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Archive for March, 2009

Doing Good Can Be Good For Foster Children, the Developmentally Disabled & Practice

Doing Good Can Be Good for Florida’s  Foster Children, the Developmentally Disabled, and Even Your Legal Career — a summary of a presentation to the Jacksonville Bar Association to encourage lawyers to do pro bono representation which occurred on March 19, 2009.*

By Howard Talenfeld

When I attended law school, like many other students, I did not pursue any specialization. After launching my practice as attorney in 1980, I was fortunate and handled significant commercial litigations (and not so important small claims cases), large personal injury claims (and not so important soft tissue injury cases), critical cases behalf of a municipality (and some traffic citations), and appeals in cases affecting thousands of people (and appeals affecting few).

Indeed, by many measures I was successful and even made partner in my present firm, Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., after one year of practice. However, something important was missing.  In spite of my financial, personal and professional successes, my practice did not give me great personal satisfaction.

In 1988, my law firm began representing the Florida Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services (“HRS). It happened as a fluke because one of its ALF licensees was seeking to hold the Governor Martinez in contempt. This opportunity occurred because our firm had a good reputation for its work as outside counsel hired by the state of Florida Division of Risk Management, and my partner, Joel Fass, was also the “go to” lawyer for Department of Regulation prosecutions. Our immediate success in this case mushroomed in to representing HRS as outside counsel across all of its major program areas: Children & Families, Delinquency, Economic Services, Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Licensing & Certification.

However, it was no accident that this occurred. (more…)

Child Homelessness: A Critical Issue to Florida Families

March 10th, 2009   No Comments   News & Events

Department of Children and Families Working to Reduce Number of Homeless Children in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – A report released today by the National Center on Family Homelessness places Florida in the bottom third of all 50 states among those with the highest rates of homeless children.

The National Center launched a “Campaign to End Child Homelessness” and evaluated all 50 states on four areas specific to homeless children: the extent of child homelessness; child well-being; structural risk factors; and policy planning and efforts.

It is estimated that there are 8,600 homeless children across Florida, with the highest numbers in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties (1,700 and 860 respectively). The Department is working to reduce the numbers of homeless children in Florida through various efforts.

The Family Safety Program works with Community Based Care partners to strengthen families so that children can remain with their parents whenever possible and appropriate. Addressing the root causes of family instability also increases the likelihood of families staying together. Mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence are all factors that contribute to family instability, which can lead to job loss, extended hospitalizations, loss of the family home, and ultimately child homelessness.


Florida Foster Children Must Fight – and Be Protected From – Identity Theft

March 3rd, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care

By Howard Talenfeld

identity theft by d70focus from flickrWhen Todd Davis announces with confidence on national TV how LifeLock will protect subscribers from identity theft, it’s likely he’s not marketing to foster children.

Yet they’re just as vulnerable to identity theft as anyone else. Even more so, by some accounts. As a Florida attorney focused on protecting the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including those in foster care, I have seen the potential for abuse and identity theft these children face. We need to help them learn how to protect themselves today.

In a recent Newsweek article, “Sabotaged by the System,” writer Jesse Ellison told the story of Tyrome Sams, a 20-year-old former foster child. When he applied for credit cards, Sams was repeatedly refused. He later learned that eight years earlier someone had swiped his identity and accrued hundreds of dollars in utility bills.

“Sams’s case isn’t just an unfortunate fluke,” Ellison wrote in the magazine (http://www.newsweek.com/id/183711). “Identity theft among foster kids is common, and for good reason: they’re easy targets. They move often among various homes and schools, so their personal data pass through dozens of hands.” (more…)