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Document 59 of 90.


Copyright (c) 1995 Minnesota Law Review
Minnesota Law Review

December, 1995

80 Minn. L. Rev. 267

LENGTH: 17194 words

ARTICLE: What Ever Happened to Children's Rights?

Martha Minow*


 
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* Professor of Law, Harvard University. Thanks for the superb research assistance of Liz Tobin, and additional help by Laurie Corzett, Jane Park, Justin Weiss, Terry Swanlund, and Liz Yap. An earlier version of this piece was presented as the Lockhart Lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School on March 16, 1995. A related piece will appear in The Sixties (Stephen Macedo ed., forthcoming 1996).
 
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SUMMARY:
  ... This exchange in an abbreviated form illustrates a striking feature of discussions about children's rights: at least as a rhetorical matter they are commonplace among the international human rights community, but they remain controversial within significant sectors of this country. ... The editors of a 1977 volume entitled The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People concluded, for example, that "some children need vastly more help, protection, and concern, while others need less hovering over, channeling, and imposition of adult standards." ... CDF from the start advocated due process protections prior to school suspension, and a right to privacy for children regarding their school and juvenile court records. ... Unclear himself about which additional adult rights should be extended and which should be modified, Edelman lauded children's freedom of religion, racial equality, freedom of expression, procedural due process, and the right to privacy - adult-type rights - along with a right to education that would be unique to children. ... Friedan called for a "second stage" for the women's movement, one that would advocate family-friendly policies such as child-care, flex-time for workers, and other reforms that would respond to the influx of women in the paid labor force. ... Thus, the Convention calls for development rights - rights to education, cultural activities, play and leisure, and freedom of thought - to meet children's needs in reaching their full potential. ...  

TEXT:
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On February 10, 1995, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the United States Ambassador to the United Nations would sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child n1 (the "Convention") and seek ratification in the Senate. n2 Observers immediately predicted a Senate fight led by those who argue that the measure - which 176 nations have signed - could weaken parental authority. n3 This exchange in an abbreviated form illustrates a striking feature of discussions about children's rights: at least as a rhetorical matter they are commonplace among the international human rights community, but they remain controversial within significant sectors of this country. Another illustration appeared in the 1992 campaign attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton for the articles she wrote during the 1970s advocating rights for children; those articles stimulated  [*268]  critics and opponents to satirize the claim for children's rights as children seeking to "divorce" their parents. n4
 
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n1. Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, U.N. GAOR, 44th Sess., Supp. No. 49, at 1, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989). The treaty became international law in 1990; as of February 1995 it had been signed by 176 nations. See U.S. Finally Agrees to Sign UN Accord for Children, Chi. Trib., Feb. 12, 1995, at 22 (discussing Hillary Clinton's announcement during a memorial service for former UNICEF director James Grant).

n2. See John F. Harris, U.S. to Sign U.N. Pact on Child Rights, Wash. Post, Feb. 11, 1995, at A3 (stating that the administration's decision to sign the Convention set up "a possible ratification battle in the Senate with conservatives who argue that the measure might weaken the authority of parents"). The United States signed the Convention on February 16, 1995, but the Senate has not yet ratified it. See Jaya Dayal, U.S. Children, U.N. Convention Gets U.S. Support, Int'l. Press Serv., Feb. 16, 1995 (noting that the United States "remains on the list of 22 countries that have yet to ratify" the Convention).

n3. Harris, supra note 2 (discussing critics' contentions that the Convention might allow children to sue parents).

n4. See, e.g., Thomas C. Palmer, Jr., How Much Power Should a Child Wield, Anyway?, Boston Globe, Aug. 16, 1992, at 57 (citing a humorist's sketch that set forth a "worst-case scenario": "Your Honor, my client, 13-year-old Sophie Roundabout, wishes to obtain a divorce from her parents and younger sister because of irreconcilable differences."); see also Eleanor Clift with Pat Wingert, Hillary Clinton's Not-So-Hidden Agenda, Newsweek, Sept. 21, 1992, at 90, 90 (discussing Republicans' ridicule of Clinton as a radical feminist who promoted left-wing causes that undermined family values); Mimi Hall, GOP Attacks Hillary Clinton on Children's Rights, USA Today, Aug. 13, 1992, at 7A (analyzing Republicans' use of Clinton's articles on children's rights to paint her as a liberal who promoted the break-up of families).
 
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Quite apart from the recent movement for children's rights in the international human rights world, a diverse group of people urged an agenda for children's rights in this country during the 1960s and 1970s. In this Essay, I will situate that earlier movement between an even older history of advocacy for children and a subsequently troubled history of child advocacy from the 1980s to the present. The history is tangled at times. You might watch for the entrance and exit of five legal frameworks for thinking about children: child protection, child liberation, children as potential adults, children in need of traditional authority, and social resource redistribution. I will close by assessing what the historical analysis could or should mean for a political and legal agenda for children, for rights, and for all of us as we head into the next century.



I. THE SIXTIES AND CHILDREN'S RIGHTS: CHILD LIBERATION, CHILD PROTECTION, AND CHILDREN AS POTENTIAL ADULTS
 


Hillary Rodham Clinton was a law student when she wrote her now famous Harvard Education Review article entitled Children Under the Law. n5 There, and in two subsequent pieces written during the 1970s, n6 she reviewed the emerging children's rights movement and argued that courts should stop assuming  [*269]  that all children are legally incompetent until they reach the age of majority. n7 Instead, she argued, the question of competence should be decided on a case-by-case basis. n8 She also observed that children's rights seemed "a slogan in search of a definition" n9 and recommended careful study of both the psychological and legal issues implicated by the idea of rights for children. n10
 
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n5. Hillary Rodham, Children Under the Law, 43 Harv. Ed. Rev. 487 (1973) [hereinafter Rodham, Children Under the Law]. Clinton had worked as a student on a project at the Yale-New Haven Hospital; her task was to define the standards for judging child abuse. See also Garry Wills, H.R. Clinton's Case, 39 N.Y. Rev. of Books, Mar. 5, 1992, at 3, 3 (discussing Clinton's article and her subsequent efforts as Arkansas's First Lady to promote awareness of children's issues).

n6. Hillary Rodham, Children's Rights: A Legal Perspective, in Children's Rights: Contemporary Perspectives 21 (Alicia A. Vardin & Ilene M. Brody eds., 1979) [hereinafter Rodham, Children's Rights]; Hillary Rodham, Children's Policies: Abandonment and Neglect, 86 Yale L.J. 1522 (1977) (reviewing Gilbert Y. Steiner, The Children's Cause (1976)) [hereinafter Rodham, Children's Policies].

n7. See Rodham, Children Under the Law, supra note 5, at 489 (stating that using an artificial dividing point of eighteen or twenty-one obscures similarities between older children and adults); Rodham, Children's Policies, supra note 6, at 1522 (noting that concepts about children's capacities were undergoing tremendous change at the time the article was written); Rodham, Children's Rights, supra note 6, at 33 (criticizing the law's treatment of a newborn, a twelve year-old and a sixteen year-old as equally incompetent).

n8. Clinton suggested that general minority status be eliminated and a presumption of competency implemented instead. Rodham, Children Under the Law, supra note 5, at 507-09. She reiterated the importance of reversing the presumption of incompetency and implementing case-by-case assessments in her 1979 article. Rodham, Children's Rights, supra note 6, at 33.

n9. Rodham, Children Under the Law, supra note 5, at 487.

n10. Id. at 487; see also David A.J. Richards, The Individual, the Family, and the Constitution: A Jurisprudential Perspective, 55 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1, 23-28 (1980) (arguing that chronological age only approximates maturity, and that therefore judges should make case-by-case determinations rather than use a presumption of immaturity).
 
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Republican campaign strategists who dug up these articles during the 1992 presidential campaign assaulted her views as radical. Some charged that Clinton "believes kids should be able to sue their parents rather than helping with the chores they were asked to do." n11 Other less partisan observers commented that Clinton's views were "comparatively mild versions of what  [*270]  the children's rights movement wanted at the time." n12 Indeed, in books such as John Holt's Escape from Childhood n13 and Richard Farson's Birthrights, n14 some child liberationists in the early 1970s viewed children as the next group entitled, like blacks and women, to a civil rights revolution. n15
 
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n11. Hall, supra note 4, at 7A (quoting GOP Chairman Rich Bond). Many observers linked Clinton's writings to the 1992 Gregory K. lawsuit, characterized by critics as a child seeking a "divorce" from his mother. See Reynolds Holding, Children Are Losing, Not Gaining Rights, Houston Chron., Sept. 27, 1992, at A1 (characterizing the political attacks on Clinton's legal writings as due in part to the timing of the Gregory K. decision). Clinton herself never advocated "divorce suits" by children against their parents. Clift, supra note 4, at 90. Gregory K. actually involved a foster child seeking to prompt the state to terminate the parental rights of his biological mother so that his foster parents could adopt him. In Interest of Kingsley, No. JU90-5245, 1992 WL 551484, at *1 (Fla. Cir. Ct. Oct. 21, 1992) [hereinafter Gregory K.]. See generally Howard Davidson, Making Too Much of "Gregory K' - and Too Little, Children's Legal Rts. J., Fall 1992, at inside front cover (placing Gregory K. in the context of a nationwide epidemic of child maltreatment); Andrew L. Shapiro, Children in Court: The New Crusade, The Nation, Sept. 27, 1993, at 301 (discussing Gregory K. and its mischaracterization by critics of children's rights advocates).

n12. John Leo, Who's Right on Children's Rights?, S.F. Chron., Sept. 6, 1992, at 5/Z1; see also Holding, supra note 11, at A1 (arguing that Republican critics of Clinton wrongly assumed children were gaining rights when "children are losing ground in the American legal system").

n13. John Holt, Escape from Childhood (1974).

n14. Richard Farson, Birthrights (1974).

n15. See id. at 10-11, 216-19 (analogizing children's liberation to earlier movements by blacks and women); see also Beatrice Gross & Ronald Gross, Introduction to The Children's Rights' Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People 1, 1 (Beatrice Gross & Ronald Gross eds., 1977) (arguing that "young people are the most oppressed of all minorities"); Leo, supra note 12, at 5/Z1 (characterizing the children's rights movement as a successor to other "anti-authoritarian" movements). Hillary Rodham Clinton and Peter Edelman both explicitly drew analogies comparing children with blacks and women. See Peter Edelman, The Children's Rights Movement, in The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People, supra, at 203, 203 (noting that black people, women, and children have all been considered chattel in the past); Rodham, Children Under the Law, supra note 5, at 493 (comparing childhood to marriage and slavery as institutions rationalized as caring for people who society assumed were incapable of caring for themselves).
 
