Howard Talenfeld, managing partner of Talenfeld Law and founding president of Florida’s Children First, received The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2018 Medal of Honor Award for a Lawyer at the Foundation’s annual reception and dinner June 14 in Orlando.
Talenfeld’s legislative efforts have significantly improved services for dependent children with special needs and foster children, and his advocacy has led to an improved child welfare system. He has represented at-risk children and adults for almost 40 years.
“Howard has been a trailblazer and a leader in protecting the rights of children and other at-risk populations through litigation and client representation,” wrote Anthony Karrat, executive director of Legal Aid Service of Broward County, in his nomination of Talenfeld. “Howard’s career of advocacy, both nationally and locally and in and out of court, exemplifies the philosophy, dedication and commitment to helping others that we should all strive to achieve.”
After Talenfeld was the lead counsel in a Broward County foster care class action in 1998, the district nearly tripled its child welfare budget with the settlement that was reached. For almost 20 years after the settlement, Talenfeld continued to work with state and local agencies to implement the terms and improve the delivery of services to dependent children.
Talenfeld helped pass several pieces of legislation to protect dependent and foster children, most significantly a recent statute that provides legal representation to dependent children with special needs.
In 2002, Talenfeld established Florida’s Children First, uniting advocates for children across the state. In 2011, he developed the Tracey McPharlin Dependency Pro Bono Project to recruit and train attorneys to provide pro bono representation of at-risk dependent children.
Dudley Goodlette, a director of Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, presented the award to Talenfeld.
“Through his pioneering leadership as founder of Florida’s Children First, his indefatigable work to protect the legal rights of children and adults with disabilities, and his zealous advocacy that led to an improved child welfare system, Howard has been a champion of Florida’s most vulnerable children and adults,” said Goodlette. “He is a formidable legal talent who compelled government agencies to reform welfare and developmental disabilities standards of care, and he is a progressive advocate for children with special needs and foster children.”
Talenfeld was a member of The Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee for more than 10 years, serving as its chair in 2009 – 2010. He is also a recipient of the President’s Pro Bono Service Award for the 17th Judicial Circuit.