Governor Scott Signs the Child’s Best Hope Law – Supportive Words from the Advocacy Community

On Wednesday, March 23, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Child’s Best Hope Act into law.  By signing this bill, Governor Scott is ensuring the best interests of Florida’s most vulnerable children is paramount.  The new law allows judges to make decisions regarding adoption intervention using the child’s best interest standard. The Problem – The […]

Department of Children and Families v. J.S.,2016 WL 145866 (Fla. 4th DCA)

The Department of Children and Families and the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program appealed a final judgment denying the department’s Petition to terminate the rights of both parents. The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed denial of termination. The child resided with Mother for the first two years of his life. The child […]

In re S.A.R.D., 182 So.3d 897 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016)

S.A.R.D. appealed dismissal of his private petition for dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed, finding the record supported the trial court’s finding that S.A.R.D. was not abandoned, abused or neglected by his mother. S.A.R.D. asserted in his petition that he was born in Honduras. He lived primarily with his mother and […]

In re E.P.N., 180 So.3d 249 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2015)

Although the majority affirmed summary denial of E.P.N.’s appeal, a dissent was filed by Justice Salter. Salter noted factual differences in E.P.N.’s case that he believed established a prima facie basis for her claims and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on her petition. E.P.N. was released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to her […]

In re B.R.C.M., 2015 WL 9584743 (Fla. 3rd DCA)

B.R.C.M. appealed a summary dismissal of his Petition for Dependency. The Third District Court of Appeals (Third DCA) affirmed and Judge Salter filed a lengthy dissent. B.R.C.M. was born in Guatemala, abandoned by his father at birth and abandoned by his mother when he was four years old. He was raised by his grandmother until […]

In re S.M., 2016 WL 275273 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Father appealed a final judgment terminating his parental rights and an order denying his motion to set aside his implied consent to termination based on his failure to appear at the hearing. Father asserted that he provided evidence of excusable neglect for his failure to appear. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed […]

In re B.F., 2016 WL 166669 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. Although the Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed, the Second DCA issued an opinion to express its concern with the elimination of the nexus requirement in amended  § 39.806(1)(f). The Second DCA noted concern regarding the constitutionality of the amendment, specifically that the amendment might not […]

In re E.D., 2015 WL 9487592 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) affirmed but was “compelled to write to remind the trial court about the strict time frames in cases involving the termination of parental rights.” The trial court did not issue its final judgment until eight months after the termination hearing. […]

In re A.W., 2015 WL 9258506 (Fla. 2nd DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights to her daughters, S.W. and A.W. The Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court erroneously applied a statutory amendment retroactively in its findings. N.W. lived with her long-term girlfriend T.H., T.H.’s daughter T.K.H, and N.W.’s daughters. N.W. and T.H. had […]

J.P. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 167394 (Fla. 1st DCA)

Mother appealed termination of her parental rights as to her daughter, T.P. The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) affirmed the TPR utilizing the “highly deferential” standard of review. T.P. came to the attention of the department following two hospitalizations for nephrotic syndrome and allegations of medical neglect. Mother was provided training on her […]

Department of Children and Families v. B.C., 2016 WL 635072 (Fla. 1st DCA)

To terminate parental rights there must be: the existence of a statutory ground for termination under § 39.806; that termination is in the child’s manifest best interests under § 39.810; and the termination of parental rights is the least restrictive means of protecting the child from serious harm. The trial court concluded based on clear […]

Register Now for the Florida GAL Disabilities Training Conference!

Nationally recognized legal and policy expert Jonathan Martinis, Esq., Senior Director for Law and Policy at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University is returning this year to the GAL Disabilities Training Conference as a keynote speaker.  Mr. Martinis has over 20 years’ experience representing and advocating for people with disabilities to ensure that they […]

Thank You Judge Layne Smith

Last night, over 35 Guardian ad Litem volunteers and staff (almost standing room only) attended a continuing education session with Judge Layne Smith, our guest presenter.  Judge Smith shared information about the court testimony process and criteria.  Staff and volunteers were informed about what to expect in court as a witness, how to prepare for […]

Tibet is Coming to the GAL Disabilities Conference

Tibet the Courthouse Dog, a program of Voices for Children of Tampa Bay, will take the stage with presenters from the GAL Program and Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc. to explain how a professionally trained facility dog can help in achieving safety and permanency for a child who has experienced severe trauma and has sensory […]

