January 2024

Latest News & Updates from the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc.


They're Worth the Fight

Mara Shorr

Volunteer Advocate for Children with the Legal Aid Society of the OCBA, Inc.

Volunteering as a Child Advocate

Three years ago, Mara Shorr nervously made her first phone call to the Legal Aid Society about becoming a Volunteer Advocate for Children (VAC). She expressed feeling ill-equipped for the task since she had no legal experience. “I wasn’t a social worker or a lawyer, or anything like that but I wanted to try,” said Mara. Little did she know this experience would completely change her life.  Mara is motivated by her personal experiences with loved ones who suffered from mental health and substance abuse issues. She is passionate about helping foster youth who have been exposed to similar circumstances, and her efforts have proved to be rewarding in many ways. After witnessing her hard work through the successful adoption of two VAC cases within the last year, she is proud of herself for not giving up and allowing fear to overcome her desire to help.

Mara learned about the VAC program from a coworker/friend who volunteers with the Legal Aid Society. Once she met all the requirements and passed all background checks as required by the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, she met and trained with Kamia Taylor, the VAC Coordinator with the Legal Aid Society. Despite GAL’s strict program requirements for the procurement of child safety, she described her process as a smooth transition and couldn’t wait to begin. That’s when she was assigned to her first case and met 8-year-old Zoey, a child who’d spent most of her years in the foster care system. Admittedly, Mara’s first encounter with Zoey’s foster parents was extremely awkward, but the more she got to know them and Zoey, they became inseparable.” It was as if I’d known her my whole life,” Mara said. She now considers Zoey and her foster parents to be some of her closest family. For the past few years, they’ve shared holidays and overall bonded on their love for Zoey.

As an entrepreneur, expert healthcare consultant, international speaker, and published author Mara Shorr is a hardworking woman. However, the most rewarding job, she says, is being a voice for children despite associated challenges. “There are many days where I’m so frustrated with the system that it would bring me to tears because of how long the process can take,” she admitted. Placing a child in a new home is extremely meticulous, and errors can have tragic consequences. Mara believes that we need to consider all aspects when it comes to helping foster youth. She’s met children whose reading level was significantly lower than their grade level, which further complicated their case. Some children suffer from severe trauma that has led to undiagnosed physical and mental health issues. With so many children in the foster care system, it can be difficult to identify the requirements of every single child. For this reason, Mara acknowledges the crucial role of a VAC and how it can facilitate this process of accurately assessing a child’s needs. “That’s why I fight so hard to make sure that they get that help. Persistence is key”, she added. 

Zoey wasn’t the only child to have had a significant impact on Mara’s life. Recently, she was able to witness another successful adoption of a baby boy who’d been in the system since birth. “It took 777 days for this to happen. Countless emails, texts, court hearings, meetings, home visits, late night and early morning phone calls, frustration, and tears…today baby Jacob gets permanency”, Mara announced on her social media page. She further explained that despite the numerous mishaps during his case, she was proud to have played a vital role in his adoption process.

While there are some cases with happy endings, Mara also acknowledges that there are cases where she wishes things had gone differently. “Reunification with biological parents is always the goal but sometimes it doesn’t work that way and you feel heartbroken,” she said. However, what drives her hope is knowing that she can advocate on the child’s behalf to help them on their journey to finding a permanent and happy home. Mara finds her involvement with Legal Aid to be purposefully fulfilling and would like to see more concerned individuals involved as well. “You are more equipped than you think you are”, she encouraged, “If you’re hesitating, hop on a call and get more information. Sometimes we are the ones who get in our way.”

The VAC program of The Legal Aid Society enables volunteers, who are assigned to a particular case, to meet with dependent children in their natural surroundings to determine their current state, interests, and needs. Legal Aid greatly appreciates volunteers like Mara who consistently show up and advocate for foster children through the Guardian ad Litem program. Mara's example proves that you don't need legal knowledge or background to volunteer; all you need is the willingness to help a child get a second chance at a better life. If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a Volunteer Advocate for Children through our organization, please call (407) 841-8310.

