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Who We Are 
What We Do 
Student Opportunities 


Welcome to the Program on Children and the Law at the University of Michigan Law School. For more than 30 years, Michigan Law has been a leader in the development of the jurisprudence regarding children. In 1976, the Law School launched the Child Advocacy Law Clinic, the first clinical law program in America to specialize in problems of child abuse and neglect and children in foster care. Since then, Michigan Law has developed one of the most respected and influential child-law programs in the country. Please explore our website. Whether you are a prospective student, researcher, policy maker, or practitioner in the field, we hope some of these resources are helpful to you.

Featured News

In addition to teaching clinical and doctrinal courses at the Law School, faculty in the Program on Children and the Law are actively involved in practical child welfare work—including representing clients in trial and appellate proceedings, drafting reports for foundations and governmental agencies, presenting at state and national conferences, and writing articles and editorial pieces. Below is a sampling of recent news.

  • Professor Frank Vandervort writes an Op-Ed in the Lansing State Journal on reforming juvenile restitution laws.  Click here to view the article.
  • Professor Kim Thomas was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Indigent Defense Commission. Click here to view the story.
  • Professor Vivek Sankaran prevails at the Michigan Supreme Court in his challenge to Michigan's "one parent doctrine."  Click here to read the story describing the case.
  • May 1, 2014, Professor Don Duquette presented at the 2014 National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in New Orleans, "Six Core Skills: A Best Practice Training Model for Lawyers Representing Children." 
  • On February 21, 2004, Professor Joshua Kay presented two sessions for child welfare attorneys who represent parents at a conference sponsored by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, Child Welfare Services Division. 
  • Professor Frank Vandervort was elected President Elect of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children in June.  He will serve as President for two years beginning in June 2014.


Our Clinics

Child Advocacy Law Clinic

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. More...

Child Welfare Appellate Clinic

Students 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.

Juvenile Justice Clinic

In the Juvenile Justice Clinic (JJC), students represent minors charged with violations of the criminal law and status offenses in Michigan's family courts. Students have first-chair responsibility for JJC clients and their cases. This responsibility means that students directly engage in, and reflect on, the practice of law while in law school, under the supervision of experienced professors. While primarily a litigation clinic, students may, from time to time, handle appellate matters and may be involved in public-policy issues. More...

Faculty Projects


In October 2009, the U.S. Children's Bureau named the University of Michigan Law School the National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System (QIC-ChildRep).

The QIC-ChildRep is a six-year, multi-million-dollar project to gather, develop, and communicate knowledge on child representation, promote consensus on the role of the child's legal representative, and provide one of the first empirically-based analyses of how legal representation for the child might best be delivered.   

See for more information about the project.

ICPC Project

Prof. Vivek Sankaran has worked on reforming the system governing the interstate placement of foster children. Since the early 1960s, this process has been governed by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), a uniform state law adopted by each state. The ICPC has been subject to much criticism and, recently, a national effort has emerged to reform the Compact. The site provides basic resources to advocates interested in learning more about the Compact, and efforts to reform the process. If you have updates to this site or have questions regarding the Compact, please contact Professor Sankaran at More...

Child Welfare Specialist Certification

Between 2002 and 2007, Michigan Law, in partnership with the National Association of Counsel for Children and with support from a grant from the U.S. Children's Bureau, defined a new legal specialty of "child welfare law," achieved form recognition of the specialty from the American Bar Association, and launched the NACC Child Welfare Law Specialty Certification program. Professor Don Duquette was codirector of the National Association of Counsel for Children's national project to certify lawyers as specialists in child welfare law. More...

Detroit Center for Family Advocacy

The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy (CFA) provides legal advocacy and social work services to low-income families to prevent the unnecessary placement and prolonged stay of children in foster care. By doing so, the CFA aims to keep children safe with their families, minimize the emotional trauma caused by removal, and allow the foster-care system to focus its resources on children who need its protection. More...