Justice for Kids®, a division of Kelley Kronenberg, is a unique national law practice dedicated to providing legal services to protect abused children. The team includes highly experienced trial lawyers who exclusively serve at-risk and medically fragile children who have been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused or injured or suffered wrongful death in all settings, including family residences, foster homes, group homes, emergency shelters, and residential treatment centers. The team is led by Howard Talenfeld, Justin Grosz, and Stacie Schmerling.
Howard is one of the nation’s preeminent and pioneering children’s rights attorneys. Justin is a former Assistant State Attorney who has tried hundreds of cases, recovering millions of dollars for his clients. A former child welfare investigator and social worker, Stacie today is an attorney representing catastrophically injured children. Together, they have protected the rights of thousands of children, sought recovery for the estates of children who have died, and pushed through systemic reforms designed to improve living conditions and prevent future injury and death to society’s most vulnerable minors.
At Justice for Kids®, we strongly believe that “Justice delayed is justice denied,” especially in the life of a child. Litigation can take years, meaning a significant verdict may come too late to help a child in need. Before any lawsuit or claim is filed, we provide expertise in seeking immediate care where necessary from skilled medical, mental health and planning professionals. This can help prevent or minimize immediate or long-term harm from their trauma and possibly improve their prognosis. At the same time, we seek to negotiate with the social service agencies, insurers, and potential defendants to obtain a fair and timely settlement. Years spent representing insurers has taught us many prefer timely resolution to avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or more defending claims. Our primary goal is to obtain justice – and begin the healing – as early as possible.
When insurers and defendants have refused fair, early settlement offers, our attorneys have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in individual damage cases, federal civil rights claims and class action relief. We have successfully avoided state sovereign immunity damages caps and limits on damages.
When we prevail through settlement or trial, we call on the expertise of Kelley Kronenberg planning attorneys. They can prepare appropriate estate plans, trusts and guardianships to implement life care plans for clients whose catastrophic injuries will require structured medical assistance for the rest of their lives.
Our attorneys have received the highest recognitions for public service and pro bono work, which have led to judicial decisions, legislative reforms, and significant budgetary appropriations that help protect children. Since 2002, Howard has been the founding President of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization which has helped tens of thousands of children in Florida and contributed to national reform.
The attorneys with Justice for Kids have spent decades fighting for abused, disabled and injured kids in foster care and other child welfare settings in personal injury and damages cases. Below is a sample of some of our most successful results.
Disclaimer: Most cases result in a lower recovery. Results may not be typical and reflect awards before deduction for attorneys’ fees and expenses. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
Governor Scott Signs $5 Million Claims Bill for Child Sexually Abused by Foster Boy Living in the Home
On Friday, March 23, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed CS/HB 6509, a claims bill that directs the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay more than $5 million awarded by a Florida jury to C.M.H., a victim of sexual abuse by a child in foster care. This marks the largest known recovery in Florida for one child who was emotionally and sexually abused against a governmental defendant, DCF. Children’s rights attorney Howard Talenfeld served as co-counsel for C.M.H.
Law Firm for Eight Abused Former Foster Care Children Settle With NYC, Child Care Agencies for $26 Million
Attorneys representing eight developmentally disabled foster children who were placed in what one judge called a “house of horrors” foster home settled with New York state adoption and child welfare agencies and their state-contracted providers in 2014 for $26 million.
Foster Kids Abused in Horrific New York Case Settle for $9.7 Million
Foster child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld in December 2012 represented several former-foster kids in a horrific abuse case one judge called a “house of horrors.” The City of New York, a defendant in the case, agreed to pay $9.7 million to settle the lawsuit. The money will help the former foster kids, some of whom were destitute and homeless at the time of the settlement.
Florida Department of Children & Families Hit With $5 Million Verdict in Child-On-Child Sex Abuse
Florida child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld earned a $5 million jury verdict in 2013 against the Florida Department of Children & Family Services on behalf a child repeatedly raped by a foster child and known child-on-child sexual predator who had been placed in the plaintiff’s home.
State Care Provider Settles Violent Child-On-Child Rape for $4 Million
Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld successfully negotiated a $4 million settlement on behalf of a child repeatedly raped in a residential facility. Administrators at the center were ignorant of systemic abuse, repeated reports by and from state officials, the testimony of another minor child who was raped while there, as well as a psychiatrist and the child aggressor.
DCF, Care Provider Settle Over Child Left Brain Damaged After Near-Drowning
Howard Talenfeld, on behalf of representatives for Angela, a 2-year-old foster child left brain damaged after a near-drowning, brought suit in Pinellas County, Florida, against the Department of Children and Families, and foster parents Ronald and Joyce Bryson, and private care providers Help a Child Inc., and Family Continuity Program, Inc. The parties settled to ensure Angela would receive the skilled medical care her doctors said she would need for the rest of her life.
Girls Sexually Abused by Mother Earn $2 Million Settlement from ChildNet and Florida Department of Children and Families
Child sexual abuse attorney, Howard Talenfeld, negotiated a $2 million settlement with a community-based care provider for two young girls who were repeatedly sexually abused by their mother, even after experts warned she was a threat to their safety. The case became an example of threats and warnings ignored and responsibility denied.
