Search

Our Team and Board

Our Team

Geori Seldine

Executive Director

Robin Rosenberg, Esq.

Deputy Director

Jaye Abbate

VP Communications & Community Relations

Christine Smith, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Maria Batista

Florida Youth SHINE Statewide Coordinator

Kaya Lee

Florida Youth SHINE Community Engagement Manager

Lia Paul

Office Manager & Bookkeeper

Our Board of Directors

Howard M. Talenfeld, Esq.

Justice For Kids, A Division of Kelley Kronenberg

President - Fort Lauderdale

Laura Reich, Esq.

Harper Meyer

Vice President - Miami

Gerald Reiss, CPA

Retired

Treasurer - Naples

Nathan Cook

Edge2Edge Roofing

Secretary - Orlando

Theodore Babbitt, Esq.

Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley

West Palm Beach

Dick J. Batchelor

DBMG

Orlando

Matthew Blair

Corcoran Partners

Tampa

Debbie Dickinson, Esq.

Thermaband

Weston

Jesse H. Diner, Esq.

Buchanan Ingersol & Rooney

Fort Lauderdale

Richard A. Filson, Esq.

Filson Law Firm

Sarasota

Michael Fischer

Laszlo Fischer Foundation

Palm Beach

Justin D. Grosz, Esq.

Justice For Kids, A Division Of Kelley Kronenberg

Fort Lauderdale

Bruce Maxwell, Esq.

Terrell Hogan

Jacksonville

Todd R. McPharlin, Esq.

Coffey | McPharlin

Fort Lauderdale

Jonathan V. Pierre, Esq.

The Russo Firm

Delray Beach

Joshua Rydell, Esq.

The Law Offices
of Joshua D. Rydell

Fort Lauderdale

Richard Slawson, Esq.

Reid, Burman, Lebedecker

West Palm Beach

Julie Silver Talenfeld

BoardroomPR

Plantation

Jennifer Voss, Esq.

Shook Hardy Bacon

Tampa

Edith Osman, Esq.

Director Emeritus - Miami

Bernard P. Perlmutter, Esq.

Director Emeritus - Miami

Christina A. Zawisza, Esq.

Director Emeritus Memphis - Tennessee

Gloria W. Fletcher, Esq.

In Memoriam

Geori Seldine

Executive Director

Geori Berman Seldine, Executive Director of Florida’s Children First (FCF), has spent most of her career fearlessly advocating for children and ensuring that children and youth are put first when making policy decisions. Geori became Florida’s Children First’s Executive Director in 2022, after nearly a decade of working at Florida’s Children First as the Statewide Director of Florida Youth SHINE (FYS). Geori brings a broad range of experience to the organization including program development, fundraising, leadership and advocacy skills, expertise in child welfare policy, and leadership in the non-profit sector. Prior to joining Florida’s Children First, Geori worked in the field of Student Affairs in leadership, social justice, and student programming where she developed innovative programs to arm students with the tools and support they need to be successful change agents and leaders. Additionally, she worked with the Enough is Enough Anti-Violence Campaign, The Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and as an AmeriCorps at Boys Town. Geori received her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of the Pacific and her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Sociology from Florida Atlantic University.

Robin Rosenberg

Co-Founder & Deputy Director

Robin L. Rosenberg became the Deputy Director of Florida’s Children First in April, 2007. Prior to joining the staff, Ms. Rosenberg was a founding board member of the organization. She is a Board-Certified Specialist in Juvenile Law and holds the highest rating assigned by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. Her professional activities include serving on the Public Interest Law Section of the Florida Bar and the Florida Bar’s Juvenile Rules Committee. She was the first chair of the Florida Bar’s Juvenile Law Certification Committee. Prior to joining FCF, Ms. Rosenberg worked for almost ten years at Holland Knight LLP, serving on the firm’s Community Services Team for the last seven years. Immediately after law school, Ms. Rosenberg clerked in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Ms. Rosenberg received her B.S. in communication studies with additional majors in urban studies and political science in 1987 from Northwestern University. Ms. Rosenberg received her J.D., with high honors, in 1991 from the University of Florida, where she served as an Associate Editor of the Law Review and competing member of the Trial Team. Upon graduation, Ms. Rosenberg was elected to the Order of the Coif and the Order of Barristers.

