnerable children are protected from potentially dangerous caregivers. When a parents are violent, police will make sure case workers know about it too.
#3 Require training to recognize signs of abuse
Jordan’s Law would require special training among caseworkers and law enforcement to identify potential brain injuries to youngsters, along with a mandatory course to teach child welfare parents the catastrophic dangers of hitting a child. Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in Florida, with about 150 child deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
MORE CHILDREN, LIKE JORDAN, ARE CURRENTLY AT RISK.
Right now there are over 2,500 children in Pinellas County in the foster care system, and of that number about 60 percent are considered vulnerable for abuse. That’s 1,500 kids at risk.
Jordan’s Story is already one of many
Jordan’s story is not the only tragic case. Just a year earlier, 8-month-old William Hendrickson IV died after being left in a sweltering bedroom in a Largo mobile home. A state report found child welfare case managers failed to take action and report safety concerns, leading to the child’s death.
Both children died from brain injuries, Jordan from abuse and Baby Will from neglect. The body and brain of a young child can increase in temperature four to five times faster than an older child. A basic neuroscience course would teach the following formula
Also in 2018, there was the story of little Je’Hyrah. She drowned in the Hillsborough River after her mother left her there.
In 2015, Five-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck’s father threw her from the Dick Misenerbridge near the Skyway after the girl was repeatedly in and out of the child protective system. Jonchuck was this month found guilty of murdering his daughter despite his defense team’s assertion that he was mentally unfit to be charged.