Thursday, April 30, 2009

CORAL SPRINGS CHAMPIONS FOR KIDS

Coral Springs, FL. Suburbia. Known for, hmmm... They have a way cool Chik-Fil-A, right? But seriously, it's Florida's epicenter of child advocacy.

Consider Rep. Ari Porth. During a legislative session void of any discernible champion, Porth stood out. He asked two young people tied to Broward’s dependency system to serve in the messenger and page program. One of them, Ernst, is 17 years old and transitioning from foster care to independent living. The other, “Shaq,” 14, is a poster child for kinship care – he and his siblings are being raised by their Grandparents. Thanks to Ari, their experiences were notable not just for their service, but also for the attention that he gave them during their week in Tallahassee.

He even helped Ernst meet Alonzo Mourning, who was in Tallahassee advocating for a proposed kidney transplant bill. When Mourning, who himself grew up in foster care, was told of Ernst’s situation, he asked to be re-introduced to Ernst and they eventually connected again in the Governor’s office. He greeted Ernst and said, “I hear we have something in common, we both grew up in the system.” They talked for a while about their respective situations and related on a level that few people can.

And then there's Andrea Moore, the Executive Director of Coral Springs-based Florida's Children First. She's my friend, hero, mentor, confidant. OK, you get the idea. Sadly, at least for the kids, she's decided to leave her position this summer.

Her accomplishments? To say they are legion is an understatement. When she assumed the reigns of FCF four years ago, Florida's child advocates and the Department of Children and Families got along like Arlen Specter at a GOP Caucus meeting. Today, thanks to Andrea's hard work, they now partner on behalf of Florida's children. FCF is now Florida's leading voice for children and she's trained scores of young advocates to serve as articulate voices on behalf of their sisters and brothers in foster care. And that, by any measure, is the greatest legacy of all.

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