As managing partner of Talenfeld Law and founding president of Florida’s Children First, Howard Talenfeld is being honored with the Medal of Honor Award for a Lawyer for his legislative efforts that significantly improved services for dependent children with special needs and foster children, for his advocacy that led to an improved child welfare system, his leadership of one of Florida’s premier children’s advocacy organizations, and his almost 40 years representing at-risk children and adults.
“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.
“No lawyer in Florida has been such a consistent force for change in child welfare and a voice for the voiceless as Howard,” wrote Robert Bertisch, executive director of Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, in a letter of recommendation for Talenfeld. “His impact on Florida’s children is felt far beyond the borders of Broward County.”
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.
He 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.
The Medal of Honor Award is presented each year to a member of The Florida Bar who has demonstrated his or her dedication to the objectives of The Florida Bar as set out in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar “to inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the science of jurisprudence.”