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Bearing the imprint of the optimistic and at times revolutionary rhetoric of the 1960s, n16 child liberationists like Holt and Farson drew on works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Dewey n17 to argue that children deserve rights to participate fully in society, n18 that adult perceptions of children as dependent reflected their own experiences of subjugation, n19 and that experiments such as an open-school of the American Summerhill Society n20 showed children's capacities to participate in  [*271]  self-governance. n21 A publication of the radical caucus at Summerhill at one point quoted Huey Newton of the Black Panthers as saying "an unarmed people are slaves." n22 The publication continued, "we are asking for a "human' standard to arm kids with, within which we as adults can deal with our own problems and uptightedness while kids are free to determine their own lives." n23 Many liberationists argued that children's voices were wrongly absent even from public discussions of children's rights. n24
 
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n16. "The sixties" actually represents a time period that stretched well into the next decade. It was a time of social and political activism with creative and at times conflictual challenges to the status quo treatment of civil rights, gender relations, generational politics, and sexuality. See Rosalind Ekman Ladd, Children's Right's Re-Visioned: Philosophical Readings 2 (1995) (noting that the children's rights movement emerged in the 1960s, "riding the wave of concern for unfairly treated groups").

n17. Farson discusses the historical roots of the child liberation movement and traces its strongly ideological commitment to freedom for children to works by Rousseau and Dewey. Farson, supra note 14, at 9 (citing Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile (Barbara Foxley trans., Dutton 1974) (1762); John Dewey, Experience and Education (1938)).

n18. Farson, supra note 14, at 3; Holt, supra note 13, at 18-19.

n19. Farson, supra note 14, at 6-8.

n20. Summerhill was an English residential school based on principles of freedom and equality of children and student participation in the operation of the school. Id. at 52.

n21. Id. at 52-53.

n22. Paul Goodman, Reflections on Children's Rights, in The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People, supra note 15, at 140, 141-42. In this essay, Goodman reassessed his own early participation in child liberation debates in which he had argued that society, rather than young people, was to blame for the problems of "deviance." Id.; see also Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd 13-14 (1960) (discussing the ways in which American society transforms bright, lively children into resigned or cynical adults).

n23. Goodman, Reflections on Children's Rights, supra note 22, at 141-42.

n24. See, e.g., Helen Baker, Growing Up Unheard, in The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People, supra note 15, at 187, 189 (citing two Harvard Educational Review issues on children's rights that do not contain any articles by people under the age of eighteen); Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor, We Do Not Recognize Their Right to Control Us, in The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People, supra note 15, at 125, 128-34 (setting forth the history of the Youth Liberation of Ann Arbor and members' struggle to make their voices heard). Even more moderate authors treated the general subject of children and the law as an issue about the distribution of power and responsibility among child, family and state. See, e.g., Robert M. Mnookin, Foreword to Symposium on Children and the Law, Law & Contemp. Probs., Summer 1975, at 1, 2-3 (analyzing how the family and state dominate the lives of children and how power should be allocated among the three groups).
 
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John Holt, for example, urged equal legal treatment so that children would be like adults before the law. n25 He specifically promoted children's rights to vote, work for money, sign contracts, manage their own educations, travel, and form their own families. n26 Richard Farson's agenda called for the creation of alternative home environments. n27 He urged children's rights to information, self-education, freedom from physical punishment, sexual freedom, and economic and political participation. n28 He also advocated the full extension of legal protections to young  [*272]  people charged with violating the law. n29 Other liberationists challenged schools as repressive and authoritarian n30 and urged schools to adopt "open classrooms," allowing students to select their own activities and pursue their own interests. n31
 
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n25. Holt, supra note 13, at 18-19.

n26. John Holt, Why Not a Bill of Rights for Children?, in The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People, supra note 15, at 319, 324-25.

n27. Farson, supra note 14, at 52-62.

n28. Farson devoted chapters to each of these topics in Birthrights. Farson, supra note 14, at 83-190.

n29. Id. at 200, 211-12.

n30. See, e.g., Charles Silberman, Crisis in the Classroom 122-24 (1970) (citing a preoccupation with order and control as schools' most important characteristic).

n31. See id. at 266-69 (outlining how open classrooms could be implemented in the United States); see generally James Rothenberg, The Open Classroom Reconsidered, Elementary Sch. J., Sept. 1989, at 69 (reviewing the history of open classrooms and recommending that they be reevaluated in a more positive light).
 
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Yet alongside those who urged children's rights to liberate young people from a constraining status worked others who also advocated for children, but sought new protections, services, or care. n32 The editors of a 1977 volume entitled The Children's Rights Movement: Overcoming the Oppression of Young People n33 concluded, for example, that "some children need vastly more help, protection, and concern, while others need less hovering over, channeling, and imposition of adult standards." n34 Advocates in this vein worked to protect children through judicial rulings, legislation, changes in existing programs, and a public rhetoric about children. n35 Henry H. Foster, for example, wrote an influential "Bill of Rights" for children that compared children with blacks and women as people deserving equal treatment under the law. n36 At the same time, Foster acknowledged justifications for age distinctions n37 and argued for some rights as claims upon society, such as rights to medical care. n38
 
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n32. See Ladd, supra note 16, at 2 (discussing the tension between protectionists, who emphasized children's rights to assistance and care from adults, and liberationists, who favored children's rights to self-determination).

n33. Gross & Gross, supra note 15.

n34. Id. at 12.

n35. See generally Kenneth Kenniston, All Our Children 183-211 (1977) (discussing the legal strategies of the child protectionist movement).

n36. Henry H. Foster, Jr., A "Bill of Rights" For Children (1977). Foster notes in his introduction that "the same arguments that were advanced for and against the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women recur when issues arise regarding the moral and legal rights of children." Id. at 6.

n37. Foster states that "an age differential may justify legal distinctions based on chronological age if the stage of maturation has relevance to the particular problem." Id. at 7. He then gives the examples of consent for marriage, driver licenses, and hazardous employment. Id.

n38. Item seven in Foster's Bill of Rights is "to seek and obtain medical care and treatment and counseling"; item eight is "to receive special care, consideration, and protection in the administration of law and justice so that [the child's] best interests are always a paramount factor." Id. at xv.
 
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The child protectionists also included presidential leadership advocating special programs and services for children. President Lyndon Johnson sent the first congressional message devoted exclusively to children in 1967, and called for a range of medical, social service, summer employment, and compensatory education programs for children. n39 Perhaps even more notably, President Richard Nixon, within a month of his inauguration in 1969, called for a "national commitment to providing all American children with an opportunity for healthful and stimulating development during the first five years of life." n40 Nixon took pains to express along with the commitment to child welfare his respect for "the sacred right of parents to rear their children according to their own values and own understandings." n41
 
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n39. Gilbert Steiner, The Children's Cause 10-11 (1976).

n40. Id. at 11.

n41. Id.
 
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Whether liberationists or protectionists - or something in between - growing numbers of advocates for children in the 1960s and 1970s found that the language of rights offered a way to argue for both more protection and more independence for different children, or for the same children in different circumstances. n42 Participants in the 1970 White House Conference on Children, continuing a tradition of similar conferences held each decade since 1909, used a rhetoric of children's rights that departed from prior discussions at earlier conferences, which instead used notions of children's needs. n43
 
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n42. See Michael Grossberg, Children's Legal Rights? A Historical Look at a Legal Paradox, in Children at Risk 111, 126-32 (Roberta Wollans ed., 1993) (discussing the development of the language used to describe children's rights). Child advocates in an early period also used the language of rights. Id. at 114-26. As Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover presented Congress with a proposal for a Children's Bill of Rights. Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Cabinet and the Presidency, 1920-1933, at 99-100, 261-64 (1952). But the earlier uses of "rights" language either referred specifically to efforts to achieve earlier emancipation - and adult legal status - or else to legitimate paternalism and enlarged use of state power to protect children. Grossberg, supra, at 115-16, 121. Advocates may have tried at times to collapse needs and rights but courts resisted that tendency until the 1960s. Id. at 122, 126.

n43. Rochelle Beck, White House Conferences on Children: An Historical Perspective, 43 Harv. Educ. Rev. 653, 662-63 (1973); see also Sheila M. Rothman, Woman's Proper Place 268-71 (1980) (discussing the 1970 White House Conference on Children); Steiner, supra note 39, at 122-30 (discussing the 1970 White House Conference on Children and previous White House conferences). The Reagan Administration canceled the 1981 event. Edward Zigler & Susan Muenchow, How to Influence Social Policy Affecting Children and Families, 39 Am. Psychologist 415, 419 (1984).
 
