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Innovations for Justice-Involved Girls Featured on PBS News Hour

  In America’s juvenile justice system, experts say girls, who make up a larger portion of incarcerated youth than in the past, act out for different reasons than boys. Girls in the system experience differing types of trauma and at differing rates than boys. For instance, 31% of girls in the juvenile justice system experience sexual abuse while incarcerated- a staggering four times the rate for boys. This phenomenon of trauma often leads to bad behavior- a vicious cycle that is only reinforced by the juvenile justice system. Soozee Stuart, who has cycled in and out of juvenile detention, was...

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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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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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‘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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The Beginning of Many Happy Endings

Second Chances as American as Apple Pie As Americans, we love to hear inspiring stories about deserving individuals who get a second chance at success. After all, since America is a land founded on the ideal of a new beginning, it’s in our DNA to sympathize with those given another shot at success. Inspiring Story in Daly’s Weekly Letter Perhaps that’s why The Children’s Campaign staff looks forward to reading Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christy Daly’s Weekly Letter, which showcases accomplishments of agency staff, providers and youth in care. In a recent edition, a probationary youth’s success story...

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Surgeon General’s Confirmation Delayed

Senate Health Policy Committee Questions Go Unanswered In Florida, the Senate must confirm gubernatorial appointments of executive branch agency heads.  On Tuesday, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary and Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong appeared before the Senate Health Policy Committee. Some political observers and media are saying that Armstrong faced intense questioning primarily due to the actions of his boss, Governor Scott.  The previous day, Scott flip-flopped regarding Medicaid expansion and the budget crisis caused by the announced federal interruption of low-income pool (LIP) dollars.  Scott’s latest position now aligns him with the House and not the Senate. While...

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Adoptive Mother: Expansion of APD Funding a Step in the Right Direction

Adoption Timing Affects APD Waiting List Priority Denise Beeman Sasiain knew from the moment she held three-month old Xavier in her arms that she wanted to adopt him.  Just a month prior, in March 2011, Xavier had been flown by Life Flight helicopter to Miami Children’s Hospital with a skull fracture, subdural hematoma, rib fractures, human bite wounds and nail scratches all over his body.   He was also blind due to the severity of his brain injury, and physicians believed there was a good chance he would never see, walk or talk. As a medical foster parent, Denise had received...

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Access to Juvenile Records Steals Many Dreams

Dina Lexine Sarver, a 22-year-old wife and mother of two small children, longs for the day when she will be allowed to do something most moms take for granted: chaperone a school field trip. Her juvenile record has already forced her to give up her dream of becoming a nurse. Residential Stay Leads to Commitment to Change Problems began in her early teens, around the time when her parents divorced. She and her siblings moved from a home in the suburbs into Section 8 housing. With her added responsibilities, she became angry, defiant and soon fell in with the wrong...

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