Florida’s Children First Event Highlights At-Risk Kids – and Their Staunchest Advocates

Florida’s at-risk kids are abused, neglected, shuttled from one foster home to another – and easily one of the most vulnerable and overlooked groups in Florida.

Yet, for more than decade, one organization – and hundreds of supporters statewide – makes it their mission to see that Florida’s foster children and at-risk youth get the legal representation they need to best navigate the Florida Dependency Court system.

Florida’s Children First was founded in 2002 as a statewide legal advocacy organization focused on protecting the legal rights of at-risk and foster care children. Since that time, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and trained more than 10,000 professionals, including over 400 attorneys who now volunteer to take cases on behalf of children across Florida.

Each year, the organization holds the Florida’s Children First Broward Awards Reception and fundraiser, honoring dedicated advocates and supporters. It also recognizes members of the Broward Chapter of Florida Youth SHINE (FYS), a youth advocacy organization for children in and aging out of Florida’s foster care system. This year’s event will be held on February 28 at The Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale.

“Our mission is clear: Every child in the system needs an advocate trained and willing to see that the child’s legal needs are well represented,” said Howard M. Talenfeld, founder and president of Florida’s Children First and a children’s rights attorney at the law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb, P.A. “Dependency Court can be an intimidating and scary place for at-risk children – whose lives can be frightening enough already. FCF helps ensure these kids have someone on their side.”

Last year, the 10th Anniversary Awards Reception attracted 250 elected officials, judges and community and business leaders, who donated a collective $100,000 to FCF. It honored Broward County Bar Presidents and area child activists. It acknowledged advocates who work on The Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Project, a collaborative effort of the Broward County Bar Association, Legal Aid Service of Broward County Inc., named for the long-time child advocate attorney who passed away in 2010.

Though the event happens annually, the advocacy work performed by Florida’s Children First is a year-round endeavor, said FCF Executive Director Christina Spudeas. Through its partner organizations and attorneys committed to helping kids, FCF has given a voice to at-risk children and had a remarkable impact on the lives of children statewide, she said.

“We showcase the change that dedicated advocates and trained attorneys can have on Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” she said. “It’s a role and legacy we all can be very proud of.”

Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb, P.A.  will serve as the statewide sponsor for the 2013 Broward event. The event sponsors for last year also included Eckerd Family Foundation; Patriot National Insurance Group; Broward County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section; Wells Fargo; Lifestyle Publications; Daily Business Review; Boardroom Communications; G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc.; and Guardian Trust; among others. To learn more about Florida’s Children First, please visit www.FloridasChildrenFirst.org.

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