Jaye Abbate

VP, Communications & Community Relations

Jaye Abbate joined the Florida’s Children First team in 2019. Her goal is to educate, inform and raise awareness of the critical work that Florida’s Children First has done to secure benefits for children and families impacted by the child welfare system, Prior to joining the FCF team, Ms. Abbate served for seven years as CEO of ArtServe, an award-winning non-profit arts incubator that fosters entrepreneurship and artistic growth. Ms. Abbate was previously the Marketing Manager for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts after a long career in the publishing arena. Originally from Chicago, Ms. Abbate has long been active in area civic and non-profit groups. A proud member of Leadership Florida (class 26!), she currently serves as president of the Rotary Club of Fort Lauderdale, and sits on the board of the Broward Women’s Alliance. Jaye attended Northwestern University and later studied design under Massimo Vignelli at the School of Design and Architecture at Harvard University.

Christine Smith, Esq.

Staff Attorney

C. Christine Smith joined Florida Children’s First in July, 2023 as a part-time staff attorney, dedicating herself to representing young adults in dependency court and related proceedings as well as legislative and executive branch advocacy. Christine graduated with honors from Stetson University College of Law in 2006.  While in law school, Christine clerked in the staff attorney’s office at the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, clerked for the judiciary in the East Division, as well as an internship at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office.  After law school, Christine began her career in child advocacy at the L. David Shear Children’s Law Center of Bay Area Legal Services, a nonprofit Children’s law center. In 2011, Christine joined the firm of Hernandez & Smith, P.A. as a partner focusing on juvenile and family law.

Maria Batista

Florida Youth SHINE

Statewide Coordinator

Maria Batista joined the Florida’s Children First staff as the Florida Youth SHINE Statewide Coordinator in 2021. Maria’s professional and educational background coupled with her lived experience in the foster care system equips her with the tools, skills, and perspective to empower youth to become leaders and advocates around the State of Florida. Growing up, Maria spent seven years in the Florida Foster Care system and saw the injustices that youth experienced first-hand. Maria’s advocacy journey began when she joined Florida Youth SHINE as a teenager. Maria received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida International University. Prior to this role, Maria worked at the Guardian ad Litem Office and with youth experiencing homelessness at Vita Nova.

Kaya Lee

Florida Youth SHINE

Community Engagement Manager

Kaya brings a depth of experience to Florida Youth SHINE and the Florida’s Children First team. Her core goal is expanding the leadership opportunities and mentorship provided to our youth on a local level because she believes every youth is one connection away from obtaining the support needed to reach their full potential.

Kaya began as a volunteer as college and took her first position as a Family Support worker before graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University with her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She next became an Independent Living Counselor helping foster children master an array of life skills. Then Kaya took on the job of Quality Management Specialist with the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida. Kaya also took on the additional task of serving as a mentor with the Southwest Chapter of Florida Youth SHINE for five years. Having devoted her personal and professional time to helping youth prepare for their future, joining our team was a natural next step.

Lia Paul

Office Manager & Bookkeeper

Lia joined the Florida’s Children First (FCF) family in February 2014. In addition to managing the office, she also handles the bookkeeping, human resources, payroll and graphic design needs for the office.

Born in Chicago, she attended the University of Miami where she discovered her love for non-profit work and having the work she does count toward the greater good. Later, she attended the Art Institute Pittsburgh to further hone her skills. Lia has a natural ability to analyze and organize anything, simplifying processes, and saving our organization a great deal of time and resources.

She volunteers extensively for her church and has successfully homeschooled two of her three children to graduation.

