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Part Two: New York Times Best-Selling Author Refuses to Be Silenced by Gag Order

Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s life came full circle five years ago when she and her husband Erick became foster parents in Florida’s Tampa Bay area.  Ashley, a New York Times best-selling author of two books – Three Little Words and Three More Words respectively – had spent nearly 10 years in foster care before her adoption at age 12.  Part One of this series described why Ashley and Erick surrendered their foster parent license, rather than sign a “gag order” that would have prevented them from speaking publicly about the gruesome murder of a former foster child. Foster Parents Still Disrespected Perhaps...

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Gag Order Won’t Silence New York Times Best-Selling Author

The final straw for Ashley Rhodes-Courter was the “gag order” mandating that she not speak publicly about the gruesome murder of her former foster child, Jenica Randazzo. For much of her 29 years of life, Ashley courageously spoke up when witnessing wrongs, a trait fine-tuned during the tumultuous nine years she spent in foster care herself. Born to a single teen mom, Ashley went into Florida’s foster care system at age three and was shuffled through 44 caseworkers and 14 foster homes   ̶  some horribly abusive   ̶  before being adopted out of a group home at the age...

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Study Shows More Civil Citations Would Increase Public Safety Investment Battling Serious Crime

At a crowded press conference in Tallahassee yesterday, results from the state’s first comprehensive study of civil citations were released.  Civil citations are an alternative to arrest for common youth misbehavior.  The study – Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Civil Citation Efforts – shows that increasing the use of civil citations statewide would have enormous benefits for public safety, taxpayers, and the futures of youth. The study was conducted by one of Florida’s top civil citation experts and supported by state and national juvenile justice reform organizations. Civil Citations Are Efficient and Effective According to the study, increasing the issuance of juvenile civil citations...

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Special Session Ends. Preparations Underway for Early Next Session

Complementing the never-ending heat in Tallahassee is the feeling that we have a year-round Legislature in town.  The reason? In 2015, it mostly is a year-round Legislature.  Special Session ended on Friday, June 19.  Committee hearings for the upcoming session start the week of September 16, about 80 days away. Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday signed the FY 2015-16 budget of $78.2 billion only four days after it was presented to him, used his line item veto power to the tune of $461 million, and appeared to set the stage for renewed conflict with the Florida Senate in the process....

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Civil Citation and Juvenile Records – The Next Step

Providing law enforcement officers expanded discretion to issue civil citations to more youth committing misdemeanors was absolutely the right thing to do.  The Children’s Campaign congratulates the elected officials, especially Sen. Garcia (R-Hialeah), Sen. Gibson (D-Jacksonville), Rep. Clarke-Reed (D-Pompano Beach) and Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), citizens, faith based leaders and advocacy groups who worked together to pass SB 378 this year. Without question, civil citations are effective in preventing youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.  The impact of not having an arrest record is realized to even a greater degree in the future when doors of...

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Special Session – At the Halfway Mark

State Budget Conferences: Differences to Watch Late last week, five days into Special Session, legislative leadership agreed on the overall revenue allocations, triggering the start of budget negotiation conferences. These began on Saturday morning, continued throughout the weekend, and into Monday and Tuesday. The Children’s Campaign capitol team led by Colleen Mackin walked the halls, worked issues, and kept its eyes on the process. Budget conferences separate line items by constitutional offices and executive branch departments and their related functions across the state. The process allows committee appointees from each Chamber to iron out differences in a choreographed series of...

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Round Two: What’s Next In Special Session?

It’s anyone’s guess. Next week, the House and the Senate will return to Tallahassee to pass a state budget. Bills have already been filed, with the Senate focusing on a range of options to expand the number of insured Floridians while the House has proposed bills addressing nurse practitioner prescribing ability, state employee health insurance, sales tax exemptions, and health care regulations. The Children’s Campaign is fully reviewing both appropriation packages and will provide more detailed information as the process continues. Legislative work has continued throughout the break. Bills have been presented to the Governor and signed into law, the...

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Some Children’s Bills Survive, Some Die

As reported in multiple media outlets, the contentious debate between the Chambers about Medicaid expansion and Low Income Pool (LIP) funding imploded. A budget has not been passed, and multiple important bills were left to die. A Special Session of the Legislature is proposed to convene on June 1, ostensibly enough time to finalize a budget before the June 30th deadline, but at present the gulf that exists is wide and deep. The Children’s Campaign will keep you advised on new developments in the ongoing budget saga. The pall cast by the Medicaid expansion fight can be felt across issues,...

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‘First of its Kind’ Girl-Centered Practice Training Launched

The Children’s Campaign congratulates the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and our affiliate, Voices for Florida, for the recent launch of the Girl-Centered Practice Continuing Education Program through the University of North Florida (UNF). This innovative training program is considered the first of its kind in the nation. According to Linda Alexionok, president of Voices for Florida, who conceptualized the program, the rationale for this unprecedented training initiative was the gap in educational training opportunities for individuals who work with girls, specifically girls in the juvenile justice or child protection systems or those whose experiences place them at-risk for involvement with...

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Child Welfare: More to Know and More to Fix

The More You Know” is a series of public service ads that have aired on NBC since 1989. The premise is simple – knowledge is power. The more the public knows about an issue, the greater likelihood of personal engagement, better decision-making, and making a difference. Florida’s child welfare system would be better off if making a similar and transforming commitment.  Consider the reasons for doing it differently: Less than 10%   ̶  only one out of 13   ̶  Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) reports have been posted to the child fatality website for 2015. Report findings are...

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