Monday, April 7, 2008

State Recognizes FAMU Law Students for Supporting Foster Care Project

Jim Kallinger, Florida’s Chief Child Advocate, visited Florida A&M University’s 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.

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