Pro bono spotlight: Holland & Knight attorney volunteers time to keep child in a safe home

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  • | 12:00 p.m. November 17, 2014
Attorney Jennifer Kifer (left) served as a pro bono attorney to help Gina get custody of her 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Isabella.
Attorney Jennifer Kifer (left) served as a pro bono attorney to help Gina get custody of her 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Isabella.
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Families are made of love and commitment. That’s what pro bono attorney Jennifer Kifer wanted to help ensure for her client and her great-granddaughter. And she did.

Here is Kifer’s pro bono case success story:

What were the basic facts of your case? My client, Gina, wanted custody of her 2-year-old great-granddaughter, Isabella, due to the extreme instability and irresponsibility of Bella’s parents. They abandoned Bella on Gina’s doorstep when Bella was just over a year old. However, when Gina came to us, the mother was starting to resurface and Gina feared the mother would take Bella despite her inability to provide proper care. Gina wanted to ensure the parents could not take Bella from her.

What were you able to accomplish for your client? The case took over a year to complete, but in the end, we were able to accomplish the difficult task of terminating both parents’ parental rights, and Gina was then able to adopt Bella.

Why was the outcome important to your client? Bella means the world to Gina and the thought of losing her was absolutely terrifying. The parents were completely unfit to have Bella. The mother admitted in open court that she had a history of illegal drug use and if she obtained custody of Bella, she would take Bella to a home inhabited by a registered sex offender. Gina wanted to ensure Bella stayed with her in a safe, healthy and happy home where she would not be subjected to the dangers that would ensue if she lived with either parent.

Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience? The minute I met Bella, I fell in love with her. She is a wonderful, adorable little girl. It was important to me to ensure she was protected, and given that I had the ability to do so, I was relentless in that quest. Holding Bella in court on the day of her adoption and seeing her tiny face smiling up at me was one of the most fulfilling, meaningful moments of my life. Gina said to me, “You just saved a little girl’s life.”

What is the name of your firm? In what areas do you practice? I practice with Holland & Knight LLP in the areas of commercial civil litigation, maritime law, media law, and trusts and estates litigation.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement? Don’t just consider it — do it. As attorneys, we have been entrusted with the power to change lives and the use of that power should not be limited to those who can afford to pay our bills. Don’t worry if the case is out of your practice area. Bella’s case was certainly not within my practice area. There are many resources and experts in the field willing to help if you just take that first step and accept the case. You will not regret it.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para at [email protected].