Unreported Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse Leads to Settlement for Two Developmentally Disabled Boys
Florida child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld represented two developmentally disabled, minor boys who were placed in a series of group homes and left to suffer repeated physically, emotional and sexual abuse by other children and staff. Attorneys negotiated a settlement with the facility’s owners, and then worked with experts who formulated life care plans for the sexually abused, developmentally disabled children.
Abuse of 4-Month-Old Child Leads to Settlement With Community-Based Care Provider
Florida child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld represented the family of a 4-month-old girl who brought suit against a community-based care provider for placing the girl at “substantial risk” for continued abuse and for failing to offer voluntary protective services (“VPS”) to prevent such further risk.
Wrongful Adoption Case Leads to Civil Rights, Negligence Claims and Settlement With DFC and Private Providers
A 2012 settlement negotiated for an undisclosed sum negotiated by child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld against the Florida Department of Children and Families and various private providers settled a horrific wrongful adoption, negligence and civil rights case. Talenfeld argued the defendants were deliberately indifferent to and neglected the child’s essential needs after he was removed from his parents by state child protection agents.
Firm Earns Consent Decree Leading to Reforms, Increased Budget in Broward County Foster Care System
In 1998, Howard Talenfeld instituted a class action with the Youth Law Center against the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCF”) in the case of Ward v. Kearney. The case led to a consent decree, significant institutional reforms and a near-tripling of the budget for the Broward County, Florida, foster care system.
Firm Sues Florida Dept. of Children & Families, Settles Negligence Case for $14.26 Million
Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of 19 children in the Southern District of Florida in Miami against nine Florida Department of Children and Families employees who were responsible for the children’s adoption and / or investigations of the abuse allegations. The State settled all of the Plaintiffs’ claims, including a negligence claim in Alachua County against DCF, for a total of $14.26 million. Read the case here: DCB1, et al, vs. Peg Shappell, et al, Case No. 06-60050-civ-Lenard
Abused Florida Foster Children Win $2.9 Million in Landmark Civil Rights Decision
Sexual abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld argued before the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, which let stand an action brought by three young boys sexually abused by two older boys in the same Florida foster home. The Court agreed in this significant civil rights case that the state had violated the children’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights to physical safety and to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. Lead counsel Howard Talenfeld won his clients a settlement of $2.925 million – and a change in how the state must treat foster children. Read more about the case here: H.A.L. v. Foltz, No. 07-15791 (11th Cir. 12/15/2008) (11th Cir., 2008)
Civil Rights Win Brings Sexually Assaulted & Neglected Siblings $5 Million Settlement
Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld prevailed in this precedent-setting federal civil rights claim brought by six siblings (collectively called “John Roes” to protect the minors’ identities) who were egregiously physically, sexually and emotionally abused and neglected in a foster / adoptive home in Broward County, Florida. Read more about the case here: Roes
Firm Establishes Precedent For Civil Statutory Damages Claim for Developmentally Disabled
Child abuse attorney Howard Talenfeld argued this ground-breaking decision, in which the Third District Court of Appeal’s decision was the first to establish a private cause of action for damages based upon the violation of Florida’s Bill of Rights for the developmentally disabled under § 393.13, Florida Statutes. As a result, this led to a confidential settlement of this wrongful death damages claim. Read more about the case here: Baumstein v. Sunrise Communities, 738 So. 2d 420 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).
Attorneys Establish Standard Used to Determine Eligibility Based Upon Mental Retardation in State of Florida
In this important case, Howard Talenfeld established the standard used to determine eligibility based upon mental retardation in the State of Florida when, for more than 20 years, the state of Florida arbitrarily denied eligibility to persons who met the threshold established by the Florida Legislature. Webb established the law that the Agency for Persons with Disabilities cannot pick and choose between available full scale IQ scores to defeat eligibility, but rather must consider all scores in making its determination and then look to the persons adaptive or survival skills in determining eligibility. Read about the case here: Webb v. APD, 939 So. 2d 1182 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
Justice for Kids’ attorneys have decades of experience fighting for the rights of foster children and at-risk minors who have suffered personal injury, wrongful death or other damages while under the care and custody of state agencies including the Florida Department of Children & Families, its lead agencies, case management agencies, their contracted care providers and other institutional care or treatment settings.
The firm was founded to represent children who have been harmed by the system pursue damage awards, wrongful death claims and other legal causes of action for personal injury. Our attorneys are known nationally for achieving multimillion-dollar awards, verdicts and settlements and delivering precedent-setting rulings.
Founding partner Howard Talenfeld has been recognized nationally for his work with foster care class actions, civil rights class actions and damages claims. The firm’s creative legal strategies have successfully helped children who are physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected under the care of the state and its contracted private providers while in foster care and other child welfare settings.
Our team of attorneys has secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for abused, disabled and injured children. Our lawsuits, settlements and case rulings have not only delivered damage awards to children injured or harmed under the state’s care, but our novel approaches have also led to successes that have helped change case law. Most importantly, the proceeds of these recoveries are used to fund trusts and structured settlement to ensure the children are protected throughout their lives, long after DCF and these agencies have abandoned them.