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The rights-based model of legal advocacy for blacks informed the most effective national organization for children. When Marion Wright Edelman founded the Children's Defense Fund ("CDF") in 1973, she drew on her experiences as a civil rights attorney and on her involvement with Head Start n44 and child development programs focusing on poor and minority children. n45 CDF from the start advocated due process protections prior to school suspension, and a right to privacy for children regarding their school and juvenile court records. CDF also sought to pursue the same kind of sustained advocacy for children that the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund instigated for people of color. n46
 
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n44. See generally Edward Zigler & Susan Muenchow, Head Start (1992) (discussing the goals, development, and implementation of Head Start, a public program assisting poor children and their families before the children reach school age).

n45. An Interview with Marian Wright Edelman, 44 Harv. Educ. Rev. 53, 67-68 (1974) [hereinafter Interview]; see also Joann J. Burch, Marion Wright Edelman: Children's Champion 5-6, 20-34 (1994) (discussing the life of Marian Wright Edelman and her involvement in children's rights issues).

n46. Interview, supra note 45, at 53-54.
 
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Yet Edelman's initial agenda for CDF included challenging the exclusion of children from school, the labeling and treatment of children with special needs, the use of children in medical experimentation, and the quality of day care - all comfortably within the tradition of child protection. n47 Edelman said explicitly in 1974, "we are not a children's liberation operation .... Children are not simply another oppressed minority group who could function independently if allowed to do so.... We don't yet have a sound enough conceptual framework to approach children's rights." n48 Edelman hoped for such a framework as part of a long-term strategy but also maintained that CDF should work in the meantime for specific and immediate relief. n49
 
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n47. Id. at 54-60.

n48. Id. at 66-67.

n49. Id. at 67; see also Steiner, supra note 39, at 170-75 (discussing Marian Wright Edelman's involvement in children's advocacy and describing CDF's development and strategy).
 
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Nonetheless, Edelman drew on the rhetoric of rights in helping draft the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971. n50 The preamble to the Act, in Edelman's words, "put the nation on record as saying that children have certain rights: to basic nutrition, health care, education, and child developmental care in their early years," regardless of each family's ability to  [*275]  pay. n51 President Nixon accompanied his veto of the Act with a message warning that federal support for child care would lead to communal child rearing, contrary to American family values; Edelman defended the Act as one mandating parental control. n52 This example illustrates both the dominant association of government programs with communism and the political and practical difficulties in articulating rights for children without seeming to undermine parental authority.
 
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n50. H.R. 6748, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. (1971).

n51. Interview, supra note 45, at 71.

n52. Id.; see also Rothman, supra note 43, at 275-76 (discussing the views of Edelman and Nixon on the Child Development Act). Joseph M. Hawes cites the defeat of the Comprehensive Child Development Act in 1971 as the beginning of the downhill slope of the children's rights movement. Joseph M. Hawes, The Children's Rights Movement: A History of Advocacy and Protection 119 (1991).
 
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This same set of difficulties marked litigation over children's rights in the 1960s and 1970s. Advocates for children used the rhetoric of rights not only to place children in the same legal position as adults n53 but also to seek special protections. n54 Courts sometimes accepted one or both of these formulations, but also often responded with concerns about governmental power or about threats to parental authority. n55 It is tempting to treat the late 1960s and early 1970s as the high-water mark of children's rights, but a closer look suggests the better description of an intense period of debate over children's rights.
 
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n53. Hawes, supra note 52, at 115-17.

n54. Id. at 117-18.

n55. See infra notes 56-72 and accompanying text (discussing children's rights cases decided in the late 1960s and early 1970s).
 
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Consider litigation in the United States Supreme Court; it is a small and selective sample, but nonetheless a body of especially influential decisions. This sample unmistakably reflects the impact of the civil rights and student rights movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1967, the Supreme Court decided in In re Gault that the Constitution protected a child who faced commitment to a state institution. n56 Accordingly, the juvenile court must assure a right to counsel, n57 a right against self-incrimination, n58 a right to notice of charges, n59 and a right to confront and cross-examine accusers. n60 In 1969, the Court assured public school students some degree of First Amendment rights in a case involving students disciplined for wearing black arm  [*276]  bands to protest the Vietnam War. n61 And in 1975, the Court in Goss v. Lopez ruled that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required notice of charges and reasons as well as an opportunity for a student to present his case prior to suspension from public school. n62 These cases reflected social science criticisms of the juvenile court, national turmoil over the Vietnam War and racial tensions, and widespread legal challenges to unfettered authority. n63 They also reflected shifting views of the legal and political status of children and young people.
 
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n56. 387 U.S. 1, 4 (1967).

n57. Id. at 41.

n58. Id. at 55.

n59. Id. at 33.

n60. Id. at 56.

n61. Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 514 (1969).

n62. 419 U.S. 565, 584 (1975).

n63. See Franklin E. Zimring & Rayman L. Solomon, Goss v. Lopez: The Principle of the Thing, in In the Interest of Children 459, 459-72 (Robert Mnookin ed., 1985) (discussing the racial dimensions of Goss v. Lopez).
 
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Prompted in part by successful test case litigation in the lower courts, the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act was a notable legislative development that articulated rights of children with disabilities to education and related services. n64 Growing from medical studies of battered children, legislative initiatives also provided federal aid to stimulate improvement of state responses to child abuse, neglect, and adoption. n65 These  [*277]  developments combined conceptions of children's procedural rights restricting the discretion of public decisionmakers with notions of children's needs that the larger society should meet. Most basically, these decisions departed from the traditional view of children as properly subjected to parental and institutional authority beyond state review because such authorities no longer seemed entirely trustworthy. The Supreme Court, and thus the law of the land, began to recognize children as distinct individuals deserving a direct relationship with the state under a legal regime protecting liberties against both public and private authorities.
 
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n64. Education for All Handicapped Children's Act, Pub. L. No. 94-142, 89 Stat. 773 (1975) (codified as amended in scattered sections of 20 U.S.C.); see also New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 393 F. Supp. 715, 718 (E.D.N.Y. 1975) (mem.) (approving a judgment that inmates of a state facility have a right to a minimum quality of care or treatment even if their confinement is not voluntary); New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Rockefeller, 357 F. Supp. 752, 768-70 (E.D.N.Y. 1973) (granting a preliminary injunction to correct deficiencies affecting physical safety and risk of physical deterioration to mentally retarded inmates); Pennsylvania Ass'n for Retarded Children v. Pennsylvania, 343 F. Supp. 279, 302-03 (E.D. Pa. 1972) (holding that mentally retarded children can no longer be excluded from a public program of education); see generally Martha Minow, Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion and American Law 35-39, 81-83 (1990) (discussing the Education for All Handicapped Children's Act and its application).

n65. Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Pub. L. No. 96-272, 1, 94 Stat. 500 (1980) (codified as amended in scattered sections of 42 U.S.C.) (establishing a federal program providing adoption assistance, strengthening foster care assistance for needy and dependent children, and providing aid to families with dependent children); Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Pub. L. No. 93-247, 88 Stat. 4 (1974) (current version at Pub. L. No. 100-294, tit. 1, 101, 102 Stat. 102 (1988)) (codified as amended in scattered sections of 42 U.S.C.) (authorizing federal financial assistance for programs and projects designed to prevent, identify, and treat child abuse and neglect); see generally Barbara Nelson, Making an Issue of Child Abuse 39-44, 58-59, 76-136 (1984) (discussing medical research on child abuse and the development of laws dealing with child abuse).
 
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Halting the report of legal developments here, however, would be quite misleading. The year 1971 brought a Supreme Court decision refusing to extend the constitutional right to a jury in juvenile court proceedings. n66 In 1972, the Court permitted Amish parents to keep their children out of high school without calling for any consideration of the children's views on the matter. n67 In 1977, the Court in Ingraham v. Wright ruled that a teacher's use of corporal punishment - a beating with a wooden paddle - required no prior due process hearing but only the possibility of a subsequent tort action. n68
 
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n66. McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528, 551 (1971).

n67. Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 231-34 (1972).

n68. 430 U.S. 651, 657, 682 (1977).
 
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The Court's decisions in these cases indicate legal ambivalence in the face of repeated efforts by advocates to extend constitutional rights to children. Ambivalence here should not be misconstrued as a kind of wishy-washy balancing act. Ambivalence is that wonderful word for our simultaneous commitments and attractions to inconsistent things. The Court's ambivalence swings between two starkly contrasting alternatives. One would extend adult rights to children; the other would treat children in important ways as subject to different authorities, institutions, and relationships than adults. n69
 
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n69. See Martha Minow, Rights for the Next Generation: A Feminist Approach to Children's Rights, 9 Harv. Women's L.J. 1, 3-14, 19-20 (1986) (discussing conditions in the legal treatment of children).
 
