Fellowship project offers legal help for foster children with medical needs

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Toni-PollardFlorida foster kids have a new ally in overcoming barriers to health care thanks to a project sponsored jointly by the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP, The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation.

Antoinette “Toni” Pollard is pursing the project, which began in September, as a 2015-17 Equal Justice Works Fellow in the West Palm Beach office of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, which is also helping cover her fellowship expenses.

Pollard’s Children’s Healthcare Advocacy Project will provide direct representation for foster children with unmet medical needs and will develop channels for resolving systemic issues involving multiple government agencies and contractors.

Medicaid is the state agency responsible for providing health-care coverage for Florida’s 67,500 children in foster care.

“Existing community and state agencies should be addressing the issues regarding foster children’s access to Medicaid, but they lack the legal knowledge and health-care expertise to bring about resolution,” Pollard said.

“I will partner with other legal providers in the community by making my project available as a resource to assist in resolving Medicaid coverage issues for children, offering to co-counsel where appropriate and providing education and training to assist in resolving issues going forward.”

The Greenberg Traurig Holly Skolnick Fellowship Foundation is providing half of the $112,000 cost of Pollard’s fellowship, with The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation together providing the other half under the auspices of Equal Justice Works, a national nonprofit organization that creates fellowship opportunities for more than 60 young lawyers each year to positively impact vulnerable communities around the country.

Pollard is working under the supervision of attorney Jim Walsh, who has 24 years of experience in child welfare law and 14 years of experience managing attorneys. Walsh manages the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County’s Foster Children’s Project. The Foster Children’s Project encompasses a 20-staff-member law office dedicated solely to the representation of young children in foster care.

Pollard is a May 2015 graduate, cum laude, of the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center and recently passed the Florida Bar exam. She holds a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, in psychology from the University of Florida. For the past four and a half years, she has served as a volunteer mentor and teacher at The Milagro Center in Delray Beach, which provides basic skills education to underprivileged children.

Greenberg Traurig is the top supporter of Equal Justice Works Fellowships, investing $8 million to support more than 130 Equal Justice Works Fellows since 1999. The Florida Bar Foundation has provided support for 70 Florida Equal Justice Works Fellows during that same time period.