I am honored and humbled to be this year’s statewide recipient of the Guardian ad Litem Program’s Excellence in Advocacy Award, which recognizes contributions to the child welfare system by attorneys for special needs children. I am so grateful to be on the list below with many attorneys who I call when I need help. These are really wonderful people who have devoted their lives to helping others, and this award recognizes the enormous value their work contributes to making life better for Florida’s families. I also commend the Legislature on creating the Attorneys for Special Needs Children registry, so that these highly vulnerable children and youth have their well-being promoted and rights protected legally as well as therapeutically and emotionally.
My name is on the list, but I need to raise up the amazing people at the Children & Youth Law Clinic who show up every day to make life better for our clients and all of Florida’s children. Our paralegal, Angela Galiano, holds our legal advocacy together with positivity and boundless energy. Our legal assistant, Mary Cruz, keeps our educational components running smoothly and focused. Our students sign up for a yearlong adventure with no inkling of where it will take them, and wind up finding themselves and their professional passions along the way. Our clients work with us to better their own lives — some of them even go on to become advocates for other youth through programs like Florida Youth Shine and Educate Tomorrow. Finally, I am blessed to have wonderful colleagues and mentors in Bernie Perlmutter and Kele Stewart who remind me that change happens because good people make it happen. Sometimes it requires a nudge, other times a push.
Thank you to Alan Abramowitz and the Guardian ad Litem Program for publicly recognizing our work together for Florida’s children. And thank you to everyone who has reached out to say congratulations.
The Winners of the GAL Program’s Excellence in Advocacy Award
- Susan Winterberger – First Circuit
- Stephanie Johnson – Second Circuit
- Heidi Kemph – Third Circuit and First DCA
- Connie Byrd – Fourth Circuit
- Brenda Smith – Fifth Circuit
- Bowdre McAllister – Sixth Circuit
- Carol Kelley – Seventh Circuit
- Nancy Wright – Eighth Circuit
- Barbara Glass – Ninth Circuit
- Deborah Wells – Tenth Circuit and Second DCA
- Robert Latham – Statewide Winner, Third DCA and Eleventh Circuit
- C. Michael Kelly – Twelfth Circuit
- Scott Horvat – Thirteenth Circuit
- Lawrence Kranert, Jr. – Fourteenth Circuit
- Penny Martin – Fifteenth Circuit and Fourth DCA
- Richard F. Joyce – Sixteenth Circuit
- Linda Singer – Seventeenth Circuit
- Pamela Bress – Eighteenth Circuit
- Crystal Marsh – Nineteenth Circuit
- Kathy Bruno – Twentieth Circuit
- Leonard Helfand – Appeals
Excellence in Advocacy Awards
This year the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program wanted to recognize the hard work of Registry Attorneys who represent children with certain special needs in their circuit. Our GAL team recognizes the great work Registry Attorneys perform in dependency courts across the state. These attorneys are driven by their passion to make a difference in the life of a child with special needs. Registry Attorneys do work far beyond the money paid to them – often times donating any fees collected to a law school program or Legal Aid. Their impressive and dedicated representation of some of Florida’s most vulnerable dependent children under § 39.01305, is valued by not only the children they represent, but also by their peers who have recognized them for this award. From ensuring a child who did not need the prescribed psychotropic medications was taken off of them, to fighting for specialized counseling and treatment, these Registry Attorneys partnered with the GAL Program to do what was right for children.
Registry Attorneys have used their immense expertise for good. They take cases that are complicated and sometimes heart breaking – at a very minimal cost to the state. Their work with children helps families and inspires others. We thank them for being the standard bearer for other child welfare professionals and their work with children with special needs. The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program looks forward to this yearly award for Registry Attorneys who represent Excellence in Advocacy.