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Advocates for children's rights sometimes resolved the tension between protection and liberation through a conception of children as potential adults, deserving rights but needing care on the way to adulthood. For example, Peter Edelman, husband of Marion Wright Edelman and a longstanding child advocate himself, served as director of the New York State Division for  [*278]  Youth in the 1970s. n70 In 1977, he described a position that favored some rights for children but searched for a program responsive to children's needs. He explicitly resisted the goal of "total parity of rights for children" and instead argued that the proper goal would "extend some adult rights and improve government programs so that children will be assured protection and dignity and the chance to develop their maximum potential." n71 Unclear himself about which additional adult rights should be extended and which should be modified, Edelman lauded children's freedom of religion, racial equality, freedom of expression, procedural due process, and the right to privacy - adult-type rights - along with a right to education that would be unique to children. n72
 
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n70. Peter Edelman later became a law professor, and then counsel to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

n71. Edelman, supra note 15, at 203-04.

n72. Id. at 204-06.
 
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Where in this vision should entitlement programs - for day care, for medical services - fit? When should children be given second chances and protections against criminal punishments, civil liabilities, or other obligations placed on adults? The advocates' own uncertainty about the scope of children's rights produced no clear answers to these questions and left them largely open to political and institutional pressures.



II. THE LEGACY OF AN EARLIER CHILD-SAVING MOVEMENT
 


Some ambivalence in the courts about children's rights thus may have reflected disagreements among advocates for children. Perhaps ironically, some of the most vivid issues cast as claims of rights for children arose in response to the institutions created by a prior generation of child advocates. Between 1880 and 1930, reformers around the country identified the special needs of children as an appropriate subject for public response. n73  [*279]  Some of the reformers participated in the settlement house movement n74 to assist recent immigrants; others drew specifically on emerging social and psychological sciences to shift from moral to treatment approaches in social programs. Initiatives to address child welfare ranged from laws requiring school attendance n75 to those restricting child labor. n76 These Progressive Era reformers launched a "child-saving" movement with a focus on children's welfare, confidence in experts, and acceptance of the government as a paternal presence in children's lives. n77
 
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n73. See, e.g., Hamilton Cravens, Child Saving in Modern America 1870s-1990s, in Children at Risk in America 3, 3 (Roberta Wollens ed., 1993) (discussing John Dewey, a progressive who argued that the state should undertake certain social functions that had been previously undertaken by family or church); Margo Horn, Inventing the Problem Child: "At-Risk" Children in the Child Guidance Movement of the 1920s and 1930s, in Children at Risk in America, supra, at 141, 141-42 (describing the founding, growth, and change of child guidance clinics instigated by the desire of progressives to care for children by striking a balance between education/nurturing and treatment/cure). The child-saving movement was itself part of the larger movement for social and political change organized by the Progressive Era reformers. See Charles Forcey, The Crossroads of Liberalism xx-xxix (1961) (exploring the background of the progressive movement and describing its social and political changes); Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920, at 169 (1967) ("If humanitarian progressivism had a central theme, it was the child.").

n74. This effort brought middle- and upper-class idealist reformers to live in urban neighborhoods and create community centers with classes, clubs, recreation, and political activities especially for poor immigrants. See, e.g., Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House 40-55, 60-64, 89-109 (1938) (describing one of these centers); see also Ellen Ryerson, The Best-Laid Plans 9 (1978) (discussing settlement houses as an attempt to meet the needs of the poor).

n75. New York was an example of the trend of the states passing mandatory school attendance laws. It passed a compulsory school attendance law in 1874 that required children to attend at least 14 weeks of school per year. Hawes, supra note 52, at 42.

n76. See Ryerson, supra note 74, at 10 (noting that many states were passing child labor laws).

n77. See Michael Grossberg, Children's Legal Rights? A Historical Look at a Legal Paradox, in Children at Risk in America, supra note 73, at 111, 119-26.
 
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The juvenile court under challenge in In re Gault n78 was itself a product of Progressive Era reforms, notably fueled by Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, and other settlement house workers in the late 1890s. Imbued with the turn-of-the century belief in scientific expertise and a malleable human nature, the original design of juvenile courts counted on the benevolence of judges and the possibilities of therapeutic treatment to address misbehavior by both children and their parents. n79 By removing young people from adult courts and bringing them to a special institution connected with social and psychological experts, the juvenile courts rejected the use of procedural safeguards in favor of a model of therapeutic paternalism. n80 Yet within a decade of the establishment of the first juvenile court in 1899, critics claimed  [*280]  this therapeutic approach proved too lenient for juvenile offenders and too intrusive for young people who had broken no laws. n81 Social workers, probation officers, and other experts seemed unable to deliver the promised improvement in children's behavior and lives. n82 Placement facilities for juvenile offenders became overcrowded. Social scientists documented abuses by juvenile court judges and in juvenile correction facilities. Law reformers used that documentation in the challenges that ultimately produced In re Gault. n83
 
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n78. 383 U.S. 1 (1967). See supra note 56 and accompanying text (discussing In re Gault).

n79. See Ryerson, supra note 74, at 28-33 (noting that the belief that children were of an innocent nature and not responsible for their acts led reformers to adopt a juvenile justice system that focused on treatment and not punishment).

n80. See Hawes, supra note 52, at 37-38 (arguing that experts in psychology and sociology represented the interests of children through the juvenile court system and cared for their needs, but they did so without regard for rights or due process).

n81. See id. at 32-34 (documenting the origins and early criticism of the juvenile court system).

n82. See Ryerson, supra note 74, at 138, 146-47 (discussing critics who proclaimed and studies that indicated the juvenile justice system had failed to provide the services it promised).

n83. See Martha Minow & Richard Weissbourd, Social Movements for Children: America's Childhood, 122 Daedalus 1, 7-8 (1993) (describing the overcrowded condition of juvenile facilities); Ryerson, supra note 74, at 150 ("The gap between the real and the ideal juvenile court seems, then, to have played some role in [In re Gault and two other] decisions.").
 
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Similarly, restrictions on child labor and compulsory education - both products of Progressive Era reforms - occasioned critiques by liberationists in the 1960s and 1970s. n84 The special protections for which an earlier generation fought became the fetters that reformers from the sixties attacked. At the same time, some advocates for children in the sixties and seventies sought to continue or extend the earlier era's efforts to meet children's special needs through governmental and private programs. n85 Both liberationists and protectionists thus harkened back to the turn-of-the-century reformers, but with opposite motives.
 
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n84. See, e.g., Holt, supra note 13, at 172 (arguing that child labor laws deny children the right to work for money and to spend or save money); id. at 240 (arguing that children should have the right to control and direct their own learning). In the 1980s, the Reagan administration sought to loosen restrictions on child labor not in the name of children's rights but as part of a deregulation move. The Reagan administration also adopted regulations cutting back on the nutritional quality of federally-funded school lunches, including a rule treating catsup as a vegetable substitute. After ensuing public criticism, the administration withdrew the rule. Helen Thomas, Wash. News, Sept. 25, 1991 (UPI am cycle).

n85. See Hawes, supra note 52 at 117-21 (referring to child advocacy groups, such as the CDF, as "The Child Protectors," which have fought and continue to fight for government programs for children).
 
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III. REACTIONS TO CHILDREN'S RIGHTS: CHILDREN IN NEED OF TRADITIONAL AUTHORITY
 


Considerable opposition could be found to both versions of rights for children. Whether cast as adult rights extended to younger people or as special protections tailored for those with lesser competencies or greater vulernabilities due to youth and inexperience, rights for children troubled judges, scholars, and traditionalists who also opposed women's liberation. Thus, Supreme Court Justices - sometimes in majority opinions, sometimes in dissents - expressed a third position responding to both the arguments for state protections for children's welfare and for extending adult-style rights to children. This third position stressed traditional authority and warned against the conflicts and disorder that rights for children could engender. n86
 
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n86. See Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622, 638-39 (1979) (Powell, J., plurality opinion) (arguing that legal restrictions must sometimes be placed on minors, and that at times children's rights must yield to parental authority to facilitate the growth of the child); Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 610 (1979) (concluding that requiring a formalized, fact-finding hearing in order to admit children to a state mental hospital will "pose a significant intrusion into the parent-child relationship"); Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, 103-04 (1976) (Stevens, J., dissenting in part) (arguing that forcing minors to gain parental consent for an abortion is an appropriate method for parents to foster the welfare of their children).
 
