Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Free Legal Encyclopedia: Child Pornography to Coach

Children's Rights - Court Standing, Juvenile Justice, Constitutional Issues, Further Readings

legal government decisions behalf

The opportunity for children to participate in political and legal decisions that affect them; in a broad sense, the rights of children to live free from hunger, abuse, neglect, and other inhumane conditions.

The issue of children's rights is poorly defined in legislation and by the courts, partly because U.S. society as a whole has not decided how much autonomy to grant children. Although the United States is built on protecting the interests of individuals and the twentieth century saw the rights of people with special needs recognized, the nation has yet to extend to children legal standing (the right to bring a court case) and legal protection similar to that of adults.

When most children's advocates talk about children's rights, they are not referring to the same rights held by adults, such as the rights to vote, drink, smoke, and run for office. Instead, they mean that more emphasis should be placed on children's status as "natural persons" deserving of benefits under the law as provided in the U.S. Constitution and its BILL OF RIGHTS.

The U.S. legal system grants rights to people who are deemed competent to exercise those rights. This qualification poses a dilemma for advocates of children's rights because most children lack the skills to advocate for themselves in the political, judicial, or economic arena. Yet, children's rights supporters believe that because of this powerlessness, children must be granted more protections and power than has been provided in their legal status.

PARENS PATRIAE ("the state as parent") is the philosophy that guided many court decisions in the 1990s. This approach basically assumes that the government has a duty to make decisions on behalf of children to ensure that their best interests are met. But the doctrine can be interpreted as allowing government interests to replace interests children may wish to express on their own behalf. It also assumes that what the government wants matches what the child needs, which may or may not be true.

How U.S. society defines and provides children's rights has implications for many areas: how children are represented by attorneys; how resources are distributed, for example, in a family experiencing DIVORCE; how long some children will live in abusive situations or foster care; how the role of families is viewed; and more.

[back] Children's Defense Fund

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or