In short, the session was a good one for guardians ad litem in Florida and the children that they represent.
You can read his entire message which is presented below.
Summary of 2013 Legislative Session: Good News for GAL Program
by Alan Abramowitz
Monday, May 6, 2013
- The 2013 legislative session has concluded
- GAL program receives increase in funding
- Significant legislation passed impacting our children
The 2013 legislative session finished last week. It was a great year for children who come in contact with the foster care system. In addition to receiving a significant increase in funding, the Guardian ad Litem Program supported the legislature in passing two important pieces of legislation directly impacting the children and young adults for whom we advocate in court.
The Guardian ad Litem Program received an additional $3.8 million dollars in funding for Fiscal Year 2013–2014. We have a strong commitment from the House and Senate leadership to increase representation of children in foster care and ensure that in the coming years, every child will have a voice through a GAL child advocate.
The first piece of substantive legislation is the "Let Kids Be Kids" bill or the "Normalcy Law." Special thanks to Senator Nancy Detert and Representative Ben Albritton who sponsored this bill. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford also actively supported this legislation as it received a unanimous vote on the House and Senate floor.
No longer will caregivers have to break the rules to allow kids to participate in normal activities. Decisions for children and youth in foster care will now be based on what is best for the child, not on providers' risk management decisions. In effect, the laws involving what children can do in foster care will be codified in statute in a manner consistent with our values. This law goes into effect July 1, 2013.
The other major piece of legislation extends foster care to age twenty-one and redesigns the independent living program. This bill is called the "Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act." Senator Detert (who years before had sponsored the "Road to Independence" law) and Representative Keith Perry both sponsored this important bill. Youth who decide to continue in their placement beyond age eighteen can and will have the support of their caregiver. No longer will a youth be required to pack their items and find somewhere else to live, on their eighteenth birthday, even if they are still in high school. Youth in post-secondary school can still take advantage of the "Road to Independence" if they choose. This law becomes effective January 1, 2014.
I will be visiting each Circuit over the next few months to talk about this legislation, thank you for the great work you do each and every day and discuss our goals for the coming fiscal year which begins July 1. My conversations with staff and volunteers, along with the many stories I hear about the children you advocate for, are clearly the driving force for me in leading the GAL Program. Your advocacy is strong and I am aware that our success this year is due to the work each of you do for children. We have the greatest team of advocates of any organization and I truly believe by the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Guardian ad Litem Program in 2015, we can have a GAL for every child in foster care.
Keep up the great work and thank for your dedication, commitment and advocacy.