Child & Family Connections, Inc. ; Programs.Name: Diversion Project ; FirstName: Robert ; LastName: Barker ; Title: CEO ; StreetAddr: 3333 Forest Hill Boulevard ; City: West Palm Beach ; Zip: 33406 ; Phone: (561) 357-4800 ; FundingGroup.Name: Family and Community Partnership ; Text40: (561) 357-4813.
Works to promote a safe living environment, permanency, and sense of stability for children and families.
September 16, 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Lawyer works to create safety net for those in need, by Gabrielle Dunn.
Name: G. Mark Shalloway, 43
Residence: Palm Beach Gardens Birthplace: Lake Worth
Family: Wife, Christine, daughters Rachel, 11, and Rebecca, 12
Causes: Child and Family Connections, helps set up special-needs trusts for children in state care receiving Social Security disability benefits; and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, assists lawyers, bar organizations and others who work with older clients and their families.
Q. Describe your work with Child and Family Connections.
A. When a foster child gets a monthly security income check from the government, which may be $500 or $600, it's for food and clothing, etc. If they save it, and it begins to exceed $2,000, which is the asset cap set by the government, then that money goes away. They lose their SSI (Supplemental Security Income) check. They don't get a chance to save it, so that when they turn 18, they can have money for school or to live on.
I try to give them that opportunity with a special-needs trust.
If the SSI check gets taken away, it can be even more catastrophic, because SSI and Medicaid are connected, and since these children have disabilities, they need Medicaid. If the money ... gets put into a special-needs trust for a person with a disability, then it's like a safety net and they get to keep their Medicaid.
Q. How long have you been working with special needs trusts?
A. I began practicing elder law in 1991. It's a new field and hasn't been around that long. In fact, I worked as a pioneer for the legal specialty, getting board certification in the early '90s. I've worked for the better part of a year on educating charities about the [special-needs] trusts.
My elderly clients were worried about not being covered under Medicare for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Medicare only covers things like heart disease, strokes and cancer. There's no Medicare for an aide to help dress you, and there's no cure for those diseases, so ... you have to pay out of pocket.
Q. How did you feel about receiving the Child Advocacy Award by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County at their 19th annual Pro Bono Recognition Evening?
A. I was stunned and thrilled. I was touched that others had thought to do that for me. It was a way for me to be a part of the community I grew up in.
Q. What frustrations have you encountered?
A. A single frustration is that we lack a rational system for the most important basic life need of health care and of personal dignity. It's a complicated, fractional system. At best, these programs aspire to do the right thing, but their scale and size make it hard to prevail. Medicaid is supposed to be a last resort, so creating eligibility is hard, even for people with disabilities. There are very few exceptions besides the special-needs trust.
In 1993, Congress passed a law creating this trust for people with disabilities under the age of 65, but they don't take into account every individual situation where it applies. I have to educate the charity, which is worried about liability, and is unfamiliar with the laws.
Q. What results do you hope to achieve?
A. These people are an invisible, disenfranchised segment of the population. They're lower income, they're children, their educational opportunities are limited, especially if they have a disability. They're a very vulnerable group. Sometimes, these government programs have unintended consequences. My vision is that children with disabilities in foster care will be able to place monies in special-needs trusts.
Q. What have you gained?
A. It's been enormously gratifying and intellectually stimulating. It's not finalized yet so it's also a great challenge, but I get to be creative and innovative in helping these people. It's interesting to wake up every day.
Child and Family Connections, 4100 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach, or 561-357-4800, ask for Marietta Medina, recruitment representative, or Maureen Maronto, recruitment and licensing coordinator.
If you know a Palm Beach County resident who deserves recognition for volunteer work, fax the information to 561-272-3189, or mail to: Unsung Heroes, c/o Tina De La Fe, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Delray Beach newsroom, c/o 333 SW 12th Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442. Nominations should include volunteer's name, city of residence, a contact name and phone number, and a brief description of why this person deserves special recognition. For questions, call 561-243-6617.
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