Since 2004, the Pediatric Advocacy Initiative (PAI) has provided legal assistance to more than 1,000 patients and families at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, University of Michigan Ypsilanti Health Center, Corner Health Center and Washtenaw County Maternal Infant Health Program. We help families stay violence free, live in safe and healthy housing, receive needed nutrition, earn sufficient income, access health care, and receive appropriate educational services. Included here are some examples from our case files.
- Student attorneys represented the 25-year-old single father of a two-year-old with sickle cell disease who had paid over $10,000 in child support for a second child whom he neither knew—nor fathered. The students researched the issue, wrote a brief in favor of their motion to set aside the default judgment of paternity and support, and argued the motion in court. The judge issued a written opinion in favor of our client. The court order not only set aside the four-year-old judgment, but wiped out the client's support debt for that child.
- When the state agency administering public benefits rolled out a new computer system, student attorneys identified glitches in the system which interfered with efficient application processing, and then worked with the agency to resolve the problems.
- A PAI student attorney represented a woman with three children who had been wrongly denied food assistance for 12 months. Informal negotiation with the agency resulted in an agency decision to return $3,000 to the family for food purchase.
- PAI student attorneys represented a child with mental illness and learning disabilities referred by his pediatrician when his school district found him ineligible for special education. The student attorneys filed for a judicial hearing on behalf of their client, and the case settled before trial. The school created a new behavior plan and paid for summer tutoring to help him catch up to his peers.
- A pediatrician referred his 13-year-old patient to the PAI after her mother was unsuccessful at persuading the school district to provide one-on-one nursing services for her daughter in school. The school district wanted the child to use the school nurse (sharing this nurse with 500 other students) rather than hire a designated nurse. In preparation for the child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, the pediatrician and other medical specialists wrote letters describing her medical condition in detail. The hospital social worker and PAI attorneys attended the IEP meeting and successfully persuaded the school district that the child required a nurse at school in order to receive her "free appropriate public education" guaranteed under federal and state law.
- In anticipation of discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit of a prematurely born infant needing 24-hour ventilator support at home, student attorneys advocated with the public housing authority to enforce federal laws so that a sufficient energy source was available to power the home ventilator.
- A county social worker referred a mother of four young children when an abusive ex-boyfriend tracked down the family and threatened to kidnap the children. After researching recently enacted federal housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, a student attorney drafted a letter to the mother's apartment management company to request early lease termination. After additional negotiation with the student attorney over the phone, the management company agreed to terminate the lease without a penalty to the client. This success meant that the client could keep her family safe by moving to a new—and undisclosed—location.
- Student attorneys represented a family of five referred to PAI because their landlord refused to eradicate a bed bug infestation in their apartment. The student attorneys negotiated with the landlord's attorney, and then drafted a favorable settlement, which enabled the family to move to an apartment free from bed bugs.
- Student attorneys helped the mother of a two-year-old boy advocate with her insurer after receiving a bill for urology services. The insurer refused to process the claim because their computer system recorded the child as female. After PAI intervention, the insurer corrected the mistake, processed the claim, and paid the hospital bill.
- A team of PAI attorneys and students helped to explain a Medicaid policy change regarding prescription co-pays to a University of Michigan Health System social worker so that the social worker could advise her patients appropriately.