Examples Of Our Work
The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy (CFA), an initiative of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, opened in July 2009. The Center provides legal and social work advocacy to parents and extended family members, to reduce the need for children to enter or remain in foster care. Below are some examples of our early work.
One client discovered the CFA via the Internet, and sent an email with an urgent request to "PLEASE HELP...!" She and her husband had become desperate and discouraged. They'd been pursuing the placement of a 17-year old boy, from foster care into their home, after the sudden death of the boy's foster mother. The client had grown to know and love this boy through a friendship with the boy's long-time foster mother.
After his foster mother's death, the boy bounced around from placement to placement and suffered mistreatment where he went. Our client saw what was happening and immediately requested custody of the child, but, despite several months of waiting, and compliance with the stated requirements of the agency supervising the case, the boy was refused placement in our client's home. Instead, he languished needlessly in a residential facility, which only agreed to accept him on a temporary basis.
Mere days after the CFA accepted the case, the residential facility issued a demand for the boy's removal within 30 days. Hopes were dashed when a previously scheduled hearing in juvenile court was abruptly rescheduled. Undeterred, a CFA attorney and social worker aggressively advocated for the boy's immediate placement in the client's home. They approached the DHS official supervising the case, the Assistant Attorney General representing the DHS, and the Lawyer-Guardian ad Litem. Previous to this advocacy, the client's voice had never been heard. The very next day, the DHS supervisor authorized the boy's placement with the client and her husband. The boy will now spend Christmas (and beyond) with people who love him. The client called the CFA attorney and exclaimed through tears of joy, "I thank God for you!"
Housing for a single Mother
When an unresolved landlord-tenant dispute threatened to make a 26-year-old single mother and her seven children homeless, she was referred to the Center for Family Advocacy. The client was living in a relative's cramped one-bedroom apartment with all seven of her children and three other adults because her landlord refused to make necessary repairs to her rented home. The DHS had serious concerns regarding the supervision of the children in the care of our client, who was simply overwhelmed. The referring DHS worker wanted to keep the family together, but could not wait for our client's situation to improve. To prevent her children from being placed in foster care, our client needed to secure suitable housing and assure DHS that she could properly supervise her children. With the assistance of CFA staff, the client and her family quickly relocated to a five-bedroom home in an attractive neighborhood on Detroit's west side. The CFA worked tirelessly, equipping the client with the parenting skills she needed, and pursuing the client's legal remedies against the landlord. Throught the CFA's zealous advocacy, the DHS closed its child protective case, and none of the children entered foster care.
"You Saved This Family"
The DHS referred a client and her five children to the CFA to resolve a landlord-tenant dispute that jeopardized the family's housing, and placed the children at risk of entering foster care. The DHS had been receiving reports that the client was not properly attending to her 11-year old son's mental health needs; the boy had been hospitalized several times for severe emotional and behavioral problems.
The CFA staff sprang into action. An attorney successfully negotiated a settlement of the landlord-tenant dispute, which enabled the client to save money necessary to obtain alternative housing. Intensive social work and parent advocacy equipped the client with resources to properly care for her son and other children. All the children remain in the client's care. When closing the case, the DHS worker remarked, "You saved this family."
A Juvenile Court referred clients to the CFA for assistance in expediting the adoption of their four-year-old granddaughter. Achievement of permanency for the child had been delayed for over a year. The initial referral reported that the clients had refused to comply with requests for necessary documentation. After independent investigation and review, a CFA staff attorney discovered that the clients were having difficulty obtaining marriage and divorce records, which included an out-of-state marriage certificate. They were also having trouble paying for their own physicals, because they lacked health insurance. Understanding the challenges that confronted the clients, the attorney advocated zealously on their behalf, requesting financial assistance for the clients' required physicals. That same day, the agency agreed to pay for the examinations. The attorney also quickly located resources to obtain the out-of-state records. The adoption is back on track, its finalization expected soon.
A Safe Home
One client came to the attention of the DHS because she was in an abusive relationship with the father of three of her children. Domestic violence in the home put the children at risk for foster care placement. A CFA staff attorney counseled the client about how to limit the batterer's contact with the children. The attorney then filed a motion to modify the father's parenting time, mandate that all visits be supervised, and that direct interaction with the client be eliminated. The requests were granted by the court. The CFA's social worker and parent advocate helped the client strengthen her family. The client is currently pursuing a GED and has participated in family counseling services. As a result of CFA involvement, her children were not removed from the home, and the DHS confidently closed the family's case.
Another client was referred to the CFA when her ex-husband severely physically abused their son. The DHS indicated that the child would be placed in foster care unless the abusive father was legally restricted from having access to the child. CFA attorneys successfully motioned the court to suspend the father's parenting time, thereby preventing the need for the boy to enter foster care.
For more information about the Center, visit the CFA's homepage.