Howard M. Talenfeld, Esq. – President

Fort Lauderdale

Howard Talenfeld is a leading children’s rights, injury, and child disability attorney representing the needs of abused and neglected children, especially in cases of foster child abuse, child sexual abuse, child rape, and other harm and abuse of children in the child welfare system. Since 2002, Howard has served as a founding board member and President of Florida’s Children First (FCF). As a Partner in the Fort Lauderdale office of Kelley Kronenberg, Howard serves as a Business Unit Leader of the Justice for Kids Division, the firm’s practice dedicated to providing legal services to individuals who are abused or disabled and injured children harmed at home, in child welfare and foster care settings, group home settings and residential treatment centers, as well as all children harmed by the acts of others.

In addition to his work with FCF, Howard has Chaired The Florida Bar Association’s Legal Needs of Children Committee for three terms. In 2002, he was on the steering committee that advocated for the creation of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County (CSC), and in 2014, he co-chaired the political action committee that successfully advocated for its permanent reauthorization. Among his many accomplishments, Howard has been honored by The Florida Bar and received the President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the 17th Judicial Circuit and The Florida Bar Foundation’s prestigious Medal of Honor Award for a Lawyer. Howard has also been named to Florida Trend magazine’s Florida 500 most influential citizens in Florida from 2018-2022.

A dual graduate of the University of Miami, Howard earned both his Bachelor of Arts degree and Juris Doctor degree from UM.

Laura Reich, Esq. – Vice President

Miami

Laura Reich is a commercial litigator and partner at Harper Meyer LLP. With a practice focusing on complex, commercial disputes and arbitration, Laura represents clients in state and federal courts, as well as before arbitration panels, at both the trial and appellate court levels. Her firm additionally specializes in the resolution of art law disputes. Laura has been involved with the work of FCF since 2005.

She was introduced to FCF by her law school mentor, Gloria W. Fletcher, who also served as FCF Vice President. Laura is passionate about pro bono work, particularly on behalf of dependent and disabled children in care, and hopes to encourage all Florida attorneys to take part. She is currently on the executive counsel of the International Law Section of the Florida Bar and is the immediate past editor-in-chief of the International Law Quarterly.

She also teaches as an adjunct professor/instructor at Florida International University School of Law and at Florida Atlantic University. Laura graduated from University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law, where she served as the galleys editor of the Florida Law Review and was a member of Florida Blue Key.

Gerald Reiss, CPA – Treasurer

Naples

Gerald Reiss (Jerry) is a retired CPA having practiced in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties for over 30 years. His areas of practice included general tax, business and financial consulting. He served professional practices including attorneys, physicians, engineers, architects, real estate developers and contractors. He is now a resident of Naples, Florida. Jerry earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a Master of Business Administration from Cornell University.

He became a Missouri CPA in December 1967 and a Florida CPA in June 1978. He was a recipient of the E.W. Sells Award for placing in the nation’s top 15 scores for the May 1966 CPA examination. From 1972 to 1976, he served as Director of Revenue for the State of Missouri. He has also been a tax columnist for the Sun-Sentinel and is a frequent speaker and writer on various topics.

Nathan Cook - Secretary

Orlando

As the former Chief of Staff in Tallahassee from 200-2010, Nathan has had a hand in crafting many of the many of the largest pieces of legislation in the early 2000s. He has a penchant for policies that solve community problems, with special expertise in environmental issues and economic development. Nathan’s exemplary 10 years in Tallahassee, serving in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, allowed him to serve residents and businesses in Central Florida and across the Great State of Florida.

After Politics, Nathan has worked in the business community serving a number of different companies as an executive with an expertise at growth and expansion. In 2011, Nathan Cook was recognized as one of Orlando’s 40 most influential business leaders under the age of 40 by the Orlando Business Journal. Nathan is currently Vice President of Commercial Sales at Edge to Edge Roofing Orlando, FL. Outside the office, Nathan, the Dad to three amazing kids, is involved in Little League, Foster Advocacy and Mentoring young people.

Theodore Babbitt, Esq.

