Vivek Sankaran on Taking the First Steps to Reforming Child Welfare: Relentlessly Supporting Families and Bolstering Child-Parent Relationships

Vivek Sankaran (’01), Director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, contributed two recent pieces to The Imprint discussing the importance of making time to develop authentic relationships with clients and supporting families wholeheartedly. “We can transform child welfare if each person working with families figures out what they can do to relentlessly support parents with whatever resources they have. It might involve bearing witness to their story. It might involve a small – or large – act of kindness. It might involve not dwelling on the negative facts, but instead focusing on the parent’s strengths. It might involve a hug, or a joint cry. It might involve legislative or policy changes to bring more resources to address the concrete needs of families. But the one thing it must involve is true kinship with the families we are lucky enough to serve.” (“Toward Relentless Support of Families,” Dec. 23). Vivek also reflected on family resilience and putting children’s relationship needs first. “As we embark on a new year within the child protection system, might we flip the script and adopt a new prevailing narrative – that we identify what relationships matter to the child, unequivocally support them, and then use our legal tools to allow the child to benefit from those relationships. Might we better serve families by refusing to permanently destroy relationships between children and their parents that are important to children?” (“The Value of Leaving the Door Open for Families,” Jan 14).