|Jim Kallinger, Florida’s Chief Child Advocate, visited Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law to recognize law students who are helping his office implement reforms in the state’s foster care system. Pictured (from left) are Javier Soto, third-year law student; R. Jeremy Hill, third-year law student; Emmanuel Tormes, Special Assistant to the Governor; LeRoy Pernell, FAMU College of Law Dean; Jim Kallinger; Alexis Carter, second-year law student; Ann Marie Cavazos, FAMU College of Law Director of Legal Clinics; Kelly Puckett, third-year law student; and Laura Klossner, third-year law student.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Jim Kallinger, Florida’s Chief Child Advocate, visited Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Law to recognize law students who are helping his office implement reforms in the state’s foster care system.
Kallinger, who heads the Office of Adoption and Child Protection within the Executive Office of the Governor, acknowledged the law students’ work to complete a list of more than 20 high-priority tasks aimed at increasing the efficiency, accountability and effectiveness of Florida’s foster care program. The FAMU College of Law is the only law school in the state assisting the state task force with the effort to improve child protection legislation and regulation.
“Students at the FAMU law school have been important partners in our effort to give every child in Florida the opportunity to live in a loving, safe and permanent home,” said Kallinger, a former state representative for the Winter Park area. “Their projects will continue to improve our strategies for increasing adoptions in Florida.”
Law school Dean LeRoy Pernell and Clinic Director and Assistant Law Professor Ann Marie Cavazos thanked Kallinger for extending to FAMU College of Law students the opportunity to gain practical experience while serving the community.
“Working with children is an area with which I’ve had an ongoing special interest,” Pernell said. “We want to make the law school and its resources available to help with more of these types of endeavors.”
Gov. Charlie Crist made adoption and child abuse prevention one of his top priorities when he was elected in 2006. The Office of Adoption and Child Protection was created in 2007 to establish a comprehensive statewide approach to the promotion of adoption, support of adoptive families, and the prevention of child abuse, abandonment and neglect. The office is charged with working alongside child welfare agencies, community-based organizations and other agencies to achieve the Governor’s goals.
In support of the office’s initiatives, third-year law student Jeremy Hill has proposed that a disclaimer be added to monthly checks issued by the Department of Children and Families to adoptive families, warning that recipients are committing welfare fraud if they cash the checks and are no longer taking care of that child. Hill, who spearheaded the College of Law’s participation in the task force, also is compiling a report on a new law that regulates responsibilities and obligations of states when a foster care child is placed across state lines.
Kelly Puckett, a third-year law student, is working to propose a bill that would provide a tax break to employers with adoption-friendly environments. Laura Klossner, a third-year student, is seeking to render tax-exempt the one-time $10,000 gift from the state of Florida to state employees. Currently, the gift is taxable as income.
Other students initially supporting the project include Alexis Carter (second year); Phil Putnam (third year); Javier Soto (third year); and Fred Wallace (third year). As the list of priorities expands, more law students will assist with the task force activities.
“We’re really excited about the impact that our law students are likely to make in the state of Florida,” said Professor Cavazos. “They have a chance to truly help protect Florida’s children.”
The law students are working under the tutelage of law professors. Visiting professor Eunice Caussade-Garcia and area attorneys within the legal clinic provide law students with hands-on experience in the legal profession as they provide legal services to indigent clients. The students’ activities are part of a broader effort to develop a clinic that will focus specifically on legal issues affecting children and families. Students now have the option to gain practical experience in the housing, homelessness and legal advocacy, community economic development, mediation and Guardian Ad Litem clinics as well as in the externships for governmental agencies and judges.
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 reestablished FAMU College of Law opened its doors in 2002 and is now housed in a state-of-the-art facility at 201 Beggs Avenue in downtown Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood.
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