Lawyers challenged to assist children

first_img Lawyers challenged to assist children June 15, 2003 Regular News Lawyers challenged to assist childrencenter_img Seven-year-old Shane was falling further behind in school. His mother recognized her son’s growing frustration and asked the school to evaluate him for special education needs. She had been waiting 14 months for the school district to respond when, instead of helping Shane, the school district indefinitely suspended him for acting out.After suffering years of abuse by her adoptive parents, including being locked in her room for weeks, 15-year-old Shannon was placed in a foster home by the Department of Children and Families and was beginning to recover when DCF suddenly moved her to a residential mental health treatment facility. Held in lock-down, given no schooling or mental health treatment, Shannon was not allowed to contact anyone outside the facility for weeks.Fortunately for Shane and Shannon, according to The Florida Bar Foundation, legal aid lawyers were there to help:• Legal aid obtained academic tutoring and counseling services for Shane as required by law. He returned to school and began doing well in his studies.• For Shannon, help came after a worker at the mental health treatment facility contacted legal aid. The night before the hearing on legal aid’s habeas petition, DCF moved Shannon to a new foster home where she was able to return to school and begin putting her life back together.In order to help bring the benefits of the law and of lawyers to the lives of other underprivileged children, Florida Bar President-elect Miles McGrane has challenged Bar members to donate a total of $250,000 to help fund children’s legal services through The Florida Bar Foundation’s Lawyers Challenge for Children.Bar members may make the voluntary contributions to the effort when they fill out their 2003-04 fee statements. The Foundation will add the attorneys’ contributions to its grants to legal aid and legal services programs in Florida awarded specifically to support specialized legal assistance to poor children.“While this is an unprecedented sum we are seeking, we have unprecedented needs for children in Florida that must be addressed,” McGrane said, adding that last year Bar members donated $47,000 to the Foundation via the voluntary contribution on the fee statements.Foundation President William L. Thompson, Jr., said there are fewer than 20 full-time legal aid lawyers dedicated to addressing the special legal needs of children in Florida — one for every 31,000 poor children.Thompson said even counting the significant amount of pro bono services for children already donated by Florida Bar members, the need for legal services is far greater, including for:• Learning-disabled children to secure testing and services required by law.• Children suspended from school or placed in the hands of juvenile justice authorities or law enforcement for behavior problems directly related to a disability.• Older foster children who do not receive mandated independent living skills training and, at age 18, are simply removed from state care.• Disabled children improperly denied federal disability benefits, or for foster children denied health care or mental health treatment ordered by the courts. GrantsSince 1999, the Foundation has funded special annual grants for legal assistance to children out of IOTA funds. Starting in 2000-01, gifts to the Bar Foundation from the Bar fee statement also support these grants.The Foundation set several goals for its Children’s Legal Services grant initiative, but emphasizes access to special education and health care services required under law.“Another goal is to create and energize a statewide network of children’s legal services providers,” Thompson said. “The network also can provide support to the thousands of Florida attorneys involved in children’s legal services through guardian ad litem and other pro bono projects.” Make a GiftFill in the amount of your tax-deductible contribution to The Florida Bar Foundation on the front of the 2003-04 Florida Bar fee statement in the box next to the suggested contribution level of $45. Add the amount of the gift to the “TOTAL PAID” box and include it in the check total.For more information contact The Florida Bar Foundation at P.O. Box 1553, Orlando 32802-1553, phone (407) 843-0045 or (800) 541-2195, or e-mail [email protected]last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *