Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Faculty Biographies > Faculty Bio

Sankaran, Vivek

Clinical Professor of Law
Child Advocacy Law Clinic
Child Welfare Appellate Clinic

3050 Jeffries Hall

Vivek Sankaran, '01, advocates for the rights of children and parents involved in child welfare proceedings. His work focuses on improving outcomes for children in foster care by empowering their parents and strengthening decision-making processes in juvenile courts. A clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, Professor Sankaran directs both the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic, through which law students represent children and parents in trial and appellate proceedings. Professor Sankaran has written numerous articles focused on improving the child welfare system and has litigated cases before the Michigan Supreme Court. In addition, he conducts state and national trainings and works on child welfare initiatives with various national groups, including the American Bar Association, Casey Family Programs, and the National Center for State Courts.

After graduating from Michigan Law in 2001, Professor Sankaran received a Skadden Fellowship to represent children at The Children's Law Center in Washington, D.C., where he remained until 2005, when he joined the Law School faculty. In 2009, Professor Sankaran founded the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, the first organization in the country to provide multidisciplinary legal assistance to families to prevent the unnecessary entry of children into foster care. In 2011, he was named Michigan's Parent Attorney of the Year. Most recently, Professor Sankaran co-edited both the first national book for family defense lawyers and the third edition of Child Welfare Law and Practice, a widely recognized resource used by child welfare lawyers across the country.

Recent Publications

More Publications...

​"My Name Is Not 'Respondent Mother': The Need for Procedural Justice in Child Welfare Cases." ABA Child L. Prac. Today (2018).
Full Text: MLaw Repository | WWW

"Timely Permanency or Unnecessary Removal?" Christopher Church and Monique Mitchell, co-authors. ABA Child L. Prac. 36, no. 3 (2017): 71-2.
Full Text: HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Westlaw | WWW

"Moving Beyond Lassiter: The Need for a Federal Statutory Right to Counsel for Parents in Child Welfare Cases." J. Legis. 44, no. 1 (2017): 1-21.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | WWW

"Child Welfare's Scarlet Letter: How a Prior Termination of Parental Rights Can Permanently Brand A Parent as Unfit." NYU Rev. L. & Soc. Change 41, no. 4 (2017): 685-706.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN

"Representing Parents in Child Welfare Cases." In Child Welfare Law and Practice: Representing Children, Parents, and State Agencies in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases. 3rd ed., by National Association of Counsel for Children; edited by D. N. Duquette, A. M. Haralambie, and V. S. Sankaran, 767-816. Denver: Bradford Publishing Co., 2016.

"Easy Come, Easy Go: The Plight of Children Who Spend Less Than 30 Days in Foster Care." C. Church, U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change 19, no. 3 (2016): 207-38.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN

Co-editor. Child Welfare Law and Practice: Representing Children, Parents, and State Agencies in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases. 3rd ed. D. Duquette and A. M. Haralambie, co-editors. Denver: Bradford Publishing Co., 2016.​

"Child Welfare Appellate Advocacy." In Child Welfare Law and Practice: Representing Children, Parents, and State Agencies in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases. 3rd ed., by National Association of Counsel for Children; 731-50. Denver: Bradford Publishing Co., 2016.

"Strange Bedfellows: How Child Welfare Agencies Can Benefit from Investing in Multidisciplinary Parent Representation." P. L. Rideout and M. L. Raimon, co-authors. Center for the Study of Social Policy (2015).​
Full Text: WWW

Representing Parents in Child Welfare Cases: Advice and Guidance for Family Defenders. M. Guggenheim, co-author. Chicago: American Bar Association, 2015.


Co-presented "Separating Children From Their Parents" at the Michigan Statewide Conference on Abuse and Neglect, Plymouth, Michigan, October 2018.

Delivered a plenary session, "Redesigning Legal Services to Prevent Children from Unnecessarily Entering Foster Care," at the Children's Bureau State Team Planning Meeting, Washington, D.C., July 2018.

Presented "Sparking a Revolution of Values: Three Fundamental Principles to Better Serve Families" at the Children and the Courts Conference organized by the Arkansas Court Improvement Project, Little Rock, May 2018.

Presented Essentials of Appellate Advocacy to the Illinois Parent Attorney Network, Chicago, January 2018.

Presented at a conference aimed at training family defense attorneys and organized by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, December 2017.

Presented "Changing the Narrative of the Child Welfare System" to the Maine Commission for Indigent Legal Services, Augusta, Maine, September 2017.

Presented "Procedural Justice: Ways to Engage Families in the Court Process" at the Utah Court Improvement Project, Salt Lake City, September 2017.

Presented "Moving Beyond Lassiter: The Need For A Federal Statutory Right To Counsel For Parents In Child Welfare Cases" at the National Association of Counsel for Children Conference, New Orleans, August 2017.

Presented "Poverty and the Foster Care System: The Data, Challenges, and a Call to Action" as part of the UMich200 Spring Festival's Feast of Ideas, Ann Arbor, April 2017.

Participated in the panel discussion, "Appellate Assigned Counsel Reform: Successes, Failures, and Lessons," organized by the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Novi, Michigan, November 2016.