When Greg Hill became a father, he knew he would always want to be available to his son—teaching, guiding, and helping him grow into the best person he could be. Unfortunately, since Greg was not married to his son’s mother and was no longer in a relationship with her, under Florida law, he had no legal rights to his child.
While Greg fully realized it would be in his son’s best interest to have access to both of his parents, he had no understanding of the law or how to proceed in order to ensure that would happen. Determined to find a way, Greg began educating himself by researching his options. Eventually he was able to achieve a more favorable co-parenting outcome, but not before facing numerous challenges. His experiences and gained knowledge, chronicled in his book, Our Children Have Rights, brought to light the need to educate and equip parents with information regarding their children’s rights to have access to them.
Greg’s friend, Jake Hornstein, agreed (LEFT). In January 2021, the two men established a web-based nonprofit organization titled after Greg’s book: Our Children Have Rights (OCHR.org), with Greg as President and CEO, and Jake as Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Their mission is to use their combined knowledge, experience, and passion to help other parents and, by extension, their children. It is the OCHR.org team’s belief that children’s rights should include access to both parents, and the organization works to protect that right by helping parents navigate various processes related to child custody, co-parenting, and general parenting.
While we work directly with parents, the ultimate goal is to achieve a successful co-parenting strategy that best positions the child (or children) to reach their full potential and supports a living environment that promotes their healthy development,” says Jake. “After we’ve helped co-parents achieve a co-parenting strategy, we remain a resource for co-parents committed to keeping a healthy co-parenting relationship intact.”
According to OCHR.org, Children with access to only one parent are four times more likely to live in poverty, and they have an eight-times higher risk of abuse and neglect. More than five million children have not seen their father in a year. Through their organization, Greg Hill and Jake Hornstein want to change those statistics. (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, The Fatherless Generation Foundation, Americans for Equal Shared Parenting.)
Denying a responsible parent access to their child impairs the child’s healthy development,” the OCHR.org website states. “Alternatively, when we protect a child’s right to have access to both parents, we foster a sense of security that can prevent disruption in their social life, development, and opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Our Children Have Rights is built on three pillars of support services: Legal Aid (easier access to the resources, tools, and guidance to achieve a successful legal outcome), Education (free educational resources to further assist and better equip parents through the journey), and Mental Health and Wellness (quick access to mental health and wellness services that are affordable and confidential, to assist parents during what can be an overwhelming and emotional time).
In seeking to educate parents, Greg and Jake focus on “process, documentation, and meeting the state’s formulas” to help parents “achieve a successful co-parenting strategy as seamlessly as possible.” These resources include everything from recommended reading to equine-assisted therapeutic riding, mediation, and citizenship and refuge support. Legal Aid resources include document review, grant opportunities, information on representing oneself in court or finding an attorney, and much more. Mental Health and Awareness Support includes access to online licensed therapists, substance abuse and recovery centers, and other services.
OCHR.org offers its resources free to all parents, regardless of whether they are single parents, unwed and expecting a child, unwed with a child, or married and seeking divorce. They also offer general parenting resources to address diverse needs. As the team continues to work with parents facing new and various circumstances, they have become aware of even more obstacles and challenges parents sometimes face while seeking custody and establishing a co-parenting plan or strategy, which has widened the scope of their work and expanded the services they offer. Needs can include access to financial assistance and help with housing and rent; assistance with applications like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children); information on child development, childcare, and early learning opportunities; help with reemployment and financial sustainability; and access to food and other basic needs.
In collaboration with a growing list of program partners like Feeding Tampa Bay, Smart Counseling, Hands Across the Bay, Hillsborough House of Hope, and many others, Our Children Have Rights brings together the passions and abilities of many to affect real change in the community. The organization’s team offers direct services in the form of free consultations through Zoom, FaceTime, email, or phone; and through free documentation review of parenting plans and related documents.
In their first year as a non-profit, Our Children Have Rights successfully supported more than 15,000 individual parents in their co-parenting, custody, and general parenting needs across all fifty states. In addition, Greg and Jake continue to educate and support families through their community outreach, having served as event sponsors for The Children’s Trust 16th Champion for Children Awards Ceremony in Miami-Dade County. “The Children’s Trust has been great to us,” Jake said. “With their help and leadership, we’ve collaborated with a number of great program partners throughout Miami-Dade and Broward. These relationships have expanded our direct access to parents and families, while also adding more resources and service providers throughout the two counties.”
In 2021, OCHR.org adopted Sand Key Park (LEFT) and Beach in Clearwater to give back to the community and create volunteer opportunities with other organizations. In July, volunteers removed litter from the beach, boardwalk, parking lot, and picnic areas. Groups or individuals who would like to participate in a future volunteer event are encouraged to contact Our Children Have Rights at [email protected].
Greg also appears at in-person events, in talk show appearances, and in news segments to promote the needs of children and discuss OCHR.org’s work, as well as his personal journey and experiences. He remains more committed than ever to helping responsible parents protect their children’s rights to have access to them.
We’re on a mission—a mission to protect the rights of children to have access to parents by providing education, resources, and support services for successful co-parenting strategies,” he says. “Why? Because Our Children Have Rights, and those rights must be safeguarded.”
Donations are gratefully accepted and are used to support OCHR.org’s efforts to provide parents with up-to-date educational materials and to off-set the costs of state-certified co-parenting courses and professional co-parenting and reunification coaches. Funds also make possible the Mediation & Legal Aid Assistance Grant (to support a parent with mediation and/or legal costs); the Mental Health & Wellness Assistance Grant (to support a parent who is receiving mental health services not covered by insurance); and the Substance Abuse & Addiction Treatment Assistance Grant (to support a parent who commits to treatment for a substance abuse disorder). Our Children Have Rights is a 501 (c)(3) organization.
Content written by Dianne Graveman exclusively for Destination Tampa Bay ™ . All images are for editorial purposes only–all right reserved.
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