Always in need, guardians protect kids in the court system

Click here to read a great article by Patrice Russell from the Bradford County Telegraph-Union County Times. This article highlights Alachua, Bradford, Baker, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties discussing the work of the Guardian ad Litem Program as well as the local circuit’s nonprofit The Guardian Foundation, Inc.

Billboards Call on “Super-Hero” Floridians to Help Dependent Kids

Contact Person: Margie Menzel Phone: (850) 922-7287 Cell: (850) 354-2046 E-mail: Margie.Menzel@gal.fl.gov The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is reaching out to communities where volunteers are most needed to give a voice to children in the state dependency system. Starting this week, billboards with the message “What’s Your Superpower? Become a Guardian ad Litem” will […]

QPI/GAL Interview

Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director, Alan Abramowitz is interviewed by David Brown. David Brown is the Program Coordinator for Quality Parenting Initiative. Their interview discusses promoting the role of care givers and working together as a team. QPI/GAL Interview

Florida Bar News – GAL project aims to help children

Read how the the Florida Bar Pro Bono Committee Appellate Practice Section has partnered with the Guardian ad Litem Program on the Defending Best Interest Project. This project will allow more Florida attorneys to use their skills to defend the best interests of dependent children when challenged on appeal. GAL Project aims to help children

2017 Disabilities Training Conference Videos Available Now

This year over 450 attorneys, judges and child welfare professionals attended the Third Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Disabilities Training Conference. The keynote speakers and panels were inspiring thought provoking and gave us all tools to use in helping the children we work with every day. The workshops were wide ranging with presenters sharing their […]

Trial Court Order Remanded for Additional Findings

L.J. a/k/a/ M.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 2605106 (Fla 5th DCA) The trial court entered a final judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to his child, A.J., on the basis that father had rights to two other children terminated. The trial court’s order included findings as to each statutory factor under section […]

Modification of Visitation Order: Requires Proper Notice and a Proof of a Substantial Change in Material Circumstances and that Modification is Required to Protect the Child’s Best Interests

Florida Department of Children and Families, v. P.I., the Mother, and M.H., the Father, 2017 WL 2265372 (Fla. 3d DCA) At the shelter hearing, the court ordered no contact with the parents based on explicit findings of “egregious physical abuse” by the mother and “failure to protect” by the father. The children were placed in […]

Admission of Evidence: No Abuse of Discretion in Denying Untimely Request for Expert Witness Testimony

K.A. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL1494002 (Fla. 3d DCA) The mother appealed from the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights. She argued the court erred in denying her right to present expert testimony regarding her psychological issues and returning children to the father, despite alleged domestic violence incidents. The Third DCA affirmed. […]

Statute of Limitations For Negligence Claims: Appointment of GAL in Dependency Case Should Not Extinguish Children’s Causes of Action

D.H. by and through R.H. v. Adept Community Services, Inc., 2017 WL 1277741 (Fla. 2d DCA) The children were born to a developmentally disabled mother. The mother received in-home support under a Medicaid program. The services were intended to help her live on her own and care for the children. The services failed to meet […]

ICPC: Juvenile Court Not Authorized to Relinquish Jurisdiction over Children Prior to Complying with ICPC Home Study Requirement

State Department of Children and Families v. M.A., 215 So.3d 1276 (2017) The children were adjudicated dependent and placed with the maternal grandmother. The father was not a party to the dependency action. In seeking to obtain custody of his children and relocate them to his home in Indiana, the father requested a home study […]

Paternity: Biological Father of Child Born to Intact Marriage Has Extremely Limited Rights and a “Casual Interest in Fatherhood” Found Insufficient To Trigger Constitutional Protection

M.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017WL1718807 (Fla. 4th DCA) The putative father filed a motion to intervene in a TPR proceeding where child was born into an existing marriage. Although the putative father was named on the child’s birth certificate and he was present at the shelter hearing, he waited 18 months to […]

Guardian ad Litem’s “Defending Best Interests Project” on fast track for lawyers to help children pro bono

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program is pleased to announce its latest pro bono initiative, the “Defending Best Interests Project” which will allow more Florida attorneys to use their skills to defend the best interests of dependent children when challenged on appeal. In dependency court, it is a fundamental principle that the child’s best interests […]

Florida Guardian ad Litem Awarded $40,000 Youth Advocacy Grant

[Tallahassee, Florida] –  The Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program has been chosen for a 2017 National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Association Youth Advocacy Grant aimed at improving outcomes for the state’s abused and neglected children. This is the second year the Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program has won the $40,000 grant […]

