Dewitt C. Holbrook Fellowship
Dewitt C. Holbrook started his legal career in 1843 as a public servant in the early days of the City of Detroit. He later parlayed his years of public service into a successful private legal practice. As one early Detroit historian described him: "No one who knows Mr. Holbrook well would hesitate to bear testimony to the uprightness of his character, the industry of his daily life, his faithfulness to all trusts and duty, and all would award him the record of an able lawyer, upright citizen, and honorable man."1 The generosity of the Dewitt C. Holbrook Memorial Fund allows CFA to dedicate a full-time staff attorney to develop and implement strategies to encourage today's young attorneys to follow Holbrook's example.
This staff attorney - the Dewitt C. Holbrook Fellow - conducts outreach and training to the communities served by CFA. Specifically, the Fellow conducts seminars in the community about navigating the juvenile court and foster care system. In essence, these seminars educate communities about preventative legal remedies that can help families stay together -- for example, legal guardianships or enforcement of tenants' rights. Such education provides the public and other professionals with legal alternatives to removal of children into foster care. Additionally, the Fellow coordinates the legal training and education of law students from the University of Michigan and other local law schools, with an eye toward encouraging students to pursue public interest child welfare work. Each semester, CFA hosts a number of law students who work closely with staff attorneys on cases. The students learn how to reduce the number of children in foster care while honing their legal skills, and the students' contributions allow CFA to expand its services to even more families. Lastly, the Dewitt C. Holbrook Fellow coordinates the CFA pro bono initiative with Detroit law firms. This initiative matches local private practice attorneys with families referred to CFA, either for full-scale pro bono representation, or for the completion of discrete legal projects within an existing CFA case. The CFA pro bono initiative exposes private practice attorneys to the benefits of public interest work, and at the same time, allows CFA to serve more families.
The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy is grateful for the opportunity to continue Dewitt C. Holbrook's legacy of public service to the City of Detroit through his Fellowship named in his honor.
1 Silas Farmer, The History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan: A Chronological Cyclopedia of the Past and Present (Township and Biographical Edition: 1890), 1121.