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June 8, 2004

U-M’s child advocacy program marks 10 th anniversary

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—“Child advocacy work is no way to get rich, at least not in money,” said Donald Duquette, University of Michigan Clinical Professor of Law and director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic (CALC). However, the people who choose this area of the law wouldn’t trade money for the satisfaction they gain from their work. CALC, which was established in 1976, is the oldest and most respected child advocacy law clinic in the country.

Now in its 10th year, the Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Summer Fellowship program at the University of Michigan is an outgrowth of the Law School’s commitment to child advocacy and Professor Duquette’s vision. It is a multidisciplinary program designed to equip people committed to child welfare advocacy with the tools to cope with today’s complex issues. Since 1994, 192 fellows from law schools throughout the country have completed this unique, all-expenses-paid training program.

Thirty fellows comprising the class of 2004 gathered at the Law School from May 20-24. This year’s class included four U-M Law students, as well as students representing the law schools at Harvard, Columbia, Penn State, University of California  Berkeley and Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wayne State University, among others.

This is not a program for students simply looking for a different kind of lawyering experience to add to their resumes. Participants are selected through a highly-competitive process and a determining factor is a demonstrated commitment to child advocacy. Dedicated to the well being of children, the program is designed to encourage the very best American law students to pursue child advocacy careers. The program provides four days of intensive interdisciplinary training in child welfare law and related issues and prepares fellows for summer internships with child advocacy agencies throughout the country.

“Many lawyers spend years seeking the training and insight into the child welfare process provided in the very intense and inspiring Bergstrom Fellowship program,” said Ann Reyes Robbins, a 1997 Bergstrom Fellow. “In the course of several days we had an opportunity to meet victims, perpetrators, service providers, and judicial officers, each conveyed their perspectives in a very candid manner about the legal process and what they believed helps families in need and what might have a negative impact on children, despite good intentions.”

Robbins, a 1998 graduate of the U-M Law School, has built a career dedicated to child advocacy with the training she received as a law student and as a fellow. Upon graduating from Law School, she became a certified probation officer for the state of Indiana working for the local juvenile court judge in Fort Wayne. Robbins later developed a family practice in Fort Wayne that involved complex custody and dissolution of marriage and paternity actions. She has also served as contract counsel for the Allen County Division of Family and Children, and a court-appointed guardian ad litem in more than 100 cases. These examples represent only a small portion of her activities in behalf of children and families.

Support for the fellowship program is supplied by an endowment from the Bergstrom Foundation in honor of the late Henry A. Bergstrom, a 1935 graduate of the Law School. This year, the foundation provided an additional challenge grant matching up to $30,000 in contributions that provided stipends to support fellows in their summer internships. Donors for the stipend grants included Sidney Kleinman, ’57, the Hon. Maurice Portley, ’78, Adrian Steel Jr., ’75, Joseph and Lynda Zengerle, ’72, and the law offices of Butzel Long, Detroit, and Goldberg, Kohn, Bell, Black, Rosenbloom & Moritz Ltd. in Chicago.


Contact: Nancy Marshall
Phone: (734) 764-6375
E-mail: nancylm@umich.edu