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Posts Tagged ‘guardian ad litem’

Florida Attorney: State Making Progress, But Reports Say Still Much To Do on Child Abuse & Representation

Two national reports failed the state of Florida with regard to preventing child abuse in the child welfare system, and they highlight the need for representation of children in the system.

Although Florida is making process in its child welfare system, the two reports still point out we have a long way to go.

“… the issue of providing more attorneys for children is being discussed statewide,” writes the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “The Florida Bar has a committee working on legislation for the upcoming session seeking more attorneys for foster children with special needs, such as the disabled, older teens and children being prescribed psychotropic drugs.”

“It only makes sense that Florida join the other 40 states that give these kids their own lawyer, ” Howard Talenfeld, chair of The Florida Bar committee, told the News-Journal.

Click on the following links to read Howard Talenfeld’s letters on the issue in the Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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…

Looking For a Few Good Lawyers: Judge, Attorney Spearhead Search for Pro Bono Lawyers

Pro Bono Lawyers, Advocates Sought to Help Southwest Florida Foster Children

In Florida courts for abused and neglected children, attorneys represent the Department of Children and Families, the Guardian ad Litem, and parents, but rarely is one there just for the child. Some have proposed changes to the system.

Howard Talenfeld, president of Florida’s Children First, a statewide advocacy organization, chairs the Florida Bar’s Legal Needs of Children group that is proposing the changes. “There are so many amazingly qualified guardians, but it’s time to recognize that the system is so splintered, so broken that these kids need more.”

Judge James Seals, who presides over Lee County’s dependency court, and Alicia Guerra, supervising attorney for the local guardian program, which provides court advocates for children, are trying to recruit pro-bono lawyers for children with complex legal issues and teenagers aging out of foster care.  Read the entire article here…

FlaBar President Diner Makes Legal Representation of Foster Children a Critical Priority

For far too long, Florida foster children haved needed their own voice and legal counsel in their own dependency case and now before other state and local agencies that make critical decisions that critically affect their lives.

Representation should be of primary concern. Currently, only 60-80% of children in the dependency system are represented by the GAL program – and very few by attorneys. Quality representation of each child in foster care, before School Boards, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and the Agency for Healthcare Administration, to name a few agencies, may be the single most important step we can take to positively impact the lives of foster children.

This year, Jesse Diner, President-Elect of the Florida Bar, has placed among his highest priorities taking the recommendations of the 2002 Commission on the Legal Needs of Children and introducing legislation to create a Statewide Office of the Children’s Advocate.

My appointment this May to chair the Florida Bar Association’s Legal Needs of Children Committee is part of that goal. Our committee will help write legislative language and seek passage of laws and regulations critical to fulfilling the state’s mandate to serve the best interests of the children in its care. (more…)

Guardian ad Litem Takes Moderate Cut In Tough Budget Year. Many Florida Foster Children Will Lose Their Voice in Court

Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program emerged from this year’s Legislative budget process with fiscal cuts not as deep as originally feared.

The program’s funding will be reduced by $2.81 million. Proposed cuts were $7.6 million in the Florida House of Representatives, and $2.6 million in the Florida Senate.

In the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Appropriations Act, the Florida Legislature will reduce the Guardian Ad Litem Program by $3.817 million, and then reinstate $1 million in non-recurring money. Therefore, if the Legislature does nothing for FY 2010-2011, the GAL will be cut by $1 million.

There were no simple or pleasant solutions. This was the toughest budgetary year many people have ever seen. Although advocates stepped in quickly to help negotiate a balanced approach to this tough budgetary call, many foster children will be left without Guardians.

But make no mistake: The cuts span the spectrum of child services. (more…)

Florida Guardian ad Litem Funding Vital to Helping Neglected Kids

As Florida faces a financial crisis, our Florida Legislature is forced to grapple with ways to balance the budget. I recognize there are no good options for the Legislature, but some cuts create more problems than others.

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program — whose staff and volunteer counselors and attorneys help the state’s neglected children and foster care youth — is facing severe budget cuts by the Florida Legislature that it cannot sustain. The Florida Senate has proposed an 8% cut in GAL funding and the Florida House proposal would cut 23% – or $7.6 million.

These cuts would result in a potential loss of 152 employees, or more than a third of the staff needed to recruit, screen, train, coach and mentor the nearly 5,700 volunteer child advocates who represent the best interests of abused, abandoned and neglected children caught in our dependency system. (more…)