Law student worked for CPS and is foster care consultant

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 the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Epps plans on a career in the practice of civil and constitutional law.
“Detroit Mercy Law is just an awesome place to learn the law – I love the location, small intimate classrooms, the staff, administration and students,” she says.

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.”

A single parent of Ezekiel, 17, and Ahmaliah, 15, Epps often can be found cheering on the sidelines of her children’s football, basketball and baseball games.

“I love watching my children play sports – I’m their biggest fan,” she says. “Next to God, my children are the best part of every day for me.”

She also is very active in Grace Community Church and serves in children’s and youth ministry.

“I love community evangelism and not doing church as usual,” she says.

A Detroit native who makes her home in Eastpointe, Epps is proud of her hometown. “Detroit is a small city packed with layers of hidden treasures,” she says. “It’s truly a diamond in the rough.”

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