Law student worked for CPS and is a foster care consultant

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News   

Roeiah “Ro” Epps spent several years as a social worker – until deciding her voice would better be heard as a lawyer.

“No one listened to social workers, but they listened to lawyers,” she explains. “I could not argue best interest at the dispositional phase as a CPS worker, I could only make a recommendation.
“I’m passionate about equal representation and advocacy for those who often go unheard and those with the smallest voices,” she adds. “I too was abused as a child and I was able to overcome the same obstacles and adversities the children did on my caseload. Challenges help shape and mold you; they don’t define you. I feel as though I didn’t choose this profession, it chose me.”

A 2L part-time evening student at Detroit Mercy Law, Epps plans on a career in the practice of civil and constitutional law.

The recent recipient of the WLAM Foundation Outstanding Woman Law Student scholarship, Epps says she is “honored and humbled” about the award and acknowledgment from women in the profession she soon aspires to join.  “As a single mother of two children, I’m no stranger to hard work and I understand the importance and value of a good education,” she says. “This award could not have come at a better time to encourage me that all the hard work is paying off.”

Epps earned a double major in Sociology: Social Work & Social Sciences, with a minor in Substance Abuse, from Central Michigan University, and her Master’s in social work from Wayne State University, where she conducted collaborative research for WSU and the Department of Human Services on teens that frequently truant from their foster care placements.

She then spent close to eight years with the State of Michigan Children’s Protective Services (CPS), where she was the recipient of the Star Award, presented to those who demonstrate
excellent customer service, successful innovation and help increase self-sufficiency for clients.

“I was passionate about advocating for children in unsafe environments,” she says. “I enjoyed the sense of protecting children and assuring their overall safety and well-being, due to their inability to protect themselves.”

Wanting to gain experience in a different area of social work, she has spent the past six years as a licensing consultant in adult foster care.“I enjoy offering suggestions to licensees’ and applicants about making their services and programs better which serves vulnerable and dependent adults, and assuring the protection and safety of Michigan citizens that often go overlooked – the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and the elderly,” she says.

In 2009, she volunteered at the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, assessing meritorious appellate issues of prisoners who were convicted by ballistics evidence from the Detroit Crime Lab. “It made me feel empowered and important about having a role in assisting someone in the possibility of reversal of an unjust criminal conviction due to flawed ballistics evidence,” she says. “To have an innocent person suffer is the most extreme miscarriage of justice. Although justice is blind, lawyers need to assure the scales of justice are always balanced.”

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