West Palm Beach

A prominent West Palm Beach trial lawyer, Ted Babbitt has won more than lawsuits over the past four decades. He’s won accolades and esteem. He served as trial lawyer and co-counsel in the statewide foster care class action, Bonnie L. v. Bush, which challenges the poor systemic conditions in Florida’s child welfare system. Since 1973, Mr. Babbitt has been a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only group limited to just 100 of the top plaintiffs’ lawyers in the country. He’s written more than 100 articles that have appeared in national and local publications, given lectures for other attorneys, chaired nearly a dozen professional committees, and been listed – for more than 20 years — in The Best Lawyers in America. All the while, he has successfully tackled some of the toughest personal injury cases in the state of Florida – and obtained numerous high-profile, multimillion-dollar recoveries for his clients. Most lawyers with credentials like these tend to oversee cases, letting junior lawyers do the legwork. That’s not Mr. Babbitt’s style. Because he is selective about the cases he accepts, Mr. Babbitt is able to give each client the attention – and the resources – they deserve. It’s a formula that’s enabled him to win cases against long odds – and win the respect of his clients.

Dick J. Batchelor

Orlando

Dick J. Batchelor is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and president the Dick Batchelor Management Group Inc., an Orlando-based consulting firm that specializes in business development, strategic governmental affairs and public policy issues, A Vietnam War veteran, Batchelor served in the Marine Corps (1966-68), where he learned to work together for a common goal. It’s been his guiding principle, most notably during his tenure in the Florida House of Representatives (1974-82). After the Legislature, Batchelor continued to serve his community, especially on behalf of children.

In 2021, the city of Orlando honored Batchelor as a Visionary Community Leader for his lifelong commitment to civil rights, education reform, child advocacy and public health, noting that his impact and influence can be seen throughout the region. A savvy political analyst, Batchelor appears regularly in local media and is a frequent source for other journalists.

Matthew Blair

Tampa

Matthew Blair is the managing partner at Corcoran Partners, a full service lobbying firm, representing more than 110 clients before local, state and federal governments. Over the course of his career, Matthew has managed dozens of local, state and statewide candidate, issue and corporate communications campaigns.

Matthew got his start in politics as a campaign manager for a State Senate campaign, served four years as a legislative assistant to a Florida State Senator, served as political director for a successful statewide constitutional referendum campaign and served as the executive director for a statewide grassroots organization promoting Florida’s agriculture industry. Matthew attended the University of South Florida.

Debbie Dickinson, Esq.

Weston

Debbie Dickinson received her B.A. in Accounting (summa cum laude) from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Debbie has over 30 years of legal, corporate and entrepreneurial experience. She is the Co-Founder/CEO of Thermaband, Inc., a health tech startup in South Florida with an innovative tech-enabled solution for menopause symptom management to advance women’s health and wellness. Debbie is passionate about serving the underserved, especially as it relates to issues involving women, health care and educational disparities, and matters affecting abused and neglected children. She has served on the Executive Board of The Achievement Project which partnered with high schools in Chester, PA to work with disadvantaged high school students to successfully ensure preparation for and access to a college education. She also served as Fundraising Chair of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Drifters, Inc. which provides college scholarships annually to deserving high school seniors. She has also been very active with the Pennsylvania Tourette Syndrome Alliance, requesting and obtaining appropriations from the state legislature to allow PTSA to support children with Tourette Syndrome. Debbie has also served in various leadership capacities in Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and with both the Girls Scouts of the United States and the Boy Scouts of America, where she has mentored several scouts to attain Eagle Scout rank. Debbie is a member of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens where she is active in the women’s, justice and education ministries. She also serves on the Board of the Jamaican Women of Florida. As a foster and adoptive mother, Debbie is honored to serve on the Board of Florida’s Children First to advocate and advance the legal rights of at-risk children in the state of Florida.

Jesse H. Diner, Esq.

