President’s Message – Children’s Campaign 2014

John Patterson

John Patterson

The support of Bar members through The Florida Bar fee statement and direct donations has become a vital source of funding for The Florida Bar Foundation’s Children’s Legal Services grants, representing 30 percent of total funding in 2014.

These grants fund local and statewide Children’s Legal Services projects that protect the legal rights of foster children and children with special-education, mental-health and medical needs.
We know that Florida’s poverty population has increased by over a million people since 2000 to a total of 3.8 million, and that the impact of poverty on children is profound.

Poverty has a particularly adverse effect on the academic outcomes of children according to the American Psychological Association. Chronic stress, unsafe neighborhoods and hunger can affect young children’s memory and concentration in school. This is compounded when underresourced schools struggle to meet students’ learning needs and aid them in reaching their potential. Children living in poverty are also at greater risk of behavioral and emotional problems, as well as physical health problems from low birth weight to asthma.

Legal representation can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of children in low-income households, as well as foster children.

Young children cannot fully understand the legal process or their rights, and youth who are aging out of the system often need legal assistance making the transition to independence and securing the public benefits that provide a housing stipend and tuition assistance for former foster youth. Legal aid can be a critical factor in ensuring that foster youth become successful adults, just as it can be a lifeline for children with mental, behavioral or physical health problems or learning challenges. The involvement of specialized children’s attorneys helps ensure children with disabilities receive early intervention and special education services that will enable them to succeed in school and can access medical and mental health services that are critical to their well-being and development.

Every dollar you contribute to Children’s Legal Services goes to community and statewide legal aid projects that provide legal representation and advocacy for children. No administrative costs are deducted, and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permissible by law. The suggested donation is $100, but gifts of any amount are welcome.

We are grateful to Florida Bar members and others who have made a financial commitment to helping meet the legal needs of low-income and foster children, and we humbly ask for your continued support.

John Patterson
President, 2013-14