CAI's Executive Director, Professor Robert Fellmeth Appears on ABC News

Robert C. FellmethRobert Fellmeth, Price Professor of Public Interest Law; Executive Director, Children's Advocacy Institute, and Center for Public Interest Law

SAN DIEGO (January 21, 2020) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), Executive Director Robert Fellmeth was interviewed for a story on ABC News on parents fight for change after mistaken child abuse allegation.  A woman in Texas, after her children were removed and placed in foster care for five months, is working with lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow parents to get a second opinion from an independent medical expert before a child can be taken out of a home.

Fellmeth says misdiagnosis are rare, and “to remove a child from a parent and then to terminate parental rights, that has to be clear and convincing evidence. Not just predominant evidence, but clear and convincing evidence. And that’s constitutionally required by federal courts,” Fellmeth added. 

Court systems vary from state to state, but Fellmeth says a mandatory second opinion is something he would support anywhere. “I would support a bill that makes sure there’s going to be money and resources available if either the parent’s attorney or the child’s attorney wants an additional – one or even two – diagnoses from independent experts to verify the initial diagnosis as a result of the removal,” Fellmeth said. 

Fellmeth advocates for children to have legal representation. “If the kid has an attorney, they’re gonna be saying ‘what, you mean there’s a possibility of another diagnosis and you don’t have to remove the kid? Do it’. That’s what the child attorney would be saying,” Fellmeth said.

However, if the child is, in fact, being abused, Fellmeth says child welfare workers need to move quickly. “I definitely sympathize with any parent who loses their child to a misdiagnosis by child welfare folk – that would be terrible, horrible, nightmare – I’m also very well familiar with the counter nightmare that exists when you don’t remove a child, and they then die,” Fellmeth said. 

To read the article and watch the interview on ABC News 10 click here.

About the Children’s Advocacy Institute

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), founded at the nonprofit University of San Diego School of Law in 1989, is one of the nation's premier academic, research, and advocacy organizations working to improve the lives of children and youth, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources that are available to youth aging out of foster care.

In its academic component, CAI trains law students and attorneys to be effective child advocates throughout their legal careers. Its Child Advocacy Clinic gives USD Law students three distinct clinical opportunities to advocate on behalf of children and youth, and its Dependency Counsel Training Program provides comprehensive training to licensed attorneys engaged in or contemplating Dependency Court practice.

CAI's research and advocacy component, conducted through its offices in San Diego, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., seeks to leverage change for children and youth through impact litigation, regulatory and legislative advocacy, and public education. Active primarily at the federal and state levels, CAI's efforts are multi-faceted—comprehensively and successfully embracing all tools of public interest advocacy to improve the lives of children and youth. To support CAI’s work, please visit law.sandiego.edu/caigift

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Recognized for the excellence of its faculty, curriculum and clinical programs, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school's faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 36th nationally among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 29th nationally in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.

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Katie Gonzalez
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