Procedures for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims

This Supreme Court decision establishes new procedures for ineffective assistance of counsel claims for termination of parental rights proceedings. In Re: Amendments to Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure and Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.146, 2017 WL 1090564 (Fla.) In 2015, the Supreme Court established interim procedures for bringing ineffective assistance of counsel claims following […]

Case Plan Compliance

J.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 902184 (Fla. 5th DCA)  Mother appealed termination of her parental rights based solely upon her failure to follow a case plan.  The children were originally removed from Mother due to domestic violence.  Four months before the termination of parental rights trial, random drug tests and substance […]

Statutory Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

If a trial court’s ruling on one of the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights is supported by clear and convincing evidence, the court’s order terminating parental rights is affirmable.  D.H. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 728063 (Fla. 5th DCA) Mother appealed termination of her parental rights.  The Fifth District Court […]

Statute of Limitations for Negligence Claims

D.H. by and through R.H. v. Adept Community Services, Inc., 2017 WL 1277741 (Fla. 2nd DCA) The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed summary judgment in a negligence case filed by grandparents on behalf of their previously dependent children holding the trial court correctly found the case was initiated outside the statute of […]

Evidence – Supreme Court Declined to Adopt the Daubert Amendment

In Re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, 2017 WL 6337700 (Fla.) The Supreme Court of Florida declined to adopt several legislative amendments, including an amendment (Daubert Amendment) replacing the Frye standard for admitting expert opinion evidence with the Daubert standard. The Daubert Amendment amended Florida Statutes § 90.702 and 90.704 (2012) and changed the […]

Parental Drug Use as a Basis for Dependency

M.S.v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 456892 (Fla. 5th DCA)   Father appealed an adjudication order, which found his children dependent based on his recent drug-related arrests. No evidence was presented as to the circumstances of the arrests or how the arrests harmed the children. The Fifth DCA found evidence of drug use […]

Immigration – Determination of Dependency

M.P.L. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 192024 (Fla. 4th DCA) Establishing dependency based on being a child with “no parent or legal custodians capable of providing supervision and care.” § 39.01(15)(e), Fla. Stat. (2015) Judge Forst’s dissent noted the textual discrepancy between Florida Statute § 39.01(15) (e), which limits a child’s caregiver to “parents […]

Witness Testimony – Right to Confront Witness

S.D. v. Department of Children and Families, 2017 WL 52636 (Fla. 3rd DCA) Dependency proceedings are civil in nature. The constitutional right to confront witnesses does not apply. Father appealed termination of his parental rights based on his alleged lack of consent to a witness testifying via Skype, the lack of a notary to administer […]

Interpreting the S.M. Case – Least Restrictive Means

Guardian ad Litem Program v. Department of Children and Families, 2016 WL 7497280 (Fla. 5th DCA) This is the first district court case applying the least restrictive means test since it was recently clarified by the Supreme Court of Florida. S.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children and Families, 202 So. 3d 769, 778 (Fla. 2016). […]

New Video – Become a Pro Bono Attorney for the GAL Program

Become a part of our newest project – Defending Best Interests.  With support from the GAL Appellate Attorneys, you will write briefs in appeals where a judge has found termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child.  The project offers an opportunity to volunteer with a shorter, more defined time commitment […]

Groundbreaking Program Helping Foster Children Get Driver’s Licenses Made Permanent as SB 60/HB 217 Passes Florida Legislature

[Tallahassee, Florida] – A pilot program helping youth in the child welfare system get driver’s licenses, was expanded and became permanent today with the passage of SB 60 and HB 217. Known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” the program assists youth with getting a learner’s permit or driver’s license, helps find driver education courses […]

Promoting Justice and Reducing Trauma, Florida Legislature passes HB 151 to Expand Use of Dogs in Court Proceedings

[Tallahassee, Florida] – Today the Legislature passed House Bill 151 by Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) and Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), authorizing judges to allow children in proceedings involving abuse and neglect and intellectually disabled persons to have therapy dogs and facility dogs present for court proceedings as a way to reduce trauma and facilitate testimony. […]

Groundbreaking Program Helping Foster Children Get Driver’s Licenses Made Permanent as SB 60 Passes House and Goes to Governor

