The Miami lawsuit moves forward, incarcerated parents are parents, Hillsborough is on fire. Your periodic child welfare news roundup.

Here’s an update on what’s happening in child welfare. Got a tip? Send it to robertlathamesq@gmail.com

Motion to dismiss denied. Our office, along with other child advocates, sued the Department of Children and Families on behalf of our clients who have experienced inappropriate placements and dangerously frequent placement changes. We are seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to improve the quality and robustness of the placement array in the Southern Region. The suit is being prosecuted by Children’s Rights and the law firm Baker McKenzie. More information and the complaint can be found here. On Tuesday, the trial judge issued an order denying the Department’s motion to dismiss. The case is moving forward.

We can do better by families with incarcerated parents. The Brookings Institution will be publishing a journal and policy brief focusing on improving outcomes for children whose parents are incarcerated. This is just in time for Florida’s recent legislative change to clarify the requirements of case management for parents in jail. And hopefully in time to discourage FDC’s recently proposed reduction in family visits due to staffing shortages.

Gainesville does right. Gainesville has banned conversion therapy for minors. Why this has to be done at the local level is beyond me.

Foster kids with kids. A study in Texas showed that foster kids there were five times more likely to get pregnant.   The one-year pregnancy rate was 5.7%, compared to 1.2% in the general population. And yet we hear constantly about programs that won’t work with pregnant teens.

Tampa on fire. Hillsborough shut down an agency and is now struggling to manage 2,000 kids.  Most of the workers from the old agency will be absorbed into other agencies. This a good reminder that privatizing a public system does not necessarily create an efficient market for that system’s services. Government exists for a reason, folks.

Yes, children have positions. The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a 5-year-old has a right to effective representation in a TPR case where his court-appointed attorney never met with him before taking a position that appeared potentially in conflict with his actual wishes regarding his mother. “At the time of the hearings, Child was just shy of six years old. While Child may not have been old enough to participate actively in [the attorney’s] representation of him, it is not unlikely that Child has feelings one way or another about his mother and his permanency.” (h/t to the Altoona Mirror)

Exodus 23:9.  Florida’s resettlement offices are being reduced. This is bad news for kids.

Thank you to the Guardian ad Litem Program for a huge honor

advocacy-award-photo

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.

 

 

Leave Them Kids Alone

My favorite letter to the editor today. From jacksonville.com:

SAGGY PANTS

Leave kids alone
I’m probably going to be the sole dissenter concerning the article Monday about teen fashion of wearing pants low.

I am an adult with a college degree, and I feel that other adults are making far too big of a deal of this.

Yes, it looks ridiculous, but show me a single person who is harmed by it.

Every generation is going to have some fashion that is going to irritate their parents; from jazz music to long hair on guys in the 1960s and ’70s.

Yes, we need to set boundaries, but they need to be credible and meaningful ones, such as making kids do their school work, not letting them go out after curfew or making sure they are staying in school.

And crooks who do billions of dollars in damages often wear suits.

If you really want to see the fad die, stop making a big deal about it. It peaked 10 years ago anyway. All the hipsters are wearing skinny jeans.

I say let the kids express themselves.

Richard Jones,

Jacksonville

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2011-09-15/story/letters-readers-how-about-politicos#ixzz1Y7Cn5CKv

Emphasis ADDED.