Using Preventive Legal Advocacy to Keep Children from Entering Foster Care

By: Vivek Sankaran. Published by: William Mitchell Law Review. Published in 2014.

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Vivek Sankaran, a professor at University of Michigan, shows how “a lawyer may be able to prevent a child from entering foster care in the first instance. Children may unnecessarily enter foster care because their parents are unable to resolve legal issues that affect their safety and well-being in their home” (p. 1037).

Sankaran describes a new model to provide social and legal advocacy to parents: “The core elements of the model are similar across programs. Child welfare agencies, courts, community-based organizations, and others refer families at risk of losing children to foster care because of unresolved legal issues. Once a case is accepted, the programs provide families with the assistance of an attorney, a social worker, and a parent advocate to help resolve legal issues—of the type detailed at the outset of the article—which affect the safety of the child in the home. Lawyers may file for a restraining order, draft a power of attorney, file for a guardianship, apply for public benefits, or help with special-education entitlements. The social worker on the team assesses the family’s strengths and weaknesses and provides case management. She works with existing community partners to help the parent or caregiver access a network of services, such as transitional housing, counseling, and substance abuse treatment, and works cooperatively with the child welfare agency caseworker to create a mutually agreeable safety plan for the parent to meet his or her child’s needs” (p. 1041).

He also explains how Title IV-B, TANF, Medicaid, Social Services Block Grant, and the Title IV-E Waiver can financially support this model of social and legal advocacy. For this discussion, see pages, 1044-1046.



Categories: Children, Family, Family, Legal Aid Attorneys, Legal Aid Practitioners, National, Researchers and Academics, Victims of Crime

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