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University of Iowa News Release

 

Oct. 29, 2010

College of Law, Iowa Supreme Court initiative aims to keep families together

University of Iowa law clinic students will soon participate in a new College of Law program that hopes to keep more families intact and is supported by the Iowa Children’s Justice initiative of the Iowa Supreme Court.

The students, under the supervision of clinic faculty, will represent parents of low-income families who are at risk of losing their children through parental termination proceedings in Child-In-Need-of-Assistance (CINA) legal cases.

“These are difficult cases, and we expect that by creating a center at the University of Iowa we can help educate lawyers and judges and improve the quality of our child welfare system statewide,” said John Whiston, clinical law professor who is helping to set up the program. “We hope that this gives them first class representation and hopefully works with them in a way that allows their families to stay intact.”

He said the one-year family assistance pilot project will work with social service agencies, nonprofit groups and other departments at the UI to get parents to the services they need. He said examples of the services include substance abuse treatment or family counseling.

“Not every parent in the CINA system will or should be able to keep their children, but having top-notch, well-resourced lawyers working on these cases means that the parents will have a fair opportunity to show that their family should remain intact,” said Whiston. “The program hopes that many families will, with proper support, be able to remain together, since numerous studies have shown children are best off growing up in stable, intact families.”

Whiston said the UI College of Law is one of the first law schools in the country to set up such a program and has few organizational models to follow. As a result, he said organizers haven’t determined yet how many parents to accept as clients during the pilot phase, what court jurisdictions they’ll come from, or how many legal clinic students will be needed.

The law school will hire a visiting clinical law professor to establish the program and oversee the students’ legal work using a $120,000 grant from the Supreme Court’s Iowa Children’s Justice Initiative. Whiston said the Court has placed a high priority on the program since it wants to improve the quality of legal representation for parents across the state.

The program will accept its first clients during the fall semester in 2011.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: John Whiston, UI College of Law, john-whiston@uiowa.edu, 319-335-9145; Tom Snee, University News Service, 319-384-0010 (office), 319-541-8434 (cell), tom-snee@uiowa.edu