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As Governor Signs Bills, Legislative Session Proves Good to Florida’s Medically Needy, Dependent Children

It was an especially successful legislative session for at-risk, medically needy and other foster care children throughout Florida. After passing the Legislature with bi-partisan support, two bills were signed into law this week by Governor Rick Scott ensuring Florida’s most vulnerable children have the best care from the Department of Children and Families, and skilled legal representation when in the dependency system.

The first bill was an overhaul of DCF’s child welfare process. The second bill “could begin to give voice to children long rendered voiceless,” the Miami Herald wrote. Howard Talenfeld, a leading child advocacy attorney and foster care damages lawyer and supporter of the new laws, had said this has been a long road.

“It’s been our mission since 2002 to enact a law like this because disabled children are the most vulnerable children to come into our child welfare system. Unfortunately, they have to face a maze of bureaucratic hurdles in order to obtain the benefits they need to be safe and to survive in the foster care system,” the Herald quoted Mr. Talenfeld, who also is president of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization.

HB 561 will requiring that the state pay for dependent children with special needs are appointed an attorney for representation in dependency cases. These can include the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Social Security Administration in applications and denials for benefits from the state and federal agencies and their school districts. Read a previous story here.

Under HB 561, the state will set aside $4.5 million to pay the cost of attorneys skilled in child representation cases, especially those concerning disabled and medically needy children. As has long been the case, some attorneys still may continue to provide their services in such cases on a pro bono basis. Read the Miami Herald story here.

This has been a very special season indeed for the state’s at-risk and most medically need children. We thank the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott for ensuring these children have the professional attention they need now and in the future.

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