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Archive for the ‘Guardian ad Litem & Representation’ Category

The Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (“OPPAGA”) has issued its report to ensure accountability and strengthen Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program

Created in 2004, the Guardian ad Litem Program provides trained volunteers to ensure best interest representation for children who are subject to dependency proceedings. Unlike other states, that provide a directed attorney for children in abuse and neglect proceedings in line with the American Bar Association’s Model Act, Florida takes a unique and different approach. Florida’s model employs a multi-disciplinary team method, “wherein a child receives the services of a GAL volunteer, a staff advocate, and a staff attorney that represents the program, not the child.”

Guardians are trained volunteers with distinct and separate roles from the attorneys involved. Volunteers are charged with advocating for only one, maybe two children at a time.


Florida Child Advocates Help Legislature Pass Historic Law for At-Risk Kids

Florida’s Children First with the assistance of many child advocates was able to help pass historic legislation that created sweeping changes in children’s rights issues, including the right for disabled children to have an attorney in their dependency cases. Read a recap of the legislation here.

Florida LegislatureThanks to Carol Marbin Miller with the Miami Herald for shining the light on such tragedies like the death of Tamiya Audain, the 12-year-old autistic girl whose mom died and agencies never got her Medicaid Waiver benefits or found a safe home for her to live in.

Thanks to Senator Bill Galvano (Bradenton), Representative Erik Fresen (Miami), and Senator Rob Bradley (Orange Park), Department of Children and Families Secretary Esther Jacobo, Florida Bar President Eugene Pettis and Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz for making this legislation a top priority.

Florida Legislature Passes Historic Law to Provide Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs; Vital Measure Wins Bipartisan Support, Heads to Gov. Scott for Signing

With bipartisan support spearheaded by Senator Bill Galvano (Bradenton) and Representative Erik Fresen (Miami), the Florida Legislature today passed a measure that will provide attorneys to protect dependent children with special needs who are in the legal custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). The companion House and Senate bills (SB 972 and HB 561) would fund attorneys to represent these at-risk children, many of whom linger in foster care longer than their peers, often for an average of up to five years. The budget up for approval amounts to $4.5 million.

FCA Attorney Press Conference“Since 2002, The Florida Bar Commission On The Legal Needs of Children recognized the critical necessity to appoint attorneys for vulnerable, abused and neglected children in the custody of the state,” said Howard Talenfeld, President of Florida’s Children First, the statewide organization that has fought for this legislation since the report was issued.

Recently, the Miami Herald conducted a special investigation regarding 477 children in Florida who have died from abuse and neglect, including many children with special needs. One such child, Tamiya Audain, a 12-year-old Broward girl who had autism and a rare medical disease, starved to death in September 2013 as a result of neglect in the home of a relative with whom she was placed after her mother died.


Florida Bar News: Foster Child Abuse Attorneys Back Bills to Provide Lawyers for Special-Needs Kids

The Florida Bar News this month discussed bills in both the House and Senate that would provide state-paid attorneys for dependent children with special needs. The publication spoke with Howard Talenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who serves as president of Florida’s Children First, an advocacy group pushing the proposed legislation, and Statewide Guardian ad Litem Director Alan Abramowitz.

“It’s the first time in history we have a director of the GAL supportive of attorneys representing children,” Talenfeld said.

When Talenfeld was president of The Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children Committee in 2009, he fought unsuccessfully to persuade the former GAL director to support legislation that would provide attorneys for dependent children, a key recommendation of the predecessor 2002 Legal Needs of Children Commission. He referred to the child advocates’ clashing views on representation over the years as “the Crusades.”

“It’s very important to signal to the guardians of the world that the Crusades are over,” Talenfeld said the day before CS/SB 972, sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 1.

Read the entire story here.

Florida Judge: Victor Barahona Dependency Hearing Closed to Public

The South Florida dependency court hearings for Victor Barahona, the young boy allegedly abused by his adoptive parents, will be closed to the news media and public, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia ruled this week. Victor is one of three adopted children of Jorge and Carmen Barahona. The parents are accused of fatally abusing Nubia, Victor’s twin sister.

Judge Sampedro-Iglesia ruled that closing the hearings would be “in the best interest of the children.” The Guardian ad Litem program requested the hearings be closed. The news media, including the Miami Herald and local television station WPLG ABC10, had argued against closing the hearings, the Herald reported.

Read the entire story of Victor Barahona’s dependency hearing here.

Child Advocate Howard Talenfeld part of $2.9 million settlement for child abuse victim Jace Manning

As reported by the Daily Business Review, Childrens advocate attorneys Howard Talenfeld of Colodny Fass Talenfeld Kalinsky & Abate and Gary M. Cohen secured a $2.9 million settlement for Jace Manning, who in the first seven months of his life was seen numerous times by physicians for symptoms indicating abuse and neglect.

