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Florida Adoption Council Presentation
Michael Shorstein, Esquire
Shorstein & Kelly
FLORIDA ADOPTION COUNCIL
building families together....
FLORIDA ADOPTION COUNCIL PRESENTATION
Michael Shorstein, Esquire
The Florida Adoption Council (FAC) held its annual conference on October 28 – 29, 2010 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Over 130 adoption professionals attended the two-day conference.
The Florida Adoption Council is an association of adoption professionals, including attorneys, agencies and social workers, dedicated to the furtherance and improvement of the adoption practices within the state of Florida. Its mission is to provide the general public and other adoption professionals throughout the state of Florida with timely, relevant information pertinent to the adoption process.
FAC currently lists approximately 100 members, 60 of which are attorneys.
Michael Shorstein, chair of the Adoption Law Certification Committee addressed the conference regarding the status of Board Certification. He indicated that there was a great pool of applicants who submitted applications for this inaugural year of adoption law board certification. Key dates for the inaugural class include:
- January, 2011 – Applicants will be notified as to their eligibility to sit for the certification examination;
- March 10, 2011 – Adoption Law Certification Exam
- May 20, 2011 – Examinees Notified of Exam Results
- June 1, 2011 – Applicants and Committee Members Are Certified
Explaining the benefits of board certification, he highlighted the following advantages:
- Only board certified attorneys are allowed to identify themselves as a “specialist" or “expert";
- Only board certified attorneys are permitted to use the designation "BCS" (Board Certified Specialist) as a way to distinguish themselves in correspondence, publications, and court pleadings;
- Marketing benefits – adoption attorneys rely heavily on print advertisements and Internet… Informal studies have shown that between 2 otherwise equal advertisements, consumers will virtually always choose the board-certified attorney;
- Only 7% of the 60,000+ Florida Bar members are BCS.
After summarizing the requirements for board certification in adoption law , Mr. Shorstein announced that applications for the next class of applicants would be due August 31, 2011. He then addressed the following issues during a question and answer period:
Examination Review Course – Other certification areas that have been in existence for a period of years may offer an examination review course to assist applicants prepare for the certification examination. The course also provides assistance for those who are thinking about taking the exam in the future. Such review courses are developed and conducted without any involvement or endorsements by The Florida Bar and/or Certification committees. Board Certified Attorneys who are not serving on the Certification committee typically conduct the review course within the specialty area. Because the Certification committee prepares and grades the examination, such committee members have no contact with any individuals involved in the review course.
After this inaugural year, it is a goal of the Adoption Law Certification Committee to ensure that an examination review course is offered.
Confidential Statements of Reference (Peer Review) – There were several questions pertaining to the peer review process. It was explained that each applicant is required to list 6 lawyers and 2 judges as references; 3 of the listed lawyers must be substantially involved in adoption law. Additionally, the Certification committee policies provide that the committee or its staff shall select a minimum of 2 secondary references. The secondary references may be "blind" and shall be selected either from the applicant’s application, from the additional names submitted by other references, or any other individuals who possess knowledge about the applicant.
It was explained that the following rules apply to the confidential peer review process and the Confidential Statements of Reference (CSR) which are sent to references to elicit information about an applicant:
- The peer review process and the CSR's are never discussed with an applicant or anyone outside the committee or the BLSE, if appealed.
- It is never disclosed to whom the CSR's have been mailed or not mailed, or from whom the CSR's have been received or not received;
- It is never disclosed the number of CSR's mailed or received;
- The applicant signs a release which confirms his or her understanding that the "peer review process is unable to serve its purpose unless the individuals from whom confidentiality is requested are guaranteed confidentiality";
- The applicant expressly waives all rights to request any information obtained through the peer review process at any stage of the certification process, including appeals.
To summarize, if someone receives a CSR for an applicant, it does not mean that the applicant listed such person as a reference; such person may have been chosen by the committee to receive the CSR. The applicant has no knowledge as to whom the committee selects to receive a CSR.
The CSR's are absolutely, completely confidential. The applicant will never have access to any response provided on the Confidential Statement of Reference – it never leaves the committee and no committee member discusses it outside of committee. These forms are never copied or disseminated. It is critical that each person who receives such form complete it in a honest, forthright manner.
1 -minimum period of practice – 5 years with 50% practice in adoption law;
minimum number of cases – 50 adoption placements or 15 contested proceedings during past 5 years; peer review process; CLE – 30 adoption credit hours during past 3 years; pass examination.
Why Should Work with A Florida Bar Board Certified Adoption Attorney?
Adoption Law Board Certification is the first legal specialty of its kind in the nation. Board Certification evaluates an attorney’s special knowledge, skills and proficiency in a particular area of law as well as professionalism and ethics in practice. Certification of adoption attorneys will allow the public to differentiate those lawyers who are proficient in the area of adoption law from those attorneys who may not understand the unique complexities of the Florida Adoption Act.
Our state is among the top pro-adoption states in the country. As such, licensed and unlicensed agencies, facilitators, and other adoption professionals inundate Florida consumers with adoption solicitations. Many of these offers violate Florida law and our citizens currently have no way to distinguish between valid offers and fraudulent inducements. In Florida, only board certified adoption attorneys will be permitted to identify or advertise themselves as specialists or experts in the field of adoption law.
Members of The Florida Adoption Council chosen to serve on the inaugural Adoption Law Certification Committee were: Michael Shorstein (Chair), Jeanne Tate (Vice-Chair), Madonna Finney, Mary Ann Scherer, Amy Hickman, & Cynthia Swanson.