A Case of Neglect? Representation for Children in the Florida Dependency System


by Gurjot Kaur

Florida and Washington state, while on opposite ends of the continental United States, unite on one point— they are among the few states in our nation that do not require the appointment of attorneys for children in dependency and termination proceedings. Why would this be cause for concern? First, Florida leads the nation in the number of child deaths from abuse or neglect after the Florida Department of Children and Families has intervened in the family’s life. Second, with the aid of the media, public sentiment is shifting. Children in the dependency system have been humanized. Some tragic, high-profile cases of child neglect and death have shocked and captured the public’s conscience, raising questions regarding the state’s role as parens patriae and the efficiency of the Department of Children and Families and the Guardian ad Litem Program. These questions have prompted a candid discussion about the current state of the Florida dependency system and potential solutions to the identified problems. The children in the dependency system are no longer “their kids” or “those kids” but “our kids” and, thus, “our concern.”

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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