Broadway’s Spring Awakening at the GAL Disabilities Training Conference

Excited about the GAL Disabilities Training Conference in April?  So are we!  Lead actors from the Broadway production of Spring Awakening will join the Guardian ad Litem Disabilities Conference to inspire us through their experiences of performing on Broadway and bringing musical theatre to the deaf community. The actors will perform songs from  Spring Awakening, […]

Great News for Child Best Hope Advocates

Today we were validated in pursuing what we call the “Child Best Hope” Act.  Although sadly we did not prevail in an adoption intervention case for a child, the court specifically mentions that the policy concerns are being addressed by SB 590.  My prayers and thoughts go out to J.R., the child involved in the […]

Legislative Update

After what seems to have been a long few weeks, I wanted to share with you where we landed. In Budget Conference, both the Senate and the House agreed to additionally fund approximately $1 million for out-of-home care, and approximately $1.4 million for in-home care (in cases where children are 3 years or younger). That […]

Registration Now Open for GAL Conference

Registration is now open for the 2016 Guardian ad Litem Disabilities Training Conference The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program  invites you to join us at the 2016 Disabilities Training Conference: A Voice Heard – 10,000 Strong, to be held April 28-29, 2016 at the JW Marriott, Grande Lakes Orlando. This is the third year for […]

Deborah Moore appointed to the National CASA Suburban Leadership Council

Congratulations to Circuit Director, Deborah Moore on her appointment to the National CASA Suburban Leadership Council. As you know, National CASA supports the mission of 949 CASA and GAL programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Deborah is a committed child welfare advocate with an immense amount of experience, determination and heart.  The […]

GAL Volunteer Gale Spires Honored with the Champion of Service Award

[Tallahassee, Florida] – During the March 2, 2016 Florida Cabinet meeting, Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman awarded the Champion of Service Award to Guardian ad Litem volunteer Gale Spires. The Champion of Service Award is Florida’s only statewide volunteer recognition.  The award recognizes a volunteer who demonstrates excellence in volunteerism and […]

Representative Ben Albritton Champion for Children in Foster Care

Representative Ben Albritton (R – Bartow) has been a terrific champion of foster youth and foster parents.  In the past, he sponsored several bills that became law to improve the lives of children and youth who have been removed from their homes.  This included the normalcy bill which later became Federal law and the Keys […]

Legislative Update – Budget Conference

GAL staff, volunteers and supporters: As we get to the budget decisions by the legislature it becomes more obvious to me that the work each of you do in the field has brought the GAL Program a level of credibility that few organizations have.  The public-partnership and our non-profits have impacted each legislature in their […]

Preventing Another “Phoebe” Tragedy – Letter from a GAL

A Guardian ad Litem Volunteer asks for help from the community to ensure that children have someone to be their “voice” We recently marked the one year anniversary of the horrific tragedy in which a little girl named Phoebe was thrown off the Skyway Bridge by her father. This unspeakable act has touched the hearts […]

Legislative Update – Budget

Team GAL: The 60 day Legislative Session comes to a close on March 11, 2016.  We are halfway through week 6 of session and I wanted to give you a quick update.  We continue to be very optimistic! To recap, in the initial budget, the Senate included approximately $1 million for out-of-home care and $1.4 […]

Legislative Update

As we close out the 4th week of the legislative session, I wanted to update you on our efforts. As you will recall, we submitted 5 legislative budget requests to the Legislature for consideration.  They pertained to in and out of home care, certification and salary adjustments.  Budgets were initially released last week and we […]

Florida GAL Appointments to National CASA Legal and Advocacy Committee

Congratulations to Kelly Swartz, Guardian ad Litem Director of Legal Services and Liz Damski, Guardian ad Litem Special Counsel, on their appointment to the National CASA Association Legal and Advocacy Committee.  National CASA supports the mission of 949 CASA/GAL programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  Through collaboration with GAL programs across the […]

Child’s Best Hope Act – Update

The latest update is great news.  We are almost at the end of the legislative process. We have completed the process in the Senate on the “Adoption Intervention Bill (SB 590) and it should go over to the House in messages. House Bill 673 is on the agenda on the Health and Human Services Committee […]

Medicaid Training Posted

Medicaid training provided by Nancy Wright, Attorney, Law Office of Nancy E. Wright.  In practice since 1980,  Nancy Wright’s legal practice is focused on rights of individuals receiving Medicaid and Medicaid Waiver services, with emphasis on clients with developmental disabilities or  complex medical conditions.  In this video training Nancy Wright explains the benefits available to […]

