MSU College of Law News

RETIRING LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ENDOWS LAW AND SOCIAL WORK INITIATIVE AT MSU

12/15/98

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East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan - Michigan Lt. Gov. Connie Binsfeld, Michigan Gov. John Engler and Michigan State University President Peter McPherson announced on Tuesday the endowment of a family advocacy program.

The program is called the Chance at Childhood Endowment of the Law and Social Work Initiative at Michigan State University. Binsfeld was among those who originally established the Chance at Childhood Foundation as part of the 1994 Michigan International Year of the Family.

On Tuesday, she announced the donation of more than $150,000 to the new endowment to fund the initiative, the goal of which is to improve the system of justice in the family court system by training lawyers and social workers to work in concert with one another. This will protect Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, by providing the best professional services possible.

"The Lt. Governor’s Commission on children found that the present system failed to provide children with adequate representation. One of the goals of the commission was to ‘ensure effective and competent legal representation for all children to guarantee safety, services and permanency for children,’" said Binsfeld. "I see this initiative as a way to achieve this. This land-grant university has all the resources and components to bring Michigan citizens into the next century so that every child has a chance at childhood."

"This endowment, like so many other efforts Lieutenant Governor Binsfeld has been involved in during her extensive career in public service, will make a difference for families and children," said Engler. "I am grateful to Connie and to all of the parties who have helped make this new program possible."

The initiative is a collaboration between the School of Social Work in MSU's College of Social Science and the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University. The units will work together to strengthen the knowledge base, practice, and advocacy skills of social workers and lawyers working with children, youth, families and communities.

"Michigan State University has a long history of service to the people of the state of Michigan, and this is exactly the kind of initiative that we should be undertaking," said McPherson. "This is the right time for such a program to be implemented; this is the right place for it to begin. We hope it becomes a model for dealing with these issues nationwide."

The initiative includes a specially designed educational experience for law students and graduate social work students. The development of the Family Advocacy and Practice Certificate Program will provide an in-depth emphasis on legal and social service perspectives for work with at-risk children and families.

"To promote the safety, permanency and well-being of children, it is essential that social workers and attorneys work together to provide effective and efficient advocacy and services," said Gary Anderson, director of the School of Social Work. "We welcome this model initiative to better educate and prepare social workers and attorneys for the collaborative partnership required to respond to the continuing challenge of child abuse and neglect."

The interdisciplinary training of master-level social work students and law students will greatly improve the legal representation of children and will foster a partnership between the two disciplines that is often currently lacking.

"The type of interdisciplinary training provided by this program will be unique in the country," said Pat Mell, associate dean for academic affairs at the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University. "The lawyers and social workers who complete this program will be uniquely qualified in their understanding of the relationship between legal issues and the practical realities of children and families who find themselves before the family courts of the state of Michigan. Their collaborative efforts will enable them to forge a new model of practice for family court practitioners.

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