On Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Florida’s Children First hosted an event at the Law Offices of Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP to celebrate and honor this year’s recipients of Tampa Bay Area Advocacy Awards. The persons being honored make a valiant effort to speak and assist children and youth who don’t have a voice. Throughout the year, numerous laws are fought, homes are given, food is provided by these heroes for those less fortunate. Florida’s Children First is a nonprofit organization that fights tooth and nail to advance the rights of at-risk children. The persons across Florida started this organization with the mission to seek full representation of children and youth and obtain meaningful and sustainable improvement in Florida’s child serving systems.
The recipient of the Pro Bono Counsel of the Year is Elizabeth Hapner. For over 25 years, she has represented less fortunate children in Hillsborough County. After being a pro bono attorney for the Guardian ad Litem Program, she became an Attorney Ad Litem in the Delinquency Division for those who are unaccompanied by their parent/guardian at court.
The Markkowski Family received the Foster and Adoptive Family of the Year Award. This small family, Mom, Dad, and their young daughter, Penny, adopted “Q” into their family as a teenager. Often times, youth give up on being placed for adoption after they reach a certain age because majority of people adopt babies, but not the Markowski Family! From the moment they began bringing Q home for weekend visits, they said he completed their house with so much love, laughter and joy. The loving Markowski Family is an excellent example of what many foster care centers dream children will find, and #TeamElevate is so happy for Q and his forever family!
The Youth Advocate of the Year Award was given to Miranda Phillips. At the age of 12, Miranda entered foster care. After being separated from her brother and never adopted into a forever family, she would run away to seek normalcy. Years later, Miranda decided to channel her energy into fighting for the rights of other children and youth so they aren’t separated from their siblings. She has testified countless times in Tallahassee, and spreads her story in hopes of keeping siblings together. Miranda passionately works towards getting the law passed, and serves as Florida Youth SHINE’s Statewide Membership Chair.
From 2002 until now, Florida’s Children First has accomplished many milestones, and continues to impact our neighborhoods. Congratulations to all of the 2015 awards recipients, and from us at #TeamElevate, thank you!
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