The Status of Children: A Story of Emerging Rights

Barbara Bennett Woodhouse

in Cross Currents

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780198268208
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191683442 | DOI:
The Status of Children: A Story of Emerging Rights

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This chapter focuses on the gradual extension of rights to children and young people. One source of emerging rights is the United States Constitution, with its Bill of Rights and especially its Fourteenth Amendment. It influences children’s status indirectly, by placing limits on the powers of state legislatures and courts to invade the privacy and autonomy of the family. But the Constitution does not tell the whole story. As central as the Constitution may be to American law, no one source of law provides a comprehensive picture of children’s status in the United States. In fact, laws on custody, emancipation, and family life are the province of state courts and legislatures, rather than the federal Congress or federal courts. One standardising influence on the development of children’s law is federal spending to ‘promote the general welfare’. Federal programs on child welfare, child support, health care, and adoption often condition eligibility for funds on changes in state laws and policies. Another standardising force is the work of organisations that create and disseminate model laws.

Keywords: United States Constitution; children; Fouteenth Amendment; rights; custody; state courts; family; federal courts; child welfare; health care

Chapter.  7440 words. 

Subjects: Family Law

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