Florida's Children First

Pro bono spotlight: Stepping up for our children in foster care

“One Lawyer, One Life” is a new pro bono opportunity sponsored by The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section, The Florida Bar and Florida’s Children First.

It is a statewide pro bono project designed to recruit, train, support, match and mentor volunteer attorneys willing to assist a 17-year-old who is in out-of-home care pursuant to Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, regarding dependency proceedings.

It will be the pro bono attorney’s role to counsel the young person regarding the resources available through the state and/or to assist with a specific legal matter.

Important decisions are made by and about 17-year-olds in Florida’s child welfare system. They need good legal advice to help them transition into adulthood on solid ground.

It’s one more way attorneys can prevent problems and can help ensure all of our young people have the support they need to be productive, happy adults.

In the 4th Judicial Circuit, the Department of Children and Families will refer young people needing assistance to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Pro bono attorneys who volunteer will be sent the information for a specific young person.

When the pro bono attorney accepts the case, DCF will enter the motion for appointment so the attorney may have access to the case file and docket.

JALA will assign the attorney to the case for the purpose of pro bono attorney support and professional liability coverage for the matter, if needed.

To volunteer, attorneys are asked to sign up on Florida for Children and Families’ website, f4cf.org. Comprehensive training materials are available on the website for viewing at their convenience.

Additionally, pro bono attorneys can be paired with an expert resource person or mentor to provide guidance during the progress of the case. There also is a discussion forum available on f4cf.org.

Sincere appreciation is extended to the attorneys in the 4th Circuit who have signed up to assist a 17-year-old who has been part of our foster care system.

More help is needed as cases in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties are being identified. The difference each attorney will make in helping a young person start adulthood with confidence and stability is immeasurable.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chair of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, at kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

By Kathy Para, The Jacksonville Bar Association Pro Bono Committee Chair

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