Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michigan Law Clinic Students Help Change Foster Care Laws

The University of Michigan Law School reports on it's Legislation Clinic success:

“The real world cannot be controlled in the way that a traditional law school classroom can be,” notes Don Duquette, clinical professor emeritus of law, “but that is both the charm and the bane of real-world clinical work.” Fortunately, charm recently won out over bane when Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills into law on June 20 to improve the lives of those affected by Michigan’s foster care system.

Three years ago, students in Michigan Law’s Legislation Clinic began working on a bill that would change a small but significant part of the foster care system: sibling placement. “Up to 75 percent of all foster children are separated from a sibling,” explains Andrew Bronstein, ’14, who worked on the bill as a student in the clinic, which was offered in Fall 2013 and Winter 2014. “In short, we haven’t done enough to support the family ties of foster children.”

One of the newly signed laws will help to combat these issues by making it more likely that siblings will be placed in foster homes together whenever possible. The law does not mandate that siblings stay together because the homes available cannot always realistically accommodate an entire family. However, Bronstein says, “Michigan must now make reasonable efforts to place foster siblings together, and, where joint placement is not possible, at least provide monthly visitation.”

The second law will prevent children’s visits with parents from being terminated unless the visits would cause the child harm. “In Michigan, foster children also lose the right to parental visitation too often,” Bronstein explains. “This legislation will make a difference in their lives.”

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