2024 Breakfast of Champions

We would love to hear your thoughts! The Breakfast of Champions is an annual fundraiser organized by the Legal Aid Society of the O.C.B.A. The funds raised from the event are used to provide essential legal services to our vulnerable neighbors. The Breakfast of Champions initially started as an in-person event in 2008 but was shifted to virtual mode in 2020. Although the virtual event raised more funds, it lacked the benefits of in-person events such as relationship building. We need your help to decide the future of the Breakfast of Champions. Please answer the following question to participate in the survey. By answering, you enter our raffle and get a chance to win a FREE Stanley Cup!

Should Breakfast of Champions 2024 and future BOCs be:
In person
Occasionally hybrid, but majority in-person
Occasionally in-person, but majority hybrid

For additional thoughts, please forward an email to [email protected].


Interested in becoming a sponsor for the Domino Effect television series?

The Domino Effect series was created to help inform the Orange County community on updates and resources available to help them combat civil legal issues. During the series, host Jessica Thomas sits with Orange County’s government officials and community partners to discuss various topics regarding housing, human trafficking, consumer debt, elder law, veterans’ affairs, and more. Make sure you follow us on social media to catch the latest episodes.

Why Sponsor the Domino Effect? Here are a few benefits.

  • Verbal Thank You message will be provided by the show host during the program (Note: Amount of Sponsorship will not be advertised). This will also include a 30-second commercial created by our Marketing and Communications department to be viewed in between each segment of each episode.

  • Every episode will be aired on television and the radio: (Orange TV, Channel 488 on Spectrum, formerly Bright House, Channel 9 on Comcast, 1081 CenturyLink Prism TV, 10.3 Digital Over the Air, Vision TV(Channel 492 on Spectrum, formerly Bright House, Channel 98 on Comcast, 1082 on CenturyLink Prism TV, 10.3 Digital Over the Air.)

  • Every episode will be posted on social media & and linked on our website as well as Orange TV's YouTube channel with over 8,000 subscribers!

  • Every episode will be featured in The Monthly Docket Newsletter. (Sent to community partners, government officials, and media contacts).

For more information about sponsorship opportunities, contact Donna Haynes at [email protected].

View All Episodes

Recently, the United States has extended Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans. This includes temporary work permits and temporary relief from deportation. Ana Roberts, an immigration staff attorney at Legal Aid, has provided a detailed explanation of this TPS, along with important deadlines and instructions to follow below. If you need legal assistance regarding immigration, don't hesitate to contact us at 407-841-8310 or visit our website at

2024 Valor Clinic Schedule

The Free VALOR Veterans Clinic is back and we are grateful for the opportunity to assist our brave heroes right here in the Orange County community!

Free VITA Tax Clinic

It's tax season! Legal Aid is assisting low-income individuals with taxes through the VITA tax assistance program. See below for more details.

Legal Aid Society Lunchtime Trainings

The Legal Aid Society will be hosting a series of trainings providing in-depth insight to various legal issues. These Lunchtime trainings are reserved for Lawyers, Paralegals, & Law Students. These trainings are virtual requiring registration via Zoom.

To register, please contact Janis Mason ([email protected]) or Michelle Erazmus ([email protected]). All trainings will be uploaded on the Legal Aid Society website here.

Upcoming Trainings:


VIRTUAL ONLY - February 06, 2024 “Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children”

Family Law Litigation Director and attorney Tenesia Hall with Guest Speaker, Sarah E. Kay, Esq. will discuss how to craft a parenting plan for special needs children. 

VIRTUAL ONLY - February 20, 2024 “The Impact of FFPSA on the Placement of Children in Licensed Foster Care”

GAL Lead Case Coordinator Aimee McDonough, GAL Case Coordinator Debra Silva, and Guest Speaker Amanda Reineck, will provide a training focusing on an overview of the federal mandates through the Family’s First Preservation and Services Act and how it has transformed licensed foster care. Participants will learn how this legislation is being implemented in Florida, and the impact it has had on placement processes and capacity to include what this has meant for our children in Central Florida.

If attending in person, please make sure to register with OR [email protected].



We have sponsorship opportunities for these informative trainings. Want exposure for your business within the legal community? Please contact Donna Haynes at [email protected] for more information. Thank You!

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[email protected] | 407.841.8310