Latvala to Re-File ‘Jordan’s Law’
Jordan’s Law is named in memory of a Largo toddler who was murdered by his mother after child welfare workers missed numerous warning signs.
LARGO – On what would have been Jordan Belliveau’s third birthday, state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Dunedin, is taking action to again protect children from abuse in Florida’s child welfare system.
Monday (July 29) morning, at a news conference at the Largo Police Department, Latvala announced he will refile “Jordan’s Law” in the upcoming Florida legislative session. He’s also launched a new website – JordansLaw.com – to encourage people across the state to sign a petition urging lawmakers to support reforms to protect kids in child welfare.
“Jordan might still be alive today, if it weren’t for inexcusable, systemic failures,” Latvala said. “As the number of kids in our child welfare system continues to rise, we can’t wait any longer to take action. If the serious flaws within Florida’s child welfare system are not fixed, more children will die.”
Jordan was murdered by his mother in September 2018 after child welfare workers missed numerous warning signs. (For related stories, click here and click here.) His death has put the spotlight on the fact that Florida’s child welfare system is broken and must be fixed. More kids are at risk – 1,500 in Pinellas County alone are considered vulnerable for abuse right now.
“It is alarming and horrifying that we have hundreds of children in our state’s care at risk for abuse,” said state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “I’m supporting Jordan’s Law because it’s time that our leaders come together to stand up for the safety of our kids before more precious lives are lost.”
Rouson has pre-filed the legislation for Jordan’s Law in senate bill drafting.
One of the main issues is child welfare case workers are overwhelmed and underpaid, managing about 30 cases for about $17 an hour. The turnover rate has skyrocketed, causing serious miscommunication mistakes as cases are handed over to new employees. In the Pinellas-Pasco Judicial district, the turnover rate is 80 percent and more than 50 percent in Hillsborough.
Jordan’s Law would fix Florida’s child welfare system with three steps: reduce the case load, streamline communication, and increase training. When able, the case manager’s load would be slashed in half, from 30 to 15 cases, increasing attention on the children they’re tracking. Additionally, the law would close the gap between data collected by case workers and law enforcement. In short, the two agencies would share information more optimally to help children stay away from violent caregivers. The law would also require special training for parents, caseworkers, and law enforcement to better recognize the warning signs of head trauma – the leading cause of child abuse deaths.
Jordan’s story is not the only tragic case. Just a year earlier, 8-month-old William Hendrickson IV died after being left in a sweltering bedroom in a Largo mobile home. A state report found child welfare case managers failed to take action and report safety concerns before the child’s death.
Photo of Jordan Beliveau courtesy of jordanslaw.com. Photos of state Rep. Chris Latvala courtesy of Chris Latvala.
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