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Whether respecting and protecting the authority of parents, n87 teachers, n88 or doctors, n89 this third view rejects rights for children as either unnecessary or harmful given the relationships of authority and responsibility held by adults in children's lives. n90 For example, one critic warned in 1976 that "the most  [*282]  harmful of the potential consequences is that the long-range interests of children themselves may be irreparably damaged as the state and parents abandon children to their rights." n91 Others suggested that any public effort on behalf of families could threaten parental autonomy. n92 At least one academic observer similarly warned that legalized models would be inappropriate for children because courts lack wisdom superior to parents. n93 The introduction of and debate in Congress over the Family Protection Act indicated strong resistance to legal review of parental authority. n94 From a somewhat different perspective, the Director of the Children's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union warned that, given children's actual dependency, expanding rights for children simply could substitute the state for parental authority. n95
 
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n87. See Parham, 422 U.S. at 603-04 (declaring that parents retain "plenary authority" to seek psychological care for their children and the decision to commit a child to a state mental health facility need not be subject to a formal, adversary pre-admission hearing); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 232-36 (1972) (holding that the state cannot force Amish children to attend school when such attendance conflicts with their religious beliefs and a fundamental interest of parents to guide the religious future and education of their children); see generally Robert A. Burt, Developing Constitutional Rights of, in, and for Children, 39 Law & Contemp. Probs. 118, 124-32 (1975) (examining the parent-child relationship and parental autonomy by examining Wisconsin v. Yoder in detail).

n88. See supra note 68 and accompanying text (discussing Ingraham v. Wright).

n89. See Parham, 422 U.S. at 608, 613 ("What is best for a child is an individual medical decision that must be left to the judgment of physicians in each case.").

n90. Bruce Hafen, Children's Liberation and the New Egalitarianism: Some Reservations About Abandoning Children to Their "Rights', 1976 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 605, 656-58.

n91. Id. at 607; see also Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless Land 174-78 (1979) (discussing the erosion of paternal authority in modern society where many forms of traditional family discipline are left to social agencies and the subsequent impact on parent-child relationships); Edward A. Wynne, What Are We Doing to Our Children?, Pub. Interest, Summer 1981, at 3, 3-4 (arguing that court rulings that have granted greater children's rights, particularly in the school context, have undermined adult authority, increasing destructive tendencies in children).

n92. See Jane Knitzer, Children's Rights in the Family and in Society, 52 Amer. J. Orthopsychiatry 481, 493 (1982) (citing the belief of opponents of children's rights that any public effort on behalf of the family will threaten parental autonomy).

n93. Burt, supra note 87 at 142-43; see also Knitzer, supra note 92, at 484-85 (citing Burt and his theory that the courts lack superior wisdom over parents to make family decisions).

n94. See S. 1378, 97th Cong., 1st Sess. (1981) (providing the text of the Act, which was never enacted); Karen Flax, Women's Rights and the Proposed Family Protection Act, 36 U. Miami L. Rev. 141, 141-51 (1981) (arguing that the Family Protection Act was an attempt to circumvent Supreme Court cases granting rights to minors).

n95. See Knitzer, supra note 92, at 484 (describing the views of Rena Uviller, the director of the Children's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union).
 
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Concern about institutional authority infused Justice Powell's 1975 dissent in Goss v. Lopez. n96 There he argued against due process protections surrounding school suspensions as unwise and unnecessary intrusions on the schools which must maintain authority and discipline. n97 Two years later, Justice  [*283]  Powell wrote the majority opinion in Ingraham v. Wright, n98 finding no constitutional problem with an act of corporal punishment by a teacher, which after all was a traditional form of discipline. n99
 
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n96. 419 U.S. 565, 584 (1975). See supra note 62 and accompanying text (discussing Goss v. Lopez).

n97. Goss, 419 U.S. at 591, 595; see also Gerald Grant, Children's Rights and Adult Confusions, Pub. Interest, Fall 1982, at 83, 91-92 (arguing that school discipline procedures fail to reduce discipline problems or instill a greater sense of fairness). Grant concluded, however, that children deserve rights to hearings in schools but not through quasi-judicial procedures. Id. at 98.

n98. 430 U.S. 651, 672-82 (1977) (recognizing the common law privilege permitting teachers to inflict reasonable corporal punishment on children and finding no Fourteenth Amendment need for procedural safeguards beyond civil tort actions following an event); see also supra note 68 and accompanying text (discussing Ingraham).

n99. Ingraham, 430 U.S. at 682.
 
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Arguments resisting children's rights claims as inconsistent with traditional authority bear a strong resemblance to some reactions to the women's rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. There, too, some observers worried that extending rights beyond their traditional reach would undermine the smooth operation of the traditional family, which should be trusted to fulfill its duties to children. n100 In addition, many opponents of women's rights argued that children would suffer if women were "liberated" from conventional roles as wives and mothers. n101
 
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n100. Deborah Rhode, Justice and Gender: Sex Discrimination and the Law 70-77 (1989).

n101. See Hawes, supra note 52, at 98 (noting that children's rights advocates and some psychoanalysts felt, in opposition to the feminist movement, that children needed and had a right to full-time mothering); Sylvia A. Hewlett, A Lesser Life: The Myth of Women's Liberation in America 183-90 (1986) (arguing that some radical feminists denounced marriage and children entirely and reviled both mothers and children); Rothman, supra note 43, at 246-47 (discussing an overlap that existed between the growth of the children's rights movement and the women's rights movement, and the consequent concern that the women's rights movement would harm the development of children).
 
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These observers were not wrong to predict an impact on children if women altered traditional family roles. Leaders in the women's movement specifically and intentionally wanted to remake the way society raises children. Inspired by popular works like Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, n102 many women around the country challenged the assumption that women are destined to be mothers, that wives should be subordinate to husbands, and that the care of children should fall entirely to their mothers. n103 Friedan and other feminists wrote about  [*284]  motherhood as enslaving women and preventing their equality with men. n104
 
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n102. Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963).

n103. See generally Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991) (discussing the ways in which society views motherhood and marriage by examining their portrayal in cinema and the media); Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution 250-74 (1970) (questioning the traditional roles of women in marriage and motherhood).

n104. See Firestone, supra note 103, at 82 (describing how maternal regimes and biology have kept women dependent on men) (quoting Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1953)); id. at 81 (arguing that motherhood oppresses women); Friedan, supra note 102, at 202-05 (arguing that motherhood and marriage keeps a woman from being "her own person").
 
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Resistance to rights for children thus stemmed from similar or identical resistance to rights for women: such rights, critics feared, would inject conflict and individualism into the sphere of the family and disturb the usual arrangements for caring for children. n105 Many in the women's movement deliberately sought new public policies, as well as new family relationships, to meet the needs of children once women altered their conventional family roles. But opponents of the women's movement joined others to oppose national child care legislation advanced by both women's rights and children's rights advocates. n106
 
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n105. See Leo, supra note 12, at 5 ("A great many people now understand that the rights approach will exacerbate friction in the home and open the door for lawyers, judges, bureaucrats, and "the helping professions' to make a further mess of the family."); see also Laura M. Purdy, In Their Best Interests? The Case Against Equal Rights for Children 129-49 (1992) (arguing that granting children the same rights and equal standing in the family "needs to be avoided at almost any cost" because of the conflicts it will create in the parent-child relationship).

n106. Zigler & Muenchow, supra note 43, at 416.
 
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Is it fair to blame the women's movement for neglecting children? Many in the movement specifically attended to children's needs but argued that they should be met by fathers as well as by mothers, or by new societal arrangements such as affordable, quality child care. n107 Some women's movement thinkers specifically supported children's liberation, n108 but none argued that children should be abandoned or neglected. The failure to secure rights for children could have reflected fears of women's liberation quite independent of fears that women would no longer care for children; one way to keep women in conventional family roles is to appeal to their desires to protect children. Moreover, societal neglect of children's needs - indeed,  [*285]  the degradation and social unimportance of children - may stem from the degradation of traditional women's work. n109 In this light, rather than blaming the women's movement, advocates for children should have joined them in challenging the low status accorded to women and to the work of caring for children.
 
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n107. See, e.g., Firestone, supra note 103, at 270 (proposing that child-rearing responsibilities should be shared by men, women, and other children equally); Rothman, supra note 43, at 243 (describing how the organizers of NOW advocated the establishment of a national network of day care centers).

n108. Shulamith Firestone, for example, explicitly viewed motherhood as oppressive to women but also argued for children's liberation. Firestone, supra note 103, at 81.

n109. See Faludi, supra note 103, at 363-99 (analyzing occupations from sales positions to the military, demonstrating the pay gap between the genders and the degradation of gendered jobs).
 
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This failure of coalition occurred from the women's movement side as well. Some observers criticize the women's movement for failing to place a high enough priority on children's issues, although discerning the place of children in the priorities of the national women's movement is a complicated matter. The National Organization for Women ("NOW"), for example, identified as priorities in the late 1960s and 1970s child care, nonsexist education for children, and reproductive rights for teens, all of which could be viewed as concerns reflecting women's needs more than children's needs. n110 NOW placed child care high on its agenda in 1968 and 1969 n111 and periodically thereafter. n112 Some criticized this emphasis on child care as reflecting women's claims for freedom rather than responding to children's needs, but Eleanor Smeal defended the focus on child care in 1977 as an issue of economic necessity for families and an issue of quality education for children. n113
 
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n110. One notable discussion of children's rights in 1977 is striking in the NOW materials in part because there is nothing else like it. See Mary Grace Plaskett, Bill of Rights for Children, Do It NOW, Feb. 1977, at 4 (arguing that high quality child care and education free of sex role stereotyping are essential in order to eradicate sexism).

n111. This discussion is based on a review of the NOW papers at the Schelsinger Library conducted by Elizabeth Tobin (on file with the author).

n112. See Karen DeCrow, Universal Child Care Is a NOW Priority, National NOW Times, Apr. 1989, at 4 ("Since NOW's founding in 1967, child care has been an issue on the front burner.").

n113. Meet the Press (NBC television broadcast, Nov. 20, 1977) (quoted in Smeal on Child Care, National NOW Times, Jan. 1979, at 4).
 