Fort Lauderdale

Jesse H. Diner is known as a “litigator’s litigator” for his deep knowledge of civil law and trial procedure. He focuses his practice on resolving commercial disputes. During a career that spans more than 49 years, Diner has advised and represented clients in a wide range of business matters, including real estate, probate, financial and other commercial disputes. Diner is currently a shareholder and practicing attorney with the firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Fort Lauderdale.

He is a past president of the Florida Bar and was a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors for 14 years. Diner has also served as President of the Broward County Bar Association and Legal Aid Service of Broward County. FCF recognized Diner as the 2010 Child Advocate of the Year at its annual Broward awards reception for his work regarding the legal needs of children and for believing that children in foster care have the right to legal representation.

Richard A. Filson, Esq.

Sarasota

Richard A. Filson is the founder and managing shareholder of the firm Filson & Penge, P.A., located in Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Filson received his B.B.A. from Stetson University in 1981 and his J.D. from the University of Florida in 1984. Mr. Filson is a member of The Florida Bar, as well as the Bars for the U.S. District Court for the Southern, Middle and Northern Districts of Florida. He has also been active in the Sarasota County Bar Association and is involved in The American Association for Justice and Florida Justice Association. In addition, Mr. Filson has also served on the Advisory Board of Florida’s Children First since 2007.

A personal injury attorney for over twenty-five years, Mr. Filson has been representing children who have been neglected, injured and abused while under the State’s care since 1994. In addition to his professional dedication to providing all foster children with the highest level of legal representation possible, he has also made a personal commitment to ensure that every child in foster care has a voice that is heard.

Michael Fischer

Palm Beach

Michael is the founder of the Laszlo Fischer Foundation, created to honor the legacy of his dad, Laszlo, who died in 2020 from Covid-19. Laszlo and Michael were not only father and son, but they were best friends. Through this foundation, Michael is keeping alive the memory of his father who believed in giving back to the community and helping those in need.

Michael has more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience and is the founder and president of 626, a rapidly growing company in the healthcare technology management market located in Delray Beach.

Justin D. Grosz, Esq.

Fort Lauderdale

Justin D. Grosz is a co-founder of Justice for Kids®, a division of Kelley Kronenberg PA, and a national practice focused exclusively on representing children who have been sexually abused, physically abused, neglected, or who have suffered catastrophic injury and/or death as a result of the negligent and intentional acts of others in all settings, including child welfare systems, foster care settings, group home settings, daycare facilities and residential treatment centers.

A veteran trial lawyer of more than 25 years, Justin has devoted his legal career to fighting for the less fortunate who have been victimized at the hands of others. He has achieved multi-million-dollar awards for clients, including at-risk children, in catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and other matters.
During Justin’s decade-long career as an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County, Florida, he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of violent career criminals; and supervised fellow prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of individuals charged with serious criminal offenses. After leaving public service, and prior to co-founding Justice for Kids®, Justin devoted time to the representation of police officers and police departments in civil rights cases; was appointed on several occasions to serve, and try cases, as a Special Prosecutor; and ran his own firm handling catastrophic personal injury cases for victims of all ages.

Over the course of his impressive career, Justin has tried in excess of 230 jury trials to verdict, fighting for those killed or catastrophically injured. He has helped recover millions of dollars and find justice for his clients.

Justin earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University. He then went on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law. A father of two daughters, Justin enjoys surfing, creating art, supporting the community, and spending time with his family.

Bruce Maxwell, Esq.

Jacksonville

Currently an attorney at Terrell Hogan, Bruce Maxwell started his career in Georgia. He has been active in the Jacksonville legal community and is a member of numerous associations and boards. Bruce is very active in the Jacksonville community, including Host Committee involvement and other participation with Florida’s Children First. He has been a Special Olympics sponsor for many years and has much experience with handicapped children, having raised a daughter with Cerebral Palsy. He frequently attends legal aid community events. He has handled several large pro bono cases over the years, obtaining successful results for his clients. He is also involved in the Jacksonville Bar Association on both the Judicial Relations and Professional committees. Bruce has been a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer licensed by the Coast Guard since 2003. He is able to assist injured workers within the maritime industry. He and his wife, Leigh, are animal lovers and enjoy training their two German Shepherds.

