Florida's system for providing protection and safety to children in the State's child welfare system has changed over the past decade. Regretfully, the changes do not appear to have had a significant impact in two areas: increasing the safety and protection of children in the system' and providing children with independent attorneys to advocate on their behalf. Investigations, lawsuits, grand juries, amendments to court rules, and newspaper articles continue to demonstrate the myriad failures in the Florida system. Two notorious examples hi-lite the shortcomings: the cases of the foster child, Rilya Wilson, who disappeared in 2001, and Gabriel Myers, who was found dead by hanging in his foster home in 2008. Rilya Wilson's disappearance produced articles around the country and a detailed investigation which has exposed serious flaws in Florida's child welfare system. The Wilson case produced legislation, the Rilya Wilson Act, which requires coordination between the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and community-based providers with local school readiness coalitions and licensed early education child care providers. The Act also dramatically increased the prominence and significance of the role of the Guardian Ad Litern Program (GAL Program).
Michael J. Dale,
Providing Attorneys for Children in Dependency and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings in Florida: The Issue Updated
Available at: http://nsuworks.nova.edu/law_facarticles/15