Children’s rights attorney Tracey K. McPharlin dedicated her career to fighting for the rights of the state’s most vulnerable and at risk children. Tracey was a partner at the firm of Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb, P.A., where she worked side by side with Howard Talenfeld in the firm’s foster care / disabled persons damages practice area for ten years. Tracey also mentored Talenfeld Law partner, Stacie Schmerling, while she attended law school and clerked at the firm.
Born in Miami in 1966 and raised in Plantation, Florida, Tracey graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, attended Nova Southeastern University and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law School.
Tracey was known to all who knew her as “the advocates’ advocate.” Although she recovered many multi-million dollar damages awards on behalf of injured foster children, her work in H.A.L. v. Foltz 551 F.3d 1227 (11th 2008) resulted in the landmark Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision which recognized that exposing foster children to child-on-child sexual abuse in foster care is a viable claim under the Federal Civil Rights act 42 USC § 1983. This case paved the way to protect many other children in Florida and throughout the country who are sexually abused in foster care.
In 2009, the Daily Business Review recognized Tracey as one of South Florida’s Most Effective Lawyers.
In 2009, Tracey was elected Statewide Chair of the Florida Bar’s Public Interest Law Section. In this capacity, she helped the Florida Bar achieve a consensus position on the representation of foster children in the juvenile court and spear-headed the effort in Florida to create a children’s law certification.
Tracey was 44 when she passed away on November 6, 2010, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was honored in October 2010 by Florida’s Children First Inc., the state’s premier advocacy organization for at-risk children, as “an unsung hero who has made a significant difference in the lives of thousands of foster and disabled children in the state of Florida.” She also was honored with the Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section Hugh Glickstein Award.
Tracey’s career and dedication to advocating for the rights of children in the child welfare system, often on a pro bono basis, inspired the Broward County Bar Association and Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc., to create “The Tracey McPharlin Pro Bono Dependency Project” in 2011. Since then, more than one hundred attorneys have been trained in Broward County and have volunteered their time as pro bono attorneys ad litem to represent the interests of children in the foster care system.
“In a career only lasting 10 years, Tracey did a lifetime of work that will improve the lives of thousands of foster children. We will do our best to carry on her work,” said Howard M. Talenfeld, McPharlin’s law partner and fellow children’s rights attorney. “We will always miss Tracey.”