State

‘Jordan’s Law’ to Fix Issues in Florida’s Child Welfare System

In September 2018, two-year-old Jordan Belliveau went missing and was later found dead in the woods of Largo, Florida. An autopsy revealed he died of blunt trauma with a brain hemorrhage and skull fracture.

Belliveau’s mother, Charisse Stinson, faces several charges including first-degree murder with her trial set for this upcoming August. Belliveau had been living in foster care until he was returned to Stinson.

Stinson admitted to hitting Belliveau “in a moment of frustration” on Aug. 31, 2018. She said she also hit him in the face because he was crying, which caused him to hit his head on the wall and have seizures. Stinson said she took Belliveau to the woods the next day and left him there.

This series of events led to the introduction of Florida House Bill 43, known as ‘Jordan’s Law.’ The bill passed unanimously in both the Florida House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor DeSantis this month. This bill is aimed at fixing problems in the child welfare system according to the Jordan’s Law website, which is sponsored by the Florida Leadership Committee.

Rep. Chris Latvala, R- Clearwater, filed the bill in the 2019 session and then again in the 2020 session when it was not taken up in the Senate after passing in the House. Latvala said that Jordan’s death was “heartbreaking” and that “Jordan’s tragedy was personal to me because he was one of my constituents.”

The bill’s supporters pointed out the red flags present in Belliveau’s welfare case, such as his case manager not completing required weekly visits and failing to put Stinson’s request for help with anger management in the case plan.

Jordan’s Law provides additional standards for government officials and Child Protection Teams in order to prevent another tragic incident from occurring. Many of the new requirements address issues specifically related to Belliveau’s case.

For example, circuit and county court judges who oversee dependency cases will now be instructed on identifying and responding to brain injuries in young children. The Florida Court Educational Council will set these standards of instruction.

Likewise, as a part of required training, CPT and law enforcement officers must also be instructed on recognizing and responding to brain injury in young children.

Additionally, this law will require law enforcement officers be privy to information regarding child welfare. More specifically, the child protection database will state whether a child’s guardian is under child protective investigation and if the child was allowed to live at home under judicial supervision.

Law enforcement officers who encounter such guardians and worry for the child’s safety must report this information to the central abuse hotline. This hotline must then report relevant information to the child protective investigator and/or the child’s case manager and attorney as applicable.

All of these new requirements and standards were created to protect Florida’s vulnerable children. Named after Jordan Belliveau, ‘Jordan’s Law’ was created to address what Latvala described as the “systematic failures” in Florida’s child welfare system. The law will go into effect July 1st

Featured image: Child Welfare Law. (Unmodified photo by Nick Youngson used under a Creative Commons license. https://bit.ly/38aOria)

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