House passes child welfare law for second time, but Senate could again say 'no'

A bill aimed at protecting children in the state's welfare system was passed in the Florida House Thursday. The bill is known as Jordan's Law and is named after 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau who died in September 2018. His mother 21-year-old Charisse Stinson is awaiting trial charged with his murder.

Rebecca Bryce is a former case manager in Pinellas County and is among many pushing for improvements to the state’s welfare system after the death of Jordan Belliveau.

“It’s sad that it takes the death of a child for anyone to notice and pay attention to the conditions surrounding case management," Bryce said. “It’s great people are talking about it. This is the first step."

The two-year-old spent nearly half his life in foster care before being reunited with his biological mother in May 2018. Four months later, his mother was charged with his murder.

“I’m certainly happy to pass the Florida House for the second year in a row, but still have a lot of work to do," State Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) said.

Latvala is hopeful the bill will pass in the Senate, unlike last year.

As part of the bill, law enforcement would be notified when they respond to calls where a person or caregiver is the subject of an active child protective investigation. Officers and child welfare caseworkers would also undergo additional training to better spot signs of abuse.

In Jordan’s case, investigators say police responded to a domestic call at Stinson’s home days before she allegedly murdered her son, but police were unaware at the time she was part of active child protective investigation.

“That will absolutely make a big difference, especially for cases that have on-going domestic violence cases or where a child has been removed for domestic violence," Bryce said.

The bill would also reduce the workload for caseworkers in Florida to a maximum of 15 children.

The bill will now head to a Senate committee. As for Stinson, her murder trial is set for August 2020.

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