The Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) is holding its annual Lobby Days in Tallahassee this week. Members are hearing from policymakers and visiting lawmakers, and they’re looking to expand their good works.
On Monday, FAWL members heard from Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, and Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.
They also got briefed on the bills they're backing from subject-matter experts like Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. He went over House Bill 421, which expedites the process of finding permanent homes for abused and neglected children. He said lawmakers want to know why children are spending so long in foster care.
"There's good reason sometimes," he said. "I mean, every case is so unique, you can't generalize. But children really shouldn't languish in foster care. A year is a long time in the life of a child. We've accepted that."
FAWL member Thomasina Moore, Guardian ad Litem's Director of Appeals, explained the upcoming partnership between the two groups that will involve attorneys volunteering one hour per month to advise youths who are close to aging out of foster care, "just to be able to talk to them, answer their questions – maybe life questions, maybe legal questions," Moore told her colleagues. "(It’s) a real mentoring initiative, and we're even going to structure it so that you can treat them like a client, and we will transport them to your office if you'd like to schedule an appointment that meets your schedule. We'll bring them there to you."
The mentoring partnership kicks off next month.
Meanwhile, House Bill 421 has cleared one committee and faces two more. Its Senate companion, SB 262, has cleared three committees and is poised for a floor hearing.