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Kingsley v. Kingsley


Gregory became the topic of talk shows and two movies made for television. His story encouraged other children to seek legal help with their problems and raised hopes of foster care parents interested in adopting children with no legal guardians. The increased reporting of child abuse incidences throughout the nation, often in high-profile news stories, greatly supported efforts to recognize children's rights. By the late 1990s estimates projected that 1.5 million children were subjected to moderate or serious abuse across the nation annually. Still, courts across the nation commonly ruled in favor of recognizing parental rights despite prior neglect and abuse. In response, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 requiring courts to consider past histories of abuse in deciding to terminate parental rights for those children already in state foster care systems. States were threatened with loss of federal child-welfare funds if they did not conform with the act.

Some family advocates were concerned that the concept of children's rights was often discriminatory against poor and single mothers of color. Also, the publicity of such cases could have long-term effects on the children themselves. Advocates for the poor and minorities encouraged family preservation programs in attempting to more assertively help the parents before removing the children from their homes.

Kingsley helped define the limits of children's rights in U.S. law. Unemancipated minor children could not terminate parental rights in their own right, but needed an adult advocate to represent them in addition to a lawyer in legal proceedings. Many still believed Kingsley set a dangerous precedence with the child being named as the plaintiff, rather than the anticipated foster parents or public agency. Issues over the government's right to act on behalf of children in opposition to their parents continued concerning denial of medical care for religious purposes, ineffective home schooling, and right to abortion without parental permission. Some feared the government was assuming too much of a decision-making role in family matters. What was traditionally considered parental inherent rights were being diminished. In reaction, children's rights advocates argued the notion children were, in essence, the property of their parents was ill-founded and outdated.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Kingsley v. Kingsley - Significance, A Child As A Person, Improper Parental Comparisons, Impact, Further Readings