Lawmakers visit Largo in effort to drum up support for ‘Jordan’s Law’

State Rep. Chris Latvala announces July 29 during a news conference at the Largo Police Department that he will refile “Jordan’s Law.”

LARGO — On what would have been Jordan Belliveau’s third birthday, state Rep. Chris Latvala announced July 29 during a news conference at the Largo Police Department that he will refile “Jordan’s Law” in the 2020 legislative session.

The bill, which aims to protect children from abuse in Florida’s child welfare system, is named after 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, whose body was found behind the Largo Sports Complex in September after police said his mother struck him in the head and left him in the wooded area. 

The mother, Charisse Stinson, was later charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial. 

“Jordan might still be alive today, if it weren’t for inexcusable, systemic failures,” said Latvala in a press release. “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.” 

In an effort to drum up support for the legislation, the Clearwater Republican was joined by state Sens. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; Largo Police Chief Jeff Undestad; and Dr. Jim Lewis, a neuropsychologist who helped draft the bill.

Latvala says the law would fix Florida’s child welfare system by reducing caseloads, streamlining communication and increasing training. When able, the case manager’s load would be slashed in half, from 30 to 15 cases. Additionally, the law would close the gap between data collected by case workers and law enforcement, ensuring children avoid violent caregivers. The law would also require special training for parents, caseworkers and law enforcement to better recognize the warning signs of head trauma.

Latvala also launched a new website — www.JordansLaw.com — to encourage people across the state to sign a petition urging lawmakers to support child welfare reforms. 

During the 2019 session, the bill passed unanimously in the House, but stalled in the Senate, leading Latvala to suggest senators’ objections were “more about personality and politics, not policy.”

Rouson, who co-sponsored the bill in the previous session, has pre-filed the legislation in Senate bill drafting.

“It is alarming and horrifying that we have hundreds of children in our state’s care at risk for abuse,” Rouson said. “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.”

A report released in January by the Department of Children and Families detailed problems between Jordan’s mother and father and other circumstances that kept him in foster care for 17 months.

A review of those involved in the case, which included investigators, case managers, clinical providers, attorneys, Guardian ad Litem and the judiciary, showed a failure “to work together to ensure the best decisions are made on behalf of the child,” the report said.

“This case highlights the fractured system of care in Circuit 6, Pinellas County, with each of the various parts of the system operating independently of one another, without regard or respect to the role their part plays in the overall child welfare system,” the report concluded. “Until the pieces of the local child welfare system are made whole, decision-making will continue to be fragmented and based on isolated views of a multi-faceted situation.”