TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill named in honor of a two-year-old who died tragically in 2018 that would help protect children in the future cleared a legislative hurdle Wednesday by unanimous vote.
- Pinellas group calls for changes to foster care system
- Pinellas mother meets lawmaker to discuss child protection laws
- Bill must also pass through Florida Senate
State Representative Chris Latvala drafted House Bill 315, also known as "Jordan's Law," after learning some of the failures in the system that many say lead to the death of two-year-old Jordan Belliveau, allegedly at the hands of his own mother.
A House Subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to push Jordan's Law through, and Latvala says that gives him a lot of confidence going forward that baby Jordan’s untimely death will help save other children’s lives.
Latvala said we could know if Jordan's Law will become a law in as little as three to four weeks, but it could take longer.
“It’s been a team effort. I’ve never worked on a bill as hard as I worked on this one,” Latvala said. “There’s still a long way to go, but so far there’s been great reaction to it and I think in large part because the things in the bill are tangible instances where the system failed baby Jordan and where it's failed children like him.”
What the bill specifies
In the bill Latvala asks for law enforcement to be notified when they encounter someone being investigated for a child protective investigation. He wants to educate law enforcement, case managers and others in these cases how to detect a brain injury in a child under the age of six.
The bill also asks for a pilot program to bring more case workers to the Bay area and stricter rules governing reunification for children under the age of six with their families.
“I’ve had numerous meetings with FDLE, with the committee, with DCF and other stake holders to try to craft a piece of legislation that’s doable and that will have teeth," he explained. "That will help kids that are like Jordan Belliveau, so that there’s not another kid that falls through the cracks,” Latvala said.
Opposition to bill
There was one person at the hearing pushing for families to be together. He pointed out that Jordan’s case, where he was handed back over to his mother and then reportedly killed by her, doesn’t represent all cases.
“Not all families fit this scenario that happened in Pinellas County, and so there’s families that love their children, so we need to work with them,” he said.
But a confident Latvala says this bill that a local mother asked him to draft will eventually make it to the governor’s desk and on the books as a Florida law once it clears the next few hurdles.
“The issues we may run into might be on the money part of it, and we will address those and work those and address any problems that arise when they arise," Latvala said. "So we still have a long way to go, but I’m confident we will get to the finish line and have a bill sent to the governor that we can be proud of and that Floridians will be proud of."
The bill also has to go through the Florida Senate. The Senate sponsor for Jordan’s Law is Senator Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg.