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Foster Child Attorney Praises Governor Scott for Signing Dependent Child Bill

June 26th, 2014   No Comments   Advocacy, Dependency

Comments from North Florida foster child advocacy attorney Gloria W. Fletcher, who also is Vice President of Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, were published in a press release from Florida Governor Rick Scott. The governor’s announcement discussed his signing of House Bill 561, which requires the appointment of an attorney to represent dependent children who have special needs, unless a pro bono attorney represents the child.

Ms. Fletcher had high praise for a number of advocates and lawmakers who sponsored, backed or supported this important bill. Read Gov. Scott’s release here.

In her comments regarding Gov. Scott, Ms. Fletcher wrote, “It takes more than leadership to sign a bill that will help a constituency who cannot vote, has no money to donate to campaigns, and may never know the heroes who came to their aid. But that’s the true definition of character.


Critical Florida Children’s Advocacy Bill Awaits Governor Scott Signature

For as long as any Florida child advocate or children’s rights attorney can recall, Florida case law has said children have no constitutional right to an attorney in dependency court. That has meant kids’ futures would be decided with no attorney advocating for their needs, lives or futures.

In what some believe is a watershed moment for at-risk and vulnerable children statewide, the Florida Legislature this year passed House Bill 561. The measure requires the appointment of and payment for an attorney ad litem for Florida’s at-risk children facing court or dependency court proceedings. Read a Daily Business Review article.

Written in part by Howard Talenfeld, a leading Florida child advocacy attorney and shareholder with Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate and Webb, P.A., the measure awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Scott. With widespread, bipartisan support – and the backing of advocates statewide – it is hoped this measure will be signed and children will received the professional advocacy they so desperately need.

Proposed Law to Provide Attorneys for Disabled Children Passes House Civil Justice Sub- committee

Tallahassee, Fla. – (February 19, 2014) – By a unanimous vote, HB 561, sponsored by Representative Erik Fresen (Miami), was approved by Florida’s House Civil Justice Sub-committee today. The proposed bill would provide attorneys for Florida’s disabled children who linger in foster care for an average of up to five years, and sometimes longer.

“In order to protect the well-being and welfare of one of our most vulnerable populations in the State of Florida, our disabled dependent children, we must provide them with additional tools,” said Rep. Fresen, the bill’s House sponsor. “By providing these children legal representation, we are helping to ensure that all of the benefits afforded to them are delivered with the ultimate goal of finding permanent residency.”

Under HB 561, the attorney would provide necessary legal services, including Medicare waiver benefits and, most importantly, seek to focus dependency courts on finding permanent families for these children. Recognizing the need for skilled representation, these lawyers would represent disabled children in applications for benefits and denial of benefits from the state and federal agencies, like the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration or the Social Security Administration.


DBR: Broward Judge Frusciante – Chief Judge of the Dependency and Juvenile Delinquency – Resigns

Broward County, Florida Circuit Judge John Frusciante, chief judge of the dependency and juvenile delinquency divisions, is leaving the bench in October.

Frusciante, who did not return calls to the Daily Business Review by deadline Friday, did not state his reasons for leaving in his resignation letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, saying, “I now submit to you my intention to resign from that position effective Oct. 29.”

“He cared so much about individual children and cases,” said Child Advocate Attorney Howard Talenfeld of Colodny Fass Talenfeld Kalinsky & Abate in Fort Lauderdale and president of Florida’s Children First, a statewide group of child advocates. “He always saw the systemic problems and always brought the child welfare community together to solve them.”

Read the entire story here

Lawyers v. Guardians ad Litem: What is Best For a Foster Child in Florida Dependency Court?

What is the difference — if any — when a guardian ad litem investigates and advocates for a child in Florida dependency court, and an attorney who does so?

The Florida Bar’s Legislation Committee last month explored this issue — and a recommended Bar legislative position from the Legal Needs of Children Committee that suggested state funding for lawyers to represent select children in dependency courts.

After testimony from some involved, including judges and a former foster child, the committee recommended the proposal on a 5-1 vote.

It’s an important issue, said supporter Howard Talenfeld, chair of the Legal Needs of Children Committee. If the Legislature approves the measure, time spent by children in foster care could be reduced.

“Foster care is like being in the ocean,” Talenfeld was quoted in the Florida Bar News. “The longer children are there, the better the chance they’ll drown.” Read the Florida Bar News article here…

Florida Failure on National Report Highlights Need to Lend Voice to Foster Kids

If Florida were a student, it would have earned a failing grade.

The state scored an F on a national report released this week that studied all 50 states’ protections of the legal rights of abused and neglected children. Florida was one of seven states to fail (the others were Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maine and North Dakota). A-plus grades went to Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Findings were based on the laws for legal representation for juveniles in the child welfare system. Among the criteria, as reported by the Tampa Tribune, were whether a state requires that attorneys represent abused and neglected children in court; whether those attorneys continue representing those children until their case is over, and whether those advocates receive specialized training.

The report was from First Star, a nonprofit group that litigates and advocates on behalf of children, and the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law. (more…)

Florida Advocates’ Concern: Providing Lawyers to Children in Dependency Court

The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee searches for common ground on how best to provide lawyers for children in dependency court — while not harming the statewide Guardian ad Litem Program.

This article Jan Pudlow, senior editor with the Florida Bar News, reveals how the committee members, including leadership at the Department of Children and Families, the head of the GAL Program, judges, legal aid representatives, and private attorneys, unanimously passed a resolution of agreed-upon concepts to guide the way toward crafting proposed legislation they hope will become a Florida Bar lobbying position in the 2010 Florida Legislature.

“For it not to come together would be a shame,” Bar President Jesse Diner urged the committee at the Bar’s General Meeting in Tampa September 10. “If we all care about doing the right thing, then we can find a way to come together and make this work.”

Added Committee Chair and foster care and child welfare attorney Howard Talenfeld, “If we can achieve real consensus with the Family Law Section, then we have a real shot at getting the funding necessary to advance the issue of representation of children in the state of Florida.” Read entire article here…