Todd R. McPharlin, Esq.

Fort Lauderdale

For the past 25 years, Trial Attorney, Todd R. McPharlin, has fought for the rights of everyday people who have been injured, catastrophically harmed, killed, assaulted, or discriminated against by private or governmental organizations including law enforcement. Todd began his professional career as an Assistant State Public Defender for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County, Florida. Todd is committed to advocating for the rights of all children, especially those in foster care. Todd was inspired to get involved after the passing of his sister, Tracey, who dedicated her career (and so much of her personal life) to representing kids in foster care and fighting for the rights of these needy and vulnerable kids. Todd graduated from Auburn University and Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad College of Law.

Jonathan V. Pierre, Esq.

Delray Beach

A Nationally Recognized Trial Lawyer, Jonathan V. Pierre is a Florida-based attorney who focuses his practice on personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, and civil rights.

Jonathan earned his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law with a concentration in Health Law. During law school, he was an editor of the Nova Law Review, a member of the NSU Trial Team, and Vice President of the Health Law Society. Prior to attending law school, Jonathan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Quantitative Analysis from Florida A&M University.

Following his passion for helping others, Jonathan began his legal career as a Civil Rights Attorney and joined a legal practice that focuses on representing children who have been abused, neglected, catastrophically injured, and sexually victimized while in the foster care system. Motivated to understand how insurance companies work, Jonathan joined a prominent civil defense firm with a focus on healthcare and personal injury litigation. After representing insurance companies and hospital systems, Jonathan decided to leave defense work and focus on representing individuals who have been injured due to the negligence of others.

Jonathan is passionate about fighting for the people with the most need. He remains very involved in the community, and he is inspired every day by his wife and two children. Jonathan makes time to mentor young adults and law students through his work with his alma mater.

Joshua Rydell, Esq.

Fort Lauderdale

Joshua Rydell is a career long criminal defense attorney and advocate who has also served on the Coconut Creek City Commission since 2015, currently as Mayor. During his tenure on the Commission, Rydell has been a part of award-winning budgets, community-policing efforts, smart development, and fighting for state-funded projects for the City. He has been a fierce advocate for children’s issues as well as both mental health and substance abuse issues in and around our County and Communities. In addition to his work on the Commission, he is the founding and principal attorney at the Law Offices of Joshua D. Rydell. Rydell holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and a Juris Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

Richard Slawson, Esq.

West Palm Beach

Richard Slawson has earned a reputation as one of Florida’s premier Insurance Bad Faith civil trial attorneys. He has been assisting victims of insurance abuse and personal injury for more than 40 years. Richard has obtained numerous multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements for his clients. Richard is a Past President of the Florida Justice Association (FJA) which has recognized him with all of its highest honors. The Palm Beach County Crime Prevention Officers Association has presented him with its Appreciation Award for Dedicated Services. Richard also serves as a long -standing member of the Advisory Board for Place of Hope, a state-licensed organization providing programs and services to children, youth, and families to end the cycles of abuse, neglect, homelessness, poverty, and human trafficking in our local communities.

Julie Silver Talenfeld

Plantation

Julie Talenfeld is the Founder and CEO of BoardroomPR, which she founded in 1989. Julie has extensive experience in social and digital media marketing and reputation management, having led assignments with major corporations, non-profits and family businesses in over 10 industries around the country for three decades. She’s seen as a staunch brand ambassador for her clients and a well-connected source of invaluable business introductions. She also has launched and operates three unique Facebook pages, delivering heightened coverage for clients in the legal and real estate industries and as the de facto “mayor” of Plantation, Fla, and Aspen, Co. Julie is an Ambassador for the Holocaust Museum of South Florida and remains a strong advocate for female founders across the state and nationwide. Julie currently splits her time between BoardroomPR’s South Florida and Aspen offices, where she is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute.

Jennifer Voss, Esq.

