LARGO — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill June 18 that aims to protect children from abuse in Florida’s child welfare system.
The bill, called Jordan’s Law, was introduced by state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater. It is named after 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, whose body was found behind the Largo Sports Complex in September 2018 after Largo police said his mother, Charisse Stinson, struck him in the head and left him in the wooded area. Stinson was later charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
“I still remember where I was when I received the Amber Alert on my phone about a missing 2-year old from Largo,” Latvala said in a press release. “Precious Jordan lived two short years on this earth, but he will forever leave a mark on me, this community, and his legacy will be one that protects kids like him. The systematic failures that led to Jordan Belliveau’s death are inexcusable and I believe this bill addresses those failures.”
The law seeks to reform the state’s child welfare system by reducing the caseload of social workers, streamlining communication, and increasing 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, helping 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.
Latvala, who called the signing of the bill the “proudest” moment of his public service career, thanked Miranda Hoffstetter, a 21-year-old constituent who started an online petition to change the state’s child welfare laws.
He also thanked Dr. Jim Lewis, a clinical neuropsychologist based in St. Petersburg who is an expert in brain and head injuries in children.
“With the signing of Jordan’s Law, Gov. DeSantis and the Legislature make Florida the first state in the country to have mandatory brain injury education for all child welfare professionals,” Lewis said.
Latvala also credited the Largo Police Department, including Police Chief Jeff Undestad, Sgt. Amanda Misner and Coleen Chaney.
“Passing this bill was a team effort and everyone’s support, insight and input was invaluable,” Latvala added