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Prof. Vivek Sankaran Named
Parent Attorney of the Year

By John Masson

Michigan Law Professor Vivek Sankaran was recently named the Parent Attorney of the Year for his leadership in improving Michigan's child welfare system.

Sankaran, a 2001 Michigan Law graduate who founded and directs the Law School's Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, received the award Nov. 10 from the Foster Care Review Board, a third-party review system operating under the auspices of the State Court Administrator's Office of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Sankaran was nominated for the award by Elizabeth Warner, an attorney in Jackson, Mich., and by Jodi Latuszek, a management analyst with the State Court Administrative Office. The honor recognizes his dogged work in keeping families together by making sure kids with loving families stay out of the foster care system.

One method of accomplishing that is the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, which is designed to help parents and extended families care for their own children, to shorten the stays of children who end up in public foster care, and to keep some children out of foster care entirely. It uses a unique team approach by combining the talents of an attorney, a social worker, and a parent advocate. While the lawyer can help with restraining orders, powers of attorney, and other legal needs, the social worker can assess parents' strengths and weaknesses and formulate a plan to deal with them. Meanwhile the parent advocate—someone who has experienced the child welfare system first-hand—can use that unique perspective to help the client navigate the system.

Professor Don Duquette, who founded Michigan Law's path-breaking Child Advocacy Law Clinic more than 30 years ago, and who taught Sankaran when he was a student, said he was delighted but not surprised to hear about the award.

"Many, many people have appreciated Vivek's intelligence and tenacity in trying to improve justice for children," Duquette said. "He's not just a state leader but a national leader, and everything he does is done with the highest professionalism. I'm just really proud to be associated with him. It makes me feel good about my own work in the clinic, because I can be confident that work is going to continue, with good people like him around."

View a short video about the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy.


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