Tampa

Jennifer Voss is the managing partner of Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Tampa, office. Jen litigates complex, high-stakes matters for Fortune 500 companies, concentrating on product liability, tort, and commercial litigation. She has represented product manufacturers in a variety of fields and highly-regulated industries. Her work often involves coordinating defense strategy in multi-defendant cases, conducting all aspects of fact and expert discovery, preparing witnesses for trial and serving as trial counsel.

Jen has received the following recognitions: 2022 Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators, a CVN Top Defense Verdict of 2021, Florida Super Lawyers (2010-Present), Florida Legal Elite (2016-Present). Jen is a proud board member of Florida’s Children First. Jen is also passionate about diversity and inclusion and civil rights.

Jennifer graduated second in her class at the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law. While in law school, she served as the research editor of the Florida Law Review and was inducted into the Order of the Coif.

Edith Osman, Esq. – Director Emeritus

Miami

Edith Osman’s practice includes business litigation, matrimonial law, and mediation. She has significant experience representing clients in complex family law disputes. Edith is a trained collaborative professional who works with teams of neutral mental health and financial experts to resolve family law cases out of court. Edith is also a Florida Supreme Court certified civil mediator and a Florida Supreme Court certified family law mediator.

Edith Osman received her BA from the State University of New York, and her JD from the University of Miami School of Law. She has served as President of the Florida Bar from 1999 – 2000.

Bernard P. Perlmutter, Esq. – Director Emeritus

Miami

Bernard P. Perlmutter is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Children and Youth Law Clinic, which he established in 1996 where he trains and supervises law students who handle cases involving abused, abandoned and neglected children and adolescents in a variety of legal proceedings. He has litigated numerous federal and state court class action lawsuits seeking to reform Florida’s foster care system. He has submitted amicus curiae briefs in a number of cases of national significance.

Professor Perlmutter has published law review articles on the due process rights of foster children facing commitment to psychiatric facilities, the use of therapeutic jurisprudence in clinical legal education, and the constitutionality of shackling children in juvenile court. Professor Perlmutter was formerly a staff attorney at Legal Services of Greater Miami. Professor Perlmutter has a B.A. from Bennington College, did graduate work in English and Comparative Literature at Brandeis University, and received his J.D. cum laude from the UM School of Law.

Christina A. Zawisza, Esq. – Director Emeritus

Memphis, Tennessee

Chris Zawisza is a nationally recognized expert and practitioner in the field of children’s law. She was a founding board member of Florida’s Children First. She has represented children at all levels of the court system from administrative levels to the United States Supreme Court. Among her achievements are: litigation and settlement of a class action lawsuit, M.E.v. Bush, on behalf of 45,000 dependent and delinquent children in Florida to obtain necessary mental health treatment; representation of foster children in challenging the gay adoption ban in Florida in Lofton v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 157 F.Supp. 2d 1372 (S.D. Fla. 2001), 358 F.3d 804 (11th Cir. 2004), 543 U. S. 1081 (cert. denied 2005); drafting and advocacy to create a funded relative caregiver program in Florida; drafting of the Florida constitutional amendment providing universal pre-kindergarten education to four year olds; and representation of Amici Curiae before the Tennessee Supreme Court in In re A. M. H., 215 S.W. 3d 793 (Tenn. 2007), which resulted in a unanimous decision clarifying termination of parental rights requirements and the concept of substantial harm.

Gloria W. Fletcher, Esq

In Memoriam

Gloria Fletcher practiced in Gainesville Florida for over 25 years. Throughout her legal career, Gloria took a special interest in children’s issues. She served on the ABA Bar youth Empowerment Project, Florida Advisory Committee, Chaired the Alachua County Juvenile Justice Committee and the Florida Council on Crime & Delinquency.

Throughout her life Gloria had two main passions: her family and the welfare of children. She was devoted to her husband, proud of her own children, and a loving grandmother and great-grandmother. Her family was the center of her life. Second only to her family was her dedication to children’s advocacy, and she devoted seemingly endless time and energy to that cause.

Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

Skip to content