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 Health and Human Ser­vices in tri­al court cas­es. 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.

About the Child Advo­ca­cy Law Clinic

Wel­come to the Child Advo­ca­cy Law Clin­ic, the old­est child wel­fare law clin­ic in the coun­try in which law stu­dents, under the super­vi­sion of expe­ri­enced fac­ul­ty mem­bers, rep­re­sent chil­dren, par­ents, and oth­er par­ties in fos­ter care proceedings. 

Cre­at­ed in 1976, CALC has rep­re­sent­ed thou­sands of fam­i­lies involved in the child wel­fare sys­tem and has trained thou­sands of stu­dents who now serve in lead­er­ship posi­tions in non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, state and local gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and pri­vate firms. CALC grad­u­ates often rank their involve­ment in the clin­ic as the most for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence in their legal education.

In addi­tion to direct­ly rep­re­sent­ing chil­dren and par­ents in fos­ter care pro­ceed­ings, stu­dents in the clin­ic may draft statutes, con­duct train­ings, write arti­cles, and han­dle appeals. 

The work of the stu­dents and fac­ul­ty has led to sys­temic reform on both the state and nation­al lev­el and has earned the praise of judges, pol­i­cy mak­ers, and others.

Infor­ma­tion for Students

  • What You’ll Learn

    Our stu­dents don’t just learn about law, they learn to be lawyers. 

    Stu­dents are in con­trol of their cas­es, under super­vi­sion, and com­plete all the steps required to take a case to court, just as they will when they begin prac­tic­ing after law school. Stu­dents work in part­ner­ships and find that they have the true lead on their cases. 

    Three clin­i­cal law fac­ul­ty, who are spe­cial­ists in child advo­ca­cy law, super­vise up to eight stu­dents each and act as advis­ers, but clin­ic stu­dents make the deci­sions about their cas­es. With such respon­si­bil­i­ty, stu­dents are thor­ough­ly pre­pared for each aspect of rep­re­sent­ing their clients, for their court expe­ri­ence, and for work­ing in the field of child advocacy. 

    You’ll also address the com­plex legal, social, emo­tion­al, eth­i­cal, and pub­lic pol­i­cy ques­tions of when and how the state ought to inter­vene in fam­i­ly life on behalf of children.

  • How the Clin­ic Works

    The CALC pro­gram begins with a series of class­es to pre­pare stu­dents for what will hap­pen in court. Class ses­sions cover: 

    • child wel­fare and procedure
    • pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing simulations
    • inter­view­ing clients, espe­cial­ly children
    • deal­ing with evidence
    • case and tri­al prepa­ra­tion, includ­ing direct and cross examination
    • mock tri­al practices

    Teams are formed and cas­es are assigned in the first week of class. 

    From this point through the end of the semes­ter, teams par­tic­i­pate in a week­ly sem­i­nar, which includes dis­cus­sions about lawyer­ing skills and pre­sen­ta­tion of case rounds in which deci­sions by the stu­­dent-attor­neys are exam­ined. Stu­dents in the clin­ic reg­u­lar­ly work with pro­fes­sion­als, fac­ul­ty, and stu­dent col­leagues from social work, pedi­atrics, psy­chol­o­gy and psychiatry. 

  • Join the Clinic

    Some law stu­dents are drawn to the clin­ic because of their inter­est in child wel­fare law or pub­lic inter­est lawyer­ing. Oth­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly attract­ed to the intense lit­i­ga­tion expe­ri­ence where stu­dents end up in court quite often.

    Who should apply?

    All sec­ond- and third-year law stu­dents inter­est­ed in gain­ing lit­i­ga­tion expe­ri­ence should con­sid­er apply­ing for the Child Advo­ca­cy Law Clin­ic. Although many of our stu­dents come to the clin­ic with an inter­est or pri­or expe­ri­ence in child wel­fare law, oth­ers do not. 

    Stu­dents look­ing to spend a semes­ter focus­ing on key lit­i­ga­tion skills such as inter­view­ing, nego­ti­at­ing, client coun­sel­ing, and court­room advo­ca­cy while address­ing an impor­tant need — the inter­ests of fam­i­lies involved in the fos­ter care sys­tem — should apply.

    How do I register?

    Sec­ond- and third-year law stu­dents may reg­is­ter for the sev­en-cred­it clin­ic using the Law School’s com­put­er­ized reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem. There are no pre­req­ui­sites for the course. Infor­ma­tion about reg­is­ter­ing for the clin­ic can be found here.

    Is the clin­ic graded?

    The sev­en cred­its stu­dents receive for tak­ing the clin­ic are grad­ed. Stu­dents are informed of the rel­e­vant grad­ing cri­te­ria on the first day of class. Stu­dents should expect to spend a min­i­mum of 10 to 15 hours a week — out­side of class — on clin­ic work. 

    In addi­tion, stu­dents should expect to have court hear­ings that may con­flict with oth­er classes.

    Reg­is­ter Now

Bergstrom Child Wel­fare Law Sum­mer Fellowship

The Bergstrom Child Wel­fare Law Sum­mer Fel­low­ship is com­mit­ted to inspir­ing the best and bright­est law stu­dents to pur­sue careers in child wel­fare law. Through the fel­low­ship, stu­dents gain expe­ri­ence and insight into the field and pro­vide much need­ed ser­vices to var­i­ous child wel­fare offices spe­cial­iz­ing in rep­re­sent­ing chil­dren, par­ents, and social ser­vice agen­cies. After attend­ing a train­ing ses­sion in May at Michi­gan Law, fellow​s spend at least 10 weeks at a child wel­fare law internship.