In December 2023, The Florida Bar Foundation changed its name to FFLA. Posts prior to this date contain our former name.
The Paul C. Doyle Children’s Advocacy Award was presented during the Foundation’s 2023 Annual Award Ceremony and Breakfast on June 22 in Boca Raton.
The award, given biannually, recognizes grantees or philanthropic organizations that have protected, expanded or brought about positive change to a substantial number of low-income children securing their fundamental rights. Paul C. Doyle was the founding director of the Foundation’s legal assistance for the poor and law student assistance grant programs.
This year’s winning project was Seminole County Bar Association Legal Aid Society’s Foster Youth Disability Advocacy Project.
The project ensures that foster youth with developmental disabilities receive the government benefits to which they are entitled. Medicaid home and community based services benefits require a detailed application process. When applicants are denied, there is a complicated appellate process before the benefits can be awarded.
The project’s attorneys represent foster youth clients at every stage of the benefits application process, from assembling application packets with medical, legal and educational records to establishing a youth’s eligibility and submitting to the state.
If the foster youth applicant is denied, project attorneys represent the foster youth at administrative hearings.
One of the project’s staff attorneys represented a client, “D.B.”, in a procedural hearing that was a new and innovative way to advocate. The court agreed that D.B.’s fair hearing was legally flawed and remanded the case back for new proceedings.
Without the tenacious and creative advocacy of the attorney, the original denial of the application would have been the last stop. The case has already had a state-wide impact and set legal precedent for future disability applicants.
The first runner-up for the 2023 Doyle Award was Florida Health Justice Project. Their Medicaid Aging Out Project successfully challenged an unadopted rule that narrowed the pool of medically fragile children eligible for automatic enrollment into a Medicaid waiver program.
Medically fragile children rely on Medicaid for an array of life-sustaining care, including home health, pediatric therapy, and medical supplies. But when a child turns 21, they are no longer protected by the coverage standard, and the most vulnerable children can face life threatening gaps in coverage.
Without automatic enrollment, these children were forced onto a waitlist of 55,000 people. One of those children was Vivian, who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car accident when she was 16 and needed 24-hour care.
Florida Health Justice Project’s work resulted in the rule being amended and corrective action was undertaken to implement the change, allowing children like Vivian to be automatically enrolled after aging out.
The second runner-up was Americans for Immigrant Justice, whose Lucha Program protects survivors of violence and their children by helping them achieve full residency, reunification with family members, and the opportunity to integrate and contribute to the community in which they live.