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Others have contrasted the alleged failure of the feminist movement to fight harder for child care with its strong commitments to reproductive freedom and the Equal Rights Amendment. n114 Sylvia Ann Hewlett in particular takes the American feminists to task, comparing the American movement with women's movements in Europe that focused energy on family poli-  [*286]  cies and joined labor coalitions to support maternity leave, child care, and other family support programs. n115 In their defense, we should note that American feminists supported welfare rights in general without framing them as children's rights. n116 Moreover, perhaps American women's organizations declined to pursue a more expansive social welfare agenda, including child care, human services, family allowances, and medical care for children, because of a political climate hostile to such ideas. n117 Yet Betty Friedan, looking back on the women's movement she helped launch, proposed a new focus on meeting the needs of children and families. n118 Friedan called for a "second stage" for the women's movement, one that would advocate family-friendly policies such as child-care, flex-time for workers, and other reforms that would respond to the influx of women in the paid labor force. n119 These recommendations had something in common with the century-long child welfare tradition the Progressives n120 launched, although they show a distinctively late twentieth-century focus on women's equality.
 
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n114. Hewlett, supra note 101, at 190; see also Steiner, supra note 39, at 155-57 (arguing that feminists are persistent lobbyists but not generally on behalf of children).

n115. Hewlett, supra note 101, at 138-48; see generally Sheila B. Kammerman & Alfred J. Kahn, Starting Right: How America Neglects Its Youngest Children and What We Can Do About It (1995) (comparing the American gender and family policies with those of other countries and then proposing various reforms).

n116. See Katha Pollitt, Welfare Reform: Many Feminist Voices Lead to Almost As Many Messages, Chi. Trib., July 17, 1994, at 6 (arguing that although feminists have supported the welfare rights of women and children, they need to do more).

n117. See id. (stating that the women's movement campaigns for such ideas "can hardly be helped along if the government officially declares that single mothers are social parasites").

n118. Betty Friedan, The Second Stage (1981). In her own best-selling Backlash, Susan Faludi charged Friedan with revisionism in writing The Second Stage and contributing to a backlash against feminism. See Faludi, supra note 103, at 318-25.

n119. Friedan, supra note 118, at 201-342.

n120. See supra notes 73-83 and accompanying text (discussing the changes the Progressive Era reformers advocated).
 
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Critics who blame the women's movement for children's unmet needs too often think that massive numbers of women, including mothers of young children, entered the paid labor force in the 1970s and 1980s as a political statement. Evidence suggests instead that most women joined the paid labor force due to economic necessity, as men's salaries failed to meet families' needs. n121 Rising divorce rates and growing numbers of single-parent households also necessitated women's paid labor.
 
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n121. See David Ellwood, Poor Support: Poverty in the American Family 47-52 (1988) (discussing women's increased participation in the labor force); William J. Wilson & Katherine M. Neckerman, Poverty and Family Structure: The Widening Gap Between Evidence and Public Policy Issues, in Fighting Poverty: What Works and What Doesn't 232, 246-47 (Sheldon Danziger & Daniel H. Weinberg eds., 1986) (discussing the relationship between women's labor force participation and marital relations).
 
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Whatever the cause, by the start of the 1980s, the movement for children's rights had failed to secure a coherent political or intellectual foundation, not to mention a viable constituency with political clout. The movement triggered defenses of traditional authority, yet it also continued to inspire a small but forceful set of advocates for children in the courts and in the legislatures. The patchwork of judicial decisions governing children's legal status placed only the barest cover over continuing ambivalence. It remained possible to argue that young people deserve the same legal treatment as adults, that young people deserve special legal protections differing from the law for adults, and that law should refrain from intruding on the ordinary practices of adults responsible for children. n122
 
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n122. See generally Knitzer, supra note 92, at 481 (discussing the scope of legal activities affecting children and examining the major criticisms of such activities).
 
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One expert reported in 1981 that Supreme Court opinions sounded like a fugue:


 
You can discern three distinct themes: First, that parents have primary responsibility to raise children. Second, that the state has special responsibilities to children, to intervene and protect them. And third, that children as people have rights of their own and have rights as individuals in relation to the family and in relation to the state. These themes are constantly in conflict. n123
 
These three elements each make sense individually, but no clear lines demark which view should prevail in a given case. The absence of a clear conception of children's legal status permitted people to blame parents for failures of state responsibility, to blame the state for failures of parental responsibility, and to view children's rights as threats to both parental and state authority. n124 These blame-games grew into criticisms of the welfare state and even the New Deal safety-net programs, and helped to create the insecurity of children during the Reagan years and since.
 
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n123. Glenn Collins, Debate Over Rights of Children Is Intensifying, N.Y. Times, July 21, 1981, at A1, B4 (quoting Robert Mnookin, Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley).

n124. See id. (discussing different viewpoints of various advocacy groups).
 
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IV. BRINGING THE STORY TO THE PRESENT: SOCIAL RESOURCE REDISTRIBUTION
 


The insecurity of American children in the last decades of the twentieth century became cause for some attention, but also continued to reflect how many adults use the topic "children" to serve their own political agendas. n125 A New York Times reporter wrote the following in 1981 while assessing the Reagan administration's plans to cut services for children: "The children's rights movement, a stepchild of the liberation struggles of the 1960's, has grown into a force affecting the battle over billions of Federal dollars, a host of Government services, and an ever-increasing number of issues involving parents and the courts." n126 In contrast, consider this 1977 statement by Gilbert Steiner, a leading expert on the needs of children: "We have had several opportunities in recent years to develop theories of intervention and I find the most depressing single aspect of the child-development movement in this country to be that each of these opportunities has been a failure." n127 No dramatic accomplishments of a children's rights movement occurred in the intervening five years; instead, observers with different perspectives made what they wanted of the rhetoric of children's rights in the service of their own political purposes.
 
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n125. See generally David A. Hamburg, Today's Children (1992) (examining threats to children's physical and emotional well-being along with failures of public responses).

n126. Collins, supra note 123, at 1. But see Leo, supra note 12, at 5 ("In the world of public policy, the children's rights movement is still alive, but not thriving, largely because it is essentially irrelevant to the current crisis of the family. American children are not suffering from too much parental authority, but from far too little. Rich or poor, children are much more likely to be ignored and psychically abandoned than they are to be "oppressed' by parental fascists."); Purdy, supra note 105, at 214 ("By severing asymmetrical legal ties that now bind parents and children together, equal rights would weaken appropriate parental authority.").

n127. Milton J.E. Senn, Speaking Out for America's Children 193 (1977) (quoting from an excerpt of the oral history of Gilbert Steiner).
 
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From the perspective of advocates for children, legislative efforts to provide quality early childhood education, health care for families, and universal protections against poverty went nowhere, initiatives to protect children from abuse by their parents and guardians failed to stem rising rates of reported abuse, and children too often seemed victims of a violent world indiffer-  [*289]  ent to their needs. n128 Head Start, n129 often described as the one demonstrated success of the 1960s War on Poverty, n130 remained underfunded and thus unavailable for many eligible children. From the perspective of critics, even the limited legislative achievements for children - special education for children with disabilities, expanded public expenditures for protecting children from abuse and neglect, and poverty programs benefiting children and their parents - seemed to be wasteful and bureaucratic burdens on schools, parents, and states. n131 Underlying divisons about the proper role of the government in private life and about race, poverty, immigration, gender, and religion seem more at work in this discussion than an honest assessment of children's entitlements in this society.
 
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n128. See generally Douglas J. Besharov, How Child Abuse Programs Hurt Poor Children: The Misuse of Foster Care, 22 Clearinghouse Rev. 219 (1988) (arguing that social agencies are overreacting to cases of social deprivation among poor children and causing them to suffer more harm in foster homes).

n129. See generally Zigler & Muenchow, supra note 44 (discussing the Head Start program).

n130. See Lyndon Baines Johnson, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 69-87, 220-21 (1971) (offering President Lyndon Johnson's explanation of this effort).

n131. See generally Besharov, supra note 128 (discussing failures of such programs and their effects on the children).
 
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One way to stand outside these debates is to compare the status of children during this period with the status of the elderly. Strikingly, the elderly moved out of poverty and benefitted from strengthened public programs meeting their financial and medical needs at the same time that more children fell into poverty and federal and state governments cut public programs for children. n132 Paul Peterson offered one comparison along these lines and concluded with the "immodest proposal" that children obtain voting powers to begin to duplicate the successes of the elderly. n133
 
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n132. Paul E. Peterson, An Immodest Proposal, 121 Daedalus 151, 151-59 (1992).

n133. Id. at 170-72.
 
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Perhaps because children do not vote, adults invoke the interests of children on divisive social issues. In the 1980s and 1990s, legislative and judicial battles over abortion rights spilled into the children's rights terrain as pro-choice advocates sought rights for minors and pro-life advocates lobbied for parental consent or notification procedures. n134 This may be one of many in-  [*290]  stances in which the topic of children's rights constitutes only a superficial frame for what more fairly is a larger national controversy with little opportunity to put children's interests into the picture. Thus, the abortion controversy involves religion, gender roles, and the place of federal courts in politics, but has little to do with the well-being of children, once born, or teens, once capable of sexual activity. In a very practical way, the national controversy over abortion fuels local disputes over the distribution of condoms in high schools, which also touches on the equally hot topics for public health and morality - HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. One thing is clear: social ambivalence about children's rights will not offer a path through this thicket. Other agendas will prevail, just as they did when the Clinton administration recently responded to the pharmaceutical industry and abandoned plans for a national distribution of vaccinations to assure immunization of all children. n135
 
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n134. See, e.g., City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health, 462 U.S. 416, 432-42 (1983) (upholding as constitutional a statute that required all minors under the age of fifteen to obtain parental consent or court order before receiving an abortion), overruled by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992); Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 622, 644-51 (1979) (upholding as constitutional a statute that requires an unmarried woman under eighteen to obtain parental consent or a court order before receiving an abortion).

n135. Robert Pear, The Health Care Debate: Immunizations, N.Y. Times, Aug. 23, 1994, at A1. Immigration policy is another in which children's rights becomes a superficial topic caught in the midst of a larger debate. See, e.g., Reno v. Flores, 113 S. Ct. 1439, 1449 (1993) (rejecting a substantive due process challenge to an Immigration and Naturalization Service regulation requiring undocumented children be released only to the custody of certain relatives); Reena Shah Stamets, Like It or Not, Immigration Debate Is Coming Your Way, Rocky Mtn. News, May 7, 1995, at 99A (discussing California's Proposition 187 and its effect on children).
 
