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Law Students Propose Child Custody Bill to Chief Child Advocate

December 14, 2010

Orlando, Fla
. – Three Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law students are working with Jim Kallinger, Florida’s Chief Child Advocate, to compose a proposed bill that, if it were to become law, would require parents of children in state custody to pay child support to the State of Florida.

Kallinger, who is the director of the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection, has received a draft of the proposed legislation prepared by third-year law students Heather Barry, Keith Boykins and Julian Jackson-Fannin.  The law students are legal interns with the FAMU Legal Clinic Program, and are supervised by adjunct professor Linda Rohrbaugh, clinic law instructor Eunice Caussade-Garcia, and clinic director and assistant professor Ann Marie Cavazos.

“The Governor’s Office has had a long-standing partnership with the FAMU College of Law and with the assistance of their professors and outstanding students, we are able to explore the efficacy of good public policy that would improve the well-being of Florida’s children,” said Kallinger.

The intent language in the bill states that the purpose is to defray some of the costs the State of Florida and taxpayers incur with the care and education of children in the foster care system.  The proposal supports the state’s increased emphasis on adoption and child abuse prevention.

Kallinger's office was created in 2007 to establish a comprehensive statewide approach to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, the promotion of adoption, and the support of adoptive families. Introducing such legislation is directly in line with the goals of the Governor’s Office and the mission of the FAMU College of Law to serve the underserved.

“Through this proposal, our law students have once again demonstrated the real-world value of blending classroom theory with practical experience in our legal clinic program,” said LeRoy Pernell, dean of the FAMU College of Law.

Once a final draft of the proposed bill is agreed upon and a legislative sponsor is identified, Florida would be the first state to enact this type of legislation requiring financial support from the parents to the state in dependency cases, if it were to become law.

“The state is undertaking a burden of being the surrogate parent when a child is placed in foster care,” said Cavazos.  “The objective is for children to be raised by their parents. However, when this responsibility is abdicated to the state, then parents should contribute to the expense of raising the child in order to prevent a pervasive incentive.”

The FAMU College of Law's Legal Clinic Program offers third-year law students an opportunity to serve traditionally underrepresented clients under the supervision of faculty, the bench and the bar.  The clinical program offers a variety of in-house clinics and externships that allow students the opportunity to explore various career potentials and handle problems that arise from poverty, inequality, and other social ills.

“The opportunity to develop law students' education, creativity, and legislative advocacy skills while achieving a societal benefit demonstrates the unique capabilities of clinical education,” Cavazos said.  “Therefore, in order to meet the demands of the marketplace, it is imperative that our students are afforded every opportunity to develop practical skills through “hands-on” training under the supervision of faculty who are licensed practitioners.”

Kallinger has previously worked with the FAMU College of Law Clinic students.  In 2008, three College of Law students were recognized by Kallinger for their assistance in helping the state to implement reforms and ratify the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children.

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The FAMU College of Law was founded in 1949 on the main campus in Tallahassee.  After graduating 57 lawyers, the law school was closed by the state of Florida in 1968. The Florida Legislature voted to reopen the law school in 2000 and Orlando was selected as the location. The re-established FAMU College of Law opened its doors in 2002 and is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood.  The FAMU College of Law received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in July 2009, and is ranked number one in the nation for Diversity by U.S. News & World Report.
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