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Largo Toddler's Death Prompts Child Welfare Reform

Jordan Belliveau died last September after being struck by his mother Charisse Stinson. Today, lawmakers announced they will refile "Jordan's law", a bill that seeks to reform Florida's child welfare system.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Jordan Belliveau would have celebrated his third birthday on Monday.

Instead, the toddler died in September. He was just two when police say his mother, Charisse Stinson, struck him in the face, causing him to slam into a wall and injure his brain.

At a news conference in Largo on Monday, Florida lawmakers, police, and a brain doctor, discussed a bill that would help protect other children from abuse.

The bill is named “Jordan’s law” and it seeks to strengthen Florida’s child welfare system.

Jordan had been living in foster care for a year before he was returned to his mother a few months before he died.  The day before his death, a caseworker warned his parents that he could be returned to foster care.

A lack of communication between law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families, helped lead to Jordan’s death, said Sen. Darryl Rouson, D- St. Petersburg.

“This bill corrects these communication issues and provides additional training to those involved in the child welfare system,” Rouson said. “It also provides more mental health services to families with young children, and gives law enforcement a more centralized tool to report child abuse.”

Legislators said caseworkers are often underpaid and overworked, with one person handling 30 cases.

Jordan’s law would cut this caseload in half, capping the number to 15 whenever possible. It would also streamline communication between law enforcement and welfare workers. Finally, it would require caseworkers and law enforcement to undergo training that teaches about brain injuries.

Neuropsychologist  Jim Lewis said head trauma is the leading cause of child abuse deaths, making public education about these injuries very important.
Credit Carrie Pinakard / WUSF Public Media
The Florida Channel
Neuropsychologist Jim Lewis said head trauma is the leading cause of child abuse deaths, making public education about these injuries very important.

Brain injuries are the number one cause of death in child abuse victims, said neuropsychologist Jim Lewis.

“When this bill is finally passed, Florida will become the first state in the country to have mandatory brain injury education for all child welfare professionals,” Lewis said.

Jordan’s law was brought before Florida legislature this past year. It passed unanimously in the House, but died in a Senate subcommittee.

The bill’s creator State Representative Chris Latvala, said he plans to do whatever it takes to get it passed this year.

“I will not leave any stone unturned in trying to pass this bill next year. This bill is by far my highest priority. My constituents did not elect me to go to Tallahassee to make friends, they elected me to get things done," he said.

“Frankly there is nothing more important that I can do than to pass this bill into law.”

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Carrie Pinkard is the Stephen Noble news intern for the summer 2019 semester. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in English, before heading to USF St Pete to pursue a master’s in journalism.