When the Florida Supreme Court issued its Juvenile Rules Opinion this week on requiring attorneys for Florida foster children with special needs, it was the successful culmination of a 10-year effort by the state’s leading foster child advocates, including the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program and Florida’s Children First (FCF), as well as the Legal Needs of Children Committee of The Florida Bar.
The Court ruled to implement legislation requiring legal representation for at-risk children facing administrative hearings. Read the ruling here.
Since the 1990s, FCF, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, and the GAL have worked closely advocating the legislation. The two organizations jointly submitted comments to the court supporting advancement of state legislation providing for attorneys ad litem and other programs to require legal representation for children in the child welfare system.
As chairman of the Florida Bar Association’s Legal Needs of Children committee, prominent foster child abuse attorney and FCF founding president Howard Talenfeld helped unify the Florida Bar the effort to require that the state’s neediest children – foster kids, the disabled, victims of sex trafficking, children on psychotropic medications, for example – are provided legal representation.
The proposed amendments were unanimously approved by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. After great effort, the legislation passed in 2014.
“Upon consideration of the comments and the Committee’s response, we adopt most of the Committee’s additional amendments as proposed…” the Court ruled.
“The product of those efforts came to fruition in the Supreme Court,” Talenfeld said. “Passage of the rules require the assessment of care for kids coming into the system so they can receive the counsel and protection from expert attorneys. This is a major victory for children in the Florida foster care system.”