Each year, the foster care system cares for approximately 400,000 children. Legal cases involving these children raise complex questions. Should the child have been placed in foster care? What types of services should be put into place to reunify the family? Is the termination of parental rights warranted? Should the child return home to her family or be adopted by relatives or foster parents? These are but a few of the challenging questions faced by students in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic (CALC), a seven-credit clinic open to second and third year law students. Students taking this clinic represent children, parents, or the Department of Human Services in court cases that may be located in one of six counties. Each student team has a mix of child welfare cases representing each of the three major roles, so they get to see and understand the lawyer role from different vantage points and with different concerns and interests.
Child Welfare Appellate ClinicStudents in the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic will get an opportunity to improve their writing, research and oral advocacy skills by representing parents in direct appeals to the Michigan Court of Appeals of orders terminating their parental rights. Students, working in teams of two, will handle all aspects of the appellate case including reviewing the record, researching the legal issues, preparing the brief and handling the oral argument. Students may also have an opportunity to work on drafting amicus briefs and applications to the Michigan Supreme Court. There are no prerequisites for the course.
In 2007, Lance J. Johnson, '65, provided a gift to the Law School to support a biennial workshop to explore a current topic related to the jurisprudence of children and the law. In winter 2012, the workshop topic was "Legal Representation of Children."
Michigan Law offers a wide array of classes for students interested in children's law. In addition to clinical offerings focused on developing trial and appellate skills in child welfare and juvenile justice cases, the Law School has a number of doctrinal courses and seminars in the field.
The Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Summer Fellowship is committed to inspiring the best and brightest law students to pursue careers in child welfare law. Through the fellowship, students gain experience and insight into the field and provide much-needed services to various child welfare offices specializing in representing children, parents, and social service agencies. After attending a three-day training session at the end of May at Michigan Law, fellows spend at least 10 weeks at their placements.
The foundation for a career in child-welfare law is created through our significant course offerings as well as an array of extracurricular activities available to students, including the Legal Advocates for Children and Youth organization, the Family Law Project, Wolverine Street Law and the the National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare Law and Adoption. Students may also undertake independent studies on issues of their choosing. Recent examples of independent studies include the viability of federal actions based on unjustified removals of children from their homes, the allocation of rights between teen parents and their parents, and the impact of juvenile sex offender registries on a child's rehabilitation.
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