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Crime control is another agenda driving the treatment of children and producing incoherent results. Some new developments on the "child liberation front" would surprise and might dismay child liberationists from the 1960s. For example, some children now may receive adult treatment for purposes of criminal prosecution, sentencing, and corrections, n136 and the Supreme Court has rejected a cruel and unusual punishment challenge to the death penalty for a person who committed a  [*291]  crime as a minor. n137 Despite the calls by numerous academic commentators for the abolition of the juvenile court in order to assure children the same legal treatment accorded adults, n138 the juvenile justice system retains diminished protections for juvenile offenders. At the same time, the Supreme Court has ruled that public schools do not need to apply adult-style standards governing searches or freedom of speech in dealing with violations of school rules, suspected drug use, or school discipline. n139 What joins these decisions is a sense that the world is a dangerous place and that young people both face and pose serious risks, requiring a public response. Children's rights advocates in the 1960s and 1970s may never have imagined children with AIDS, infants exposed in utero to crack, or the massive dissemination of guns to children, but these are pressing issues in the 1990s. n140 Efforts to change public policies to protect these children are enmeshed in efforts to regulate and punish "bad mothers" who are so frequently perceived to be poor and black or Hispanic. n141  [*292]  Again, agendas unrelated to children are hard at work. Other kinds of social dilemmas and the political reactions they elicit swamp rights for children, however conceptualized.
 
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n136. Michael J. Dale, The Burger Court and Children's Rights - A Trend Toward Retribution?, 8 Children's Legal Rts. J. 7, 8 (1987); see also Gregory J. Skibinski & Ann M. Koszuth, Getting Tough With Juvenile Offenders: Ignoring the Best Interests of the Child, 37 Juv. & Fam. Ct. J. 43, 45-49 (1986) (discussing major Supreme Court decisions affecting juveniles). Perhaps the liberationist rhetoric of the sixties reflected a kind of romanticism about especially privileged children; if so, it is especially ironic that poor and minority children are the "beneficiaries" of policies treating minors as adults for criminal justice purposes.

n137. Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361, 380 (1989).

n138. See Janet E. Ainsworth, Re-Imagining Childhood and Reconstructing the Legal Order: The Case for Abolishing the Juvenile Court, 69 N.C. L. Rev. 1083, 1118 (1991) (arguing that separate and unequal juvenile courts should be abolished); Katherine H. Federle, The Abolition of the Juvenile Court: A Proposal for the Preservation of Children's Legal Rights, 16 J. Contemp. L. 23, 35-51 (1990) (discussing statistical and constitutional trends that support the abolition of the juvenile court); Barry C. Feld, The Transformation of the Juvenile Court, 75 Minn. L. Rev. 691 (1991) (arguing that the failure to reform juvenile courts calls for their abolition). For earlier proposals, see Martin Guggenheim, Juvenile Rights Project of the ACLU 3 (1978) (reviewing the historical background of the juvenile justice system); Stephen Wizner & Mary F. Keller, The Penal Model of Juvenile Justice: Is Juvenile Court Delinquency Jurisdiction Obsolete?, 52 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1120, 1132-35 (1977) (proposing the abolition of the juvenile court delinquency jurisdiction). But see Irene M. Rosenberg, Leaving Bad Enough Alone: A Response to the Juvenile Court Abolitionists, 1 Wis. L. Rev. 163 (1993) (providing a contemporary defense of the juvenile court system).

n139. See Dale, supra note 136, at 11 (stating that in New Jersey v. T.L.O, 469 U.S. 724 (1985), the Supreme Court required schools to have only a reasonable suspicion under the circumstances); see also Bethel Sch. Dist. v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 680-86 (1986) (holding that, although adults may use offensive speech, public schools do not have to permit a child to use the same speech).

n140. See generally Gary B. Melton, Children, Families, and the Courts in the Twenty-First Century, 66 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1993 (1994) (discussing general changes of family and society and their relation to the family and juvenile court systems).

n141. See Richard Whitmire, Almost 1 Million Mothers Would Lose Welfare: Census, Gannett News Serv., Mar. 2, 1995 (stating that the Census Bureau found that 25% of black mothers 15 to 44 received welfare benefits, nearly 20% of Hispanic mothers were on welfare, yet only 7% of white women received benefits).
 
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The recent flap about Republican welfare reform proposals that could send poor children to orphanages represents one more example of a public controversy triggering talk of children's rights but reflecting a different agenda and set of issues. A bill authored by a Congressman elected in the November 1994 Republican sweep of the Congress would end welfare benefits for parents after two years and offer no aid to single mothers under age eighteen or to any mother who failed to establish the child's paternity. n142 The author acknowledged that the bill's policies would render many parents unable to care for their children and therefore would expand orphanages. n143 Following the recommendations of author Charles Murray, the bill and similar proposals seek to end births out of wedlock by ending aid to single mothers. n144 Apparently, President Clinton's proposed welfare plan also would result in putting some poor children in orphanages. n145 House Speaker Newt Gingrich quickly spoke in favor of the orphanage idea and Hillary Rodham Clinton attacked it. When Republicans attacked Clinton, Gingrich said the whole debate had become distorted and cheap. n146 Commentators revealed that orphanages would be far more expensive than welfare and advocates on both sides agreed that a family setting affords the best care for children. n147 The bill's sponsor said he later regretted the orphanage idea. n148 In retrospect, the whole dispute gave a new life to the word "Dickensian" and an old movie called "Boys' Town." n149 It did not, however, elevate the  [*293]  place of children's needs or rights in the debate over welfare reform.
 
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n142. See William M. Welch, Orphanage Talk Brings an Outcry, USA Today, Dec. 6, 1994, at 4A (discussing bill introduced by Representative James Talent).

n143. Id.

n144. Id. Births outside of marriage have increased from 5% in 1960 to 22% in 1985, and from 22% in the African-American community in 1960 to 60% in 1985. David Popenoe, Family Decline in America, in Rebuilding the Nest: A New Commitment to the American Family 39, 40-43 (David Blankenhorn et al. eds., 1990).

n145. William Douglas, Welfare Plan Hit by GOP, Newsday, Jan. 11, 1995, at A19.

n146. First Lady Seeks Truce in Orphanage Debate, Chi. Trib., Jan. 8, 1994, at 4.

n147. Welch, supra note 142, at 4A.

n148. Id.

n149. One writer noted:
 
When Newt Gingrich first uttered that dreaded word on television, the Democratic Party and the liberal press pounced with glee: "Dickensian orphanages" were the Republicans' solution to the problem of poverty. When Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced any plan to put children of poor, unwed mothers into orphanages as "unbelievable and absurd," Gingrich suggested that she rent a video of the 1938 Mickey Rooney-Spencer Tracy film about Boys Town, whereupon he was accused of confusing reality with "Hollywood illusion."
 
Gertrude Himmelfarb, Why Not Try Orphanages, Hous. Chron., Jan. 22, 1995, Outlook Section at 1; see also Mary McGrory, In Defense of "Orphanages", Boston Globe, Dec. 15, 1994, at 23 (discussing the debate between Clinton and Gingrich).
 
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As of May, 1995, the Congress was considering cuts in school lunches, nutrition programs for pregnant women and infants, social security assistance for children with disabilities, and special education. One cartoonist depicted congressional leaders noting, "we tried a war on poverty; we tried war on drugs; let's try a war on children." n150 In responses to the proposed cuts, at least some people will use mass media to focus attention during this political season on the situation of children in poverty. For example, CDF and other organizations document the increasing percentage of American children in poverty. n151 Those statistics reveal that by 1990, families with children under three became the single largest group living in poverty in this country; 25% of all such families lived below the poverty line. n152 Stated another way, one fifth of all children are poor, and children make up 40% of the poor in this country. n153 Again, the success in fighting poverty among the elderly during the same decades raises real questions about the equity in public policy. n154 The racial disparities in the circumstances of children are also striking - 50% of African-American and 40% of  [*294]  Latino children under the age of six live in poverty. n155 A focus on children in poverty may seem like yet another agenda using children; it serves as the basis for a fourth position on children's rights: social resource distribution.
 
