LARGO, Fla. — April 1st marks the start of child abuse awareness month and also 9 months since a critical law went into effect in Florida aimed at saving children’s lives.
Jordan’s Law is helping to correct years of documented failures within our state’s child welfare system.
Jordan Belliveau’s case still haunts people across Tampa Bay. Jordan was just two years old when investigators say his mother hit him into a wall causing him to have seizures. When he died, investigators say she left his body in a wooded area in Largo and came up with an elaborate story to cover up what really happened.
Jordan’s death highlighted major break downs in communication between law enforcement and child protection workers and posed questions about how his mother, Charisse Stinson, was able to regain custody of her son.
Representative Chris Latvala of District 67 was crucial to getting a law passed in Jordan’s memory aimed at training more people to recognize child head trauma and improve communications between child welfare agencies and law enforcement.
“He was just such an incredibly beautiful young boy that didn’t need to die,” Latvala said.
Jordan’s death lead Florida to become the first state in the nation to mandate brain injury trauma training for all child welfare workers.
Since Jordan’s Law took effect 9 months ago, other states have reached out to Florida leaders to set up similar laws to protect children.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Jim Lewis heads up the free training courses. “Florida got negative attention because these kids were dying as a result of brain injury because of failures by the child welfare system but that’s been flip flopped and now we’re national leaders. It’s about time is how I feel about it,” he explained.
Lewis says the training is often eye-opening. “When they hear it they go wow this makes all the sense in the world but how come we haven’t heard this before? People are astonished when they hear how frequently this is occurring and how little they knew before,” he said.
Since Jordan’s death, case managers are being assigned to half as many children.
Coleen Chaney, the victim’s advocate at Largo Police Department says law enforcement leaders are also digging deeper.
“When an officer responds to a situation, they have more questions to ask. They come to an abuse call or welfare check with a context around what could happen, what could be a contributor to a serious and traumatic brain injury,” she elaborated.
That is especially important now. Representative Latvala worries the pandemic is causing more child abuse cases to be overlooked, as kids are venturing out less into public places.
“Now these kids do not have another adult with their eyes on them that can report something which magnifies the issue,” he added.
Jordan may have lived a short life, but his legacy continues and law enforcement leaders say there isn’t a single doubt that children are alive today because of the changes made in his honor.