The Nancy C. Detert Children’s Champion Award Presented to Senator Detert at Children’s Week

Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program, Christina Spudeas of Florida’s Children First, and Florida Youth Shine State Chair Chelsea Bramblett recognized Senator Nancy Detert  with the Nancy C. Detert Children’s Champion Award during the Florida’s Children’s Week kickoff dinner. Senator Nancy C. Detert (R Venice) was named the first recipient […]

GAL Program Partners in “Hanging of Hands”

This week is Florida’s Children’s Week celebrated at the State Capitol. Children’s Week is “a special annual celebration filled with joyful singing voices of young children, the colorful “Hanging of Hands”, and the dedication of thousands of child advocates across Florida, captures the true spirit and commitment Florida has made to our children and youth. […]

Volunteer of the Year – Randy Olson

Randy Olson is not the person you will ask, “Will you do that?” He’s the person who has done that and is on to the next thing! There is little Randy won’t do for the GAL Program. Randy never says no…there is no job too big or too small! He isn’t afraid to tackle a […]

Guardian ad Litem Legislative Session Update (Week 3)

As we kicked off Children’s Week in Tallahassee yesterday, it seemed like a great time for a legislative update.  Thank you for your continued support of the Guardian ad Litem Program! Today marks the 3rd week of the 2016 Legislative session and it has proven very busy.  I presented Guardian ad Litem’s budget requests to […]

Update: Child’s Best Hope Act

On January 13, 2016, the House Subcommittee on Children, Families & Seniors heard testimony from Heather Rosenberg, the president of the Tallahassee Area Foster and Adoptive Parent Association.  Heather is also an adoptive parent with her own story to tell about the importance of the court considering the best interests of the child.  Heather spoke […]

Note from Alan Abramowitz – First Day of 2016 Legislative Session

All GAL staff, volunteers and supporters: Today marks the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session.  We are excited Guardian ad Litem’s priorities will be discussed, during this 60 day process. From a budgetary standpoint, GAL has requested $1.1 million to account for the increased number of children coming into care, $1.36 million for in-home […]

Update on “Child’s Best Hope Act”

Child’s Best Hope Advocates: Update on “Child’s Best Hope Act”.    Over the holidays not much happened. These bills will be heard soon in the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the House Children Families and Seniors subcommittee.  The two bills are still different however we are working to get them identical.  It is very early in […]

Tluzek v. Tluzek, 2015 WL 7017418 (Fla. 5th DCA)

Former wife appealed a final judgment of dissolution. Former Wife argued that it was reversible error to order that their monthly adoption subsidy should be offset against Former Husband’s child support obligations. The Fifth District Court of Appeals (Fifth DCA) found that an adoption subsidy provided by the State of Florida to the parents of […]

C.S. v. Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 7007794 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Father appealed termination of his parental rights on the grounds of “egregious conduct.” The Fourth District Court of Appeals (Fourth DCA) found that the life and death consequences of Father’s lack of providing proper medical care supported a finding that his conduct was egregious as defined by Florida Statute § 39.806(1)(f). The child at issue […]

T.B. v. Department of Children and Families, 2015 WL 6496316 (Fla. 4th DCA)

Father appealed an order which placed his children in a permanent guardianship with a relative; terminated supervision by the Department of Children and Families; and modified Father’s visitation with the children to comport with the relative’s planned move out of state. The Fourth District Court of Appeals (Fourth DCA) reversed the order finding that it […]

In re E.D., 2015 WL 9487592 (Fla. 2d DCA)

In affirming the trial court’s final judgment that terminated the mother’s parental rights to her four children, the Second District Court of Appeal emphasized the importance of trial courts adhering to specific time frames in cases involving termination of parental rights.  In this case, the trial court did not render its final termination of parental […]

New 6 hour training posted on Transitioning Youth with Developmental Disabilities

Bridging the Gap for Transitioning Youth with Developmental Disabilities: From Foster Care to Adulthood.  In this training you will learn about Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program (EPSDT) versus Waiver; Securing Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Services for Transitioning Youth;  Social Security Administration and Master Trust Accounts (MTAs); and Effective Transition Planning (Court, Medical, […]

Amy Erven Presented with the Angela Orkin Dedication Award

The Angela Orkin Dedication Award is  awarded annually to one GAL Program State Office employee who is dedicated to the mission of the GAL Program, as was Angela. It is an employee who is personable, organized, a team builder, conscientious, innovative, and hard-working.  This year’s recipient, Amy Erven embodies all of qualities of the Angela […]