DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED CHILDREN LEGAL ADVOCACY PROJECT
Maria Perkins shares a quiet moment with her son Mark Morrison.
Even with an attorney by her side, Maria Perkins was gripped by fear as she stood before the judge. Although she had made every decision for her son Mark Morrison since he was born with Down syndrome, suddenly she had to petition a Seminole County judge for guardian advocacy of her developmentally disabled son. That’s because the day he turned 18, he was considered an adult, according to Florida law. A natural parent [of an adult] does not have the legal rights to make decisions. Perkins had to become his court-approved guardian to continue to make choices for her son’s welfare — like making medical, education and social decisions on his behalf. “I was terrified,” Perkins said.
We provide free legal assistance to indigent parents to establish guardian advocacies for their children with disabilities such as intellectual disabilities, downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida, and Prader-Willi Syndrome.
We also helped develop a comprehensive guide with the necessary pro se forms to assist local families to apply for guardian advocacies and also includes the forms for the Initial Plan and Annual Plans for the Guardian Advocate, which outlines the medical and social needs of the developmentally disabled person. The guide and forms can be found on the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court website.
SERIOUSLY ILL CHILDREN
A child’s serious illness is among the most wrenching crises parents ever face. And at the same time they cope with their family’s fears and suffering, they must also struggle with the financial and legal burdens that often result from their child’s illness.
Hiring an attorney can be financially challenging for many families in need of legal services. “Attorneys Fighting for Seriously Ill Children” confront this barrier by providing pro bono or a private attorney so that families may focus on what is most important—the health of their child.
The Challenge – Less than 50% of Foster Youths graduate from High School
Foster youth are often denied access to adequate educational support and expert attention that meet their unique needs within their academic environment. The damaging effects of growing up in foster care without those needs met are staggering. Less than 50 percent of foster youth graduate high school. Less than 3 percent benefit from a college education. Instead, over half become homeless, incarcerated, or unemployed after exiting foster care.
Solution – The Endless Dream for Foster Youth Project & Creation of First Education-Legal Partnership in Central Florida
Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society, the Legal Aid Society of Orange County Bar Association and Community Initiatives have formed the Endless Dream Project and the first Education-Legal Partnership (“ELP”) in Central Florida. This partnership is an innovative approach to ensuring that foster youth graduate from high school and move on to higher education. The ELP partners join together to provide long-term, comprehensive education and legal advocacy. Through the ELP, the attorneys figure out what the youth need by reviewing all of their education records and step in to get the youth the quality education they deserve. The attorneys work with the youth, their education rights holders, and their caregivers to access recommended general and special education supports. Their efforts are supplemented by the First Star’s team of life skills trainers, educators, counselors, and mentors to provide the youth with the ability to strengthen their academic achievements.
This three year pilot project includes 15 foster youths, who are commencing the 10th grade, and enrolled at First Star Academy. These youths meet monthly during the year to engage in enrichment and team building activities. The academic year culminates in a four-week summer residential program, hosted on the campus of University of Central Florida (UCF). The students live in on-campus residence halls and attend engaging workshops, participate in daily academic tutoring, are exposed to exciting college coursework through specialized elective workshops, and travel for field trips, visit cultural destinations and social activities.
Our goal is for the youth to realize their endless dreams by achieving academic success for a bright and prosperous future. We received a three year grant from the Heart of Florida United Way to help support this pilot project. If you wish to provide support for this effort or make a contribution to this special endeavor, please contact our coordinator, Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org We welcome your help.
Our passion for assisting veterans is best represented by President John F. Kennedy when he said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Our mission is to apply this call to action through our Veterans Program.
Our recent partnership with the Casselberry Public Library provides a location where every veteran can get answers to all family and housing legal questions. Experienced attorneys will provide the veterans with a free legal consultation the second Thursday of each month from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. We serve the veterans on a first come first serve basis.