In the early 2000s, Howard used the federal Civil Rights Act, 42 USC § 1983 to recover $5 million on behalf of six siblings who were abused by their foster and then adoptive parents.
In 2007, a team of attorneys Howard led secured a more than $14 million settlement, the largest recovery of its kind ever in Florida, for 20 foster children who were abused in a foster home. Most recently, in 2014 and 2014, Howard applied civil rights law to prevail against New York City and the Archdiocese of Brooklyn, which together paid more than $27 million in the case of Judith Leekin. The former foster mother ran what the courts called a “house of horrors” that imprisoned, abused and starved 10 developmentally disabled foster children she had adopted by using phony aliases.
The 2008 case H.A.L. v. Foltz resulted in a landmark Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling applying the Federal Civil Rights Act to claims of child-on-child sexual abuse. The ruling today protects children nationwide who are sexually abused in foster care. (link)
At Justice for Kids, our pursuit of justice for foster children, those injured or abused by state agencies and their contracted care providers, or in institutional settings or facilities is driven by a mission: to help these children seek the results they need to carry on with their lives.
Disabled children who have physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, and mental health-related issues are in need of critical attention and specialized representation. Justice for Kids brings its unique and proven approach to the representation of these children who are eligible for governmental benefits, whose services are being cut and others who have been abused by the state child welfare system.
Our results have helped individual children and their families attain the damage awards necessary to receive the long-term medical and psychological care they require to ensure their lives are as “normal” as possible. We also seek to hold state agencies, like the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the private organizations they contract with, accountable for their actions.
Founding partner Howard Talenfeld has been recognized nationally for his work with foster children and others who have developmental disabilities in precedent setting cases, class actions, and damages claims in Florida, New York and throughout the country.
His successes have changed the future for developmentally disabled children. In Baumstein v. Sunrise Communities, Howard successfully urged a Florida appellate court to establish a private cause of action for damages based upon the violation of Florida’s Bill of Rights for the developmentally disabled under Florida Statutes.
In the case of 10 disabled foster children who had been abused for years, Howard applied civil rights law to negotiate $27 million in settlements against New York City and the Archdiocese of Brooklyn. The negotiated damages today are helping the now-adult victims get the care they need to try to live normal lives.
Our team’s lawsuits and advocacy have has led to widespread reforms and awareness. Howard helped raise public attention to the then-common practice of prescribing “psychotropic cocktails” of powerful anti-psychotic medications to young children and foster children in state-contracted settings. He brought a wrongful death lawsuit after a 12-year-old Autistic boy died from being given multiple psychotropic medications with no monitoring or supervision in a dangerous, off-label practice without parental consent.
Two years earlier, Howard and Florida’s Children First, an organization he founded, raised alarms after the highly publicized death of Gabriel Myers, the 7-year-old foster child who had been prescribed a variety of mental health drugs and who later hanged himself. The use of psychiatric medications on Florida foster children was then studied by a Blue Ribbon Panel created by the state Department of Children and Families which changed Florida’s practice. He has also successfully obtained recoveries as a result of children behaviorally restrained by such chemical restraints.
From the use of powerful and potentially deadly medications, to doctors and providers treating at-risk children without parental consent, to ensuring the physically disabled get the care the state is obligated to provide, the attorneys at Justice for Kids aggressively pursue appropriate legal actions in search of positive outcomes for society’s most at-risk, developmentally disabled children.
Justice for Kids has established a long legacy of public service in support of Florida’s at-risk children.
Child Advocate Howard Talenfeld Celebrates 40 Years of Practicing Law
December 10, 2020 marks an important milestone for Kelley Kronenberg Justice for Kids Business Unit Leader Howard Talenfeld. Exactly 40 years ago today he was sworn-in as an admitted attorney in Florida, although he had no idea where his future would take him.
In 1988, Howard had the opportunity to represent the state of Florida and fight for the right of the state to improve its child welfare , delinquency and disability systems by defending Governors Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles in class action lawsuits. Inspired by his younger sister, Bess, who was born developmentally disabled, Howard’s personal passion for helping these vulnerable citizens has led to statewide and national reforms.
Additionally, he served as lead counsel in a Broward foster care class action that almost tripled the county’s child welfare budget. He was also instrumental in the creation and reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.
Howard, who is widely recognized as a top child advocate personal injury attorney, inspired the passage of Florida and national legislation protecting the rights of foster children, and obtained judicial decisions which are precedential in protecting the rights of foster children and disabled children. He has won multi-million dollar damage awards and judgments for injured and disabled children, so they have the resources to live and obtain treatment.
According to Howard, “my proudest professional accomplishments are the establishment of Florida’s Children First, which is the voice for Florida’s at-risk children, and now the creation of the Justice for Kids Division at Kelley Kronenberg.” At the beginning of 2020, Howard and his entire team at Talenfeld Law joined forces with Kelley Kronenberg and The JG Firm to create the Justice for Kids Division, one of the largest practices in the U.S. devoted solely to protecting abused, disabled and catastrophically injured children.
Learn more about Howard and Justice for Kids at justiceforkids.com.