Published: Apr 30, 2014 4:31 PM EDT

TALAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the state to provide attorneys to foster children with special needs.
    
The Senate passed the bill (SB 972) Wednesday after unanimous support in the House last week. The bill recommends the state set aside $4.5 million to hire attorneys for roughly 1,400 foster youths. Some of the money will also fund expert witnesses.
    
Advocates say foster children with physical, mental and other disabilities remain in foster care an average of five years or longer compared to their peers. Supporters say these children need a lawyer to advocate for services on their behalf and explain what's happening in their legal cases.
    
Child advocacy groups, including Florida's Children First, and Florida's Guardian Ad Litem lobbied for the measure.

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