  [Tallahassee, Florida] – A pilot program helping youth in the child welfare system get driver’s licenses, was expanded and became permanent today with the passage of SB 60 and HB 217.  Known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” the program assists youth with getting a learner’s permit or driver’s license, helps find driver education […]

Last Day for Early Registration Discount – GAL Disabilities Training Conference

Don’t miss out on this year’s Disabilities Training Conference.  We have an amazing schedule of speakers to inspire you and to share their expertise with you.  Come to learn, come to network, come to prepare yourself to better represent the needs of abused, neglected and abandoned children with disabilities. To find out more and register visit http://www.cvent.com/d/kvqhkf 

Justice’s Best Friend Act passed the House today

Testifying in court can be scary. For children in abuse, abandonment, and neglect cases, it can sometimes also be traumatizing. These dogs can reduce traumatization and facilitate the administration of justice. Around the state, dogs are successfully used in a variety of cases. The GAL believes the law should be amended to reflect current practice, […]

Senate Unanimously Supports Driver’s Licenses for Children

Thursday, the bill (SB 60) sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, that makes permanent a pilot project giving foster youth the opportunity to get driver’s licenses was passed unanimously by the Florida Senate. The bill makes the 2014 pilot program that reimburses fosters parents or children for driver’s education, licenses fees, and insurance permanent. Senator Bean […]

Angela Orkin Dedication Award Given to Dennis Moore, General Counsel

Throughout his tenure Dennis has demonstrated his commitment to the Program’s success, working tirelessly to assist the Program to achieve its mission. This year, Dennis was integral in ensuring legislation was passed that significantly impacts the lives of many of Florida’s dependent children – The Child’s Best Hope Act.  Dennis drafted legislation, met with legislators, […]

2017 Guardian ad Litem Annual Report Now Available

This year, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Annual Report – Making the Impossible Possible:  Stories of Advocacy, is a look into the lives of our GAL volunteers, staff and attorneys. Sometimes the best way to understand an idea or a point of view is through story telling.  Whether it is a fable that teaches […]

Video: The Effects of Exposure to Domestic Violence on Babies and Children

This video, The Effects of Exposure to Domestic Violence on Babies and Children, produced by the 11th Circuit (Miami) and featuring Judge Carroll Kelly and Judge Orlando Prescott, provides valuable information about the severe and lasting negative impact that exposure to domestic violence has on babies and children. This video also teaches that babies and children […]

Available Now – GAL Volunteer Pre-Service Training Course with Interpreters and Closed Captioning

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is proud to announce a new series of guardian ad litem volunteer pre-service training videos – GAL Volunteer Training Course with Interpreters and Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired community.    These videos are available as a resource for those potential GAL volunteers who have a hearing impairment and would […]

Alan Abramowitz Reappointed as Executive Director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office

  [Tallahassee, Florida] –  Lori Duarte-Roberts, Chairperson of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation Board of Directors, announces Alan Abramowitz is reappointed by Governor Rick Scott as the Executive Director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office.    Over 10,000 Floridians volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem Program, an organization whose mission is to advocate […]

Senate Bill 60 by Senator Bean – Children Obtaining Driver Licenses Subcommittee Hearing

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services:  Wednesday, February 8th, 2:00—4:00 p.m.,  at 401 Senate Office Building. Senate Bill 60  – The Keys to Independence Bill will be heard in its second committee on February 8th at 2 PM.  There are six anticipated committee hearings in the Legislature regarding this important legislation. The members of […]

SB 60 on Children Obtaining Driver Licenses Unanimously Passes Committee

On January 23 the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs met to discuss Senate Bill 60.  They heard testimony from advocates and former foster youth from Youth SHINE.  The bill makes the “Keys to Independence”  pilot project permanent – paving the way for foster children to get their learner permits and drivers license.  The bill […]

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and Sen. Aaron Bean sponsoring legislation to make The Florida Keys to Independence Act for foster children a permanent program

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, are sponsoring legislation this year to make The Florida Keys to Independence Act for foster  children a  permanent program. The Florida Keys to Independence Act was signed into law in 2014. It is targeted at youth in licensed foster care between the ages of […]

A Note of Appreciation for Legal Advocacy At Its Best

“As you may know, although I’ve been a judge for ten years, I’ve presided in Dependency court for a mere three months. Consequently, I come with vast exposure to the caliber of lawyer practicing in Miami, but somewhat limited experience in the Juvenile Division.  It’s from that context that I wanted to take the occasion […]