According to the article: “The responsible agencies didn’t communicate. It was a complete system failure,” Talenfeld said. “What you have is many different agencies involved with child protection, and it’s very easy for the Jaces of the world to fall through the cracks.”

Read the entire story here

Governor Crist Names Alan Abramowitz to Head Florida’s Guardian Ad Litem Office

Governor Charlie Crist has appointed long-time Department of Children and Families program head and juvenile justice attorney Alan Abramowitz as executive director of the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office. Abramowitz will succeed Theresa Flury, for a term to run until December 8, 2013.

Abramowitz to head Florida GAL

Abramowitz to head Florida GAL

Currently, Abramowitz directs the statewide Family Safety Program Office within the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

“With 15 years of experience in social service and juvenile justice, Alan has continually worked to improve the lives of children who depend on the child welfare system,” Governor Crist said. “He is an effective and caring advocate for the young people of Florida, and I am confident the Guardian Ad Litem Program will excel under his leadership.”


Florida Bar News: Attorneys recognized for their service to the Florida Bar

Outgoing Florida Bar President Jesse Diner recently recognized several attorneys for their dedication and service to the Florida Bar this past year.

Among the honorees included foster child and advocacy attorney Howard Talenfeld, for his work to build consensus on representation legislation as the Chair of the Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee.

Read the entire story here

Web Links Help Florida Child and Foster Care Lawyers & Advocates

The area of adoption, foster child, vulnerable persons, and guardian ad litem law is dynamic and fast-changing. With the guidance of the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Programthe Voice for Florida’s Abused and Neglected Children – Florida Child Advocate has gathered some important links and resources to help advocates learn more about the process.

The National Center for Adoption Law & Policy at Capital University Law School publishes a weekly electronic summary of adoption and child welfare cases as well as a weekly summary of the latest news in child welfare.

The Legal Issues and Laws Section of the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides helpful publications and tools, including a State Statute search, federal and state laws, and other legal information.

Foster Care Reform Litigation Docket, a publication from the National Center for Youth Law provides basic information on 71 child welfare reform cases nationwide that are currently in active litigation, a pending settlement agreement, or are significant in some other respect.

Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption is a publication from the Child Welfare Information Gateway summarizes the major provisions of key Federal laws regarding child protection, child welfare, and adoption and includes a timeline of Federal child welfare legislation.

The Legal Resource section of the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Website offers searchable case summaries and library, archived Legal Briefs Newsletter (2004-present), archived Practice Bulletins, the Guardian ad Litem Dependency Practice Manual, audio recordings of past attorney training calls (2006- present), legislative updates, links to helpful websites, and Chapter 39 Florida Statutes. On this page you can also sign up to have the Legal Briefs Newsletter and Practice Bulletin delivered to your in-box.

For more resources, review the “Blogroll” to the left of this entry. If you discover any additional resources that might help others navigating child welfare and advocacy, feel free to send them to us by submitting a Comment on this post.

Child Advocate Brian Cabrey Works to Protect Florida’s Most Vulnerable

Brian Cabrey is known throughout the Florida legal community as a staunch advocate for foster children, and abused and neglected kids statewide. He has volunteered countless hours on their behalf and sits on the board of Florida’s Children First.

Brian’s work also includes “damages claims against the Florida Department of Children and Families ( DCF ) and its employees where foster children are physically and sexually abused in care.”

In this article from the Florida Times Union, Brian is recognized for his tireless efforts…

Brian Cabrey cares about the children.

His office in the Modis building in downtown Jacksonville is full of pictures of his family. Most of his free time revolves around his four children, aged 2 through 13, and their activities in sports and with Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

And when he’s in his office, Cabrey, a lawyer, is often working on behalf of children. (more…)

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…

National Adoption Month Highlights Need to Find Florida Foster Kids Permanent Homes

I recently met with a young lady, R.J., who came into the Florida child welfare system in Miami at the age of 3 as a healthy child. R.J. exited the system at the age of 18 with very serious mental illnesses.

Even more appalling is that R.J. has eight brothers and sisters who each came into the system at roughly the same ages. Each spent roughly the same amount of time in the system. None were ever adopted. Despite having juvenile court judges, a guardian ad litem and many caseworkers, these nine children have endured this horrific and unacceptable result.

They are not alone.

Almost half of Florida’s foster children, or 9,321, have been in out-of-home care more than a year, despite state or federal requirements for permanency in less than one year. A quarter (more than 5,000) have been in out-of-home care more than two years. More than 2,500 children have been without a family for longer than three years. Read this Florida Bar News story on The Legal Needs of Children panel’s report. (more…)