Voices of Florida. Made possible through the generous support of the Gidel Family Foundation.

“Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace goodwill toward men (and children?)" -- Luke 2:14

The now retired and distinguished juvenile Judge Bill Gladstone with (at left) Berta Blecke, the key figure behind Kristi House in Miami, nationally known for its work on behalf of sexually abused children, plus two other distinguished and present-day Circuit Court judges known for their work with children and young people and families -- Jeri Beth Cohen and Cindy Lederman (top).

The writer is a longtime and beloved Circuit Court judge who, now retired, worked for years in Miami in the juvenile division.


I am 83 and retired. My professional career covered practicing law for 17 years and almost four decades as a judge serving children and their families. The work has been rewarding but not always successful. Nonetheless, I feel blessed and grateful that what I chose was the right job for me.

Our Juvenile and Family Court judges work in a society where, unbelievably, too many see corporations as people and disadvantaged people as chattels.

Many of those in our country who campaign on themes of “Children are our most important asset” ignore or even neglect and abuse our children on the day after election. But I do find hope in many of this generation’s juvenile and family court judges, private citizens, well-qualified caseworkers and direct-service providers who devote their hearts, lives and skill to children. These are the people we must honor; they are as important to our safety, freedom and survival as are our military and law enforcement officers.

By means of a metaphor, I offer my poem of anger and hope and a photo of “The Old Man and the Three” (with apologies to Hemingway). Cindy Lederman and Jeri Beth Cohen are my examples of this generation’s nationally and internationally recognized judges whose research and innovative programs have improved the lives of many millions of neglected, abused and drug-addicted children and their caretakers. Berta Blecke is my example of those rare and powerful citizen volunteers who initiate programs and bring about public support and resources for needy children – programs for which they do all the work and we judges get the credit!

Berta, Cindy and Jeri Beth

I dream. My gray spring aura
overcasts the Everglades.
Air of feudal-like greed
would kill this swampy Eden.

Now warm, wet air rises,
expands, turns slowly toward the sea,
blossoms skyward,
and becomes three, moist, exquisite cumuli.

Their rain, their milk, dissolves the killer air.
They nurture, enliven, give first joy
to the frail young life below.

These are the three, free, heroic
daughters of my dream.

These are the ever-giving daughters
I never had, you know,

The daughters I cherish so!

-- Bill Gladstone