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n150. Wasserman, Boston Globe, Nov. 29, 1994, at 22.

n151. James D. Weill, Child Poverty in America, 25 Clearinghouse Rev. 336, 339-43 (1925) (adapted from Children's Defense Fund, Child Poverty in America (June 1991)); see also Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children, Carnegie Corp. of N.Y., Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children 3-5 (1994) [hereinafter Carnegie Task Force] (identifying and suggesting solutions to problems facing children during their first three years of life); Marian Wright Edelman, Invest in Our Young - or Else, Human Rts., Summer 1989, at 19, 20 (discussing the CDF's "investment goals").

n152. Carnegie Task Force, supra note 151, at 17.

n153. Ray Marshall, The State of Families: Losing Direction 29 (1991).

n154. See Carnegie Task Force, supra note 151, at 18 (noting that social policy can and does improve the economic conditions of some groups); Peterson, supra note 132, at 160 (linking this contradiction to the voting status of the elderly as opposed to that of children).

n155. American Bar Association Presidential Working Group on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and Their Families, America's Children at Risk: A National Agenda for Legal Action 10 (1993).
 
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Some child protectionists long have sought redistribution of resources to help children. Redistributionists throughout the past century often focused on children as an appealing group for making their case. A 1980s-style campaign for investment in children is still underway in some parts of the corporate community, but it seems to have had little effect on the congressional debate. For better or for worse, redistribution questions in this country will be legislative ones, requiring electoral coalitions. n156 This is precisely the method that has proved unsuccessful in varied efforts organized around children who have no ability to vote themselves. n157
 
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n156. The Court has refused to view wealth as a suspect classification. See San Antonio Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 441 U.S. 1, 23 (1973) (noting that "where wealth is involved, the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages").

n157. See, e.g., Steiner, supra note 39, at 9-13 (tracing failed children's rights initiatives of the late 1960s in spite of golden opportunities for change); Zigler & Muenchow, supra note 43, at 416 (describing setbacks in child and family policy attributable to the lack of a consistent constituency on behalf of children).
 
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V. FORECASTING THE FUTURE: A NEW FIGHT OVER HUMAN RIGHTS
 


I have no plan or even hope for mobilizing public support for children, especially poor children, at this point in American history. Each of the four rhetorics - child protection, children's liberation, children's rights as potential adults, and redistribution - have failed to find a strong constituency. Instead, political figures win strong support by invoking conventional authority structures, family privacy, and self-reliance, and by attacking a social welfare state. It is tempting to look at other Western industrialized countries and to wonder why state-subsidized health care, day care, child allowances, and other programs are so well-established elsewhere but so politically infeasible here. The failure of the varied rhetorics for children, however, can be only a symptom of and not an explanation for the failure of initiatives for children here.  [*295] 

What, then, might explain the failure of children's initiatives? History suggests four. First, children do not vote, and no other lobby has appeared on their behalf. n158 Second, we have seen cycles of reform and disillusionment, epitomized by changes in juvenile court. The reforms of one generation become the problems to be reformed by a later generation; the earlier reforms and subsequent problems then caution against further reform. Third, children's needs are connected to larger, intractable issues, such as the economy's failure to provide good jobs for many people, the presence of women in the paid labor force without reallocation of some of child care from mothers to fathers and others, negative views of poor parents, misallocated health care expenditures, failures of public education, and divisive conflicts over abortion and crime control. Finally, our culture and ideology produce great resistance to state intervention in families; a resistance articulated both by the political left and the right. Conceptions of personal responsibility and privacy, government bungling and individual freedom, and cultural diversity and mutual distrust fuel this resistance. The cultural resistance to rights for children thus reflects a fear that such public rights would disrupt private traditions and fail to meet children's needs compared with reliance on private families. As a result, we treat other people's children as beyond public concern. Perhaps because of our troubled heterogeneity, with historic racism and intergroup distrust, we do not view other people's children as ours in many important ways. n159
 
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n158. See Peterson, supra note 132, at 170-72 (proposing votes for children after comparing reductions in poverty among seniors during the same period of increased poverty among children).

n159. See Minow & Weissbourd, supra note 83, at 1-15 (discussing these four explanations in depth).
 
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Given these reasons, rhetoric alone will not alter the situation of children. Yet it is tempting to seek yet another rhetoric, such as the emerging human rights rhetoric with which I began. The human rights rhetoric has much appeal to those who believed in any prior version of rights for children. More practically, an occasion for political mobilization has arisen now that the United States has signed but not yet ratified the Convention. Because of the international framework, the United States signing could become an occasion to look beyond the parochial and idiosyncratic views that undermine children's legal protections in this country and consider the standards for treating children developed elsewhere.  [*296] 

In closing, I will explore the argument for international human rights for children, but also will consider the limitations of any existing rights framework for this group of human beings. The human rights argument seeks to treat children as candidates not for "children's rights," "child protections," or "adult rights," but instead for "human rights." n160 As human beings, children deserve the kind of dignity, respect, and freedom from arbitrary treatment that rights signal. n161 This dignity, respect, and freedom does not displace or undermine parents, but instead reminds parents and other adults of their fundamental responsibilities toward children.
 
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n160. This brings us back to the Convention, and the history of viewing children as eligible for human rights. See generally Cynthia Price Cohen, The Developing Jurisprudence of the Rights of the Child, 6 St. Thomas L. Rev. 1 (1993) ("[The] recognition that children have unique human rights has been enshrined in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.").

I have considered but rejected the formulation of children as potential adults. See supra notes 70-72 and accompanying text (discussing Peter Edelman's ideas). Such a view is often associated with applications of the theories of John Rawls. See Wendy A. Fitzgerald, Maturity, Difference, and Mystery: Children's Perspectives and the Law, 36 Ariz. L. Rev. 11, 23-25 & nn.57-64, 68 (1994) (discussing a "liberal model of constitutional personhood" heavily influenced by Rawls). It also accompanies some utilitarian views especially interested in viewing children as human capital. Id. at 30 & n.118. It is a tempting view especially to address resource distribution questions because one may argue that as potential adults, children deserve the opportunity to develop and reach that potential and thus should have claims upon others to provide basic care, safety, stimulation, and education. Fitzgerald provides a comprehensive statement criticizing this view. Id. at 30-34. This work makes the compelling argument that viewing children as potential adults ignores their experiences as children. Id. at 30-31.

n161. The Convention explicitly recognizes children's individual personality rights for this reason. See Cohen, supra note 160, at 5 & n.21 (defining individual personality rights as distinct from rights that belong to society in general).
 
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Unlike children's liberation, the human rights formulation rejects the pretense that children are just like adults in all respects relevant to the law. Thus, the Convention calls for development rights - rights to education, cultural activities, play and leisure, and freedom of thought - to meet children's needs in reaching their full potential. n162 More comprehensive than child protection, the human rights formulation underscores that the absence of rights exposes children to risks of abuse both by their parents and by government actors such as teachers, social workers, and judges. Unlike the social resource redistribution rhetoric, this formulation focuses specifically on children and affords a point for evaluating the entire range of legal treatments  [*297]  of children, not only those dealing with access to resources. Thus, as human beings, children deserve economic and social benefits appropriate to their needs. n163
 
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n162. Susan Fountain, UNICEF, It's Only Right! A Practical Guide to Learning About the Convention on the Rights of the Child 2 (1989).

n163. Cohen, supra note 160, at 8 & n.31. Some describe these benefits as survival rights which include provision for an adequate living standard, shelter, nutrition, and access to medical services. Fountain, supra note 162, at 2.
 
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Human rights in the international sphere depend upon the development of a community that believes in them rather than an authority - court or legislature - that will enforce them.

The vulnerability of international human rights for children to the willingness and commitments of adults at first seems like a weakness, a failure to secure something with force. This vulnerability in another sense, however, becomes a strength because it reveals how dependent and interdependent children are upon adults. Organizing to influence and shape such a community may line up means and ends in precisely the way most important for children. Without adults who believe in the importance and entitlements of children, no phrase, judicial order, or legislative statement will alter their conditions. In a basic sense, all rights - for adults as well as for children - require a commitment by others to recognize the claims of others and to behave accordingly. Freedoms of association and religion, rights to marry and to procreate, and rights to maintain relationships with family members n164 all depend upon community commitments to include the rights-bearers in the group deserving respect and attention.
 
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n164. This is a theme I have tried to develop elsewhere. See Martha Minow, Making All the Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law 267-311 (1990) (exploring rights as fundamental features and expressions of communal relationships); Minow, supra note 69, at 16 (arguing that the concept of rights as protecting human relationships is at odds with that of rights as protecting individual autonomy).
 
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Rights rhetorics in the past have tended too often to imply only freedom from - freedom from state control, freedom from interference by others. Children may need some forms of such freedoms but they also need guidance, involvement, support, and even control to protect them from harms against which they cannot protect themselves. I suggest that nothing inherent in rights rhetorics prevents acknowledging these needs of children. At the same time, the rhetoric of rights is the coin of the realm in national, and increasingly in international, law and politics. Not only does invoking this language put children on the map of public concern, it also crucially "implies a respect which places  [*298]  one in the referential range of self and others, which elevates one's status from human body to social being." n165
 
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n165. Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights 153 (1991).
 
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Many may ask whether it is practical to press for human rights on behalf of children. n166 A negative answer might arise given the considerable resources right-wing groups muster in opposing such rights as interference in their privacy. n167 The history of the children's rights movements throughout this century casts further doubt on the practicality of a human rights effort for children. By the 1980s, children's rights, as a phrase in search of a program, encompassed many contrasting and even conflicting commitments to children without a notable improvement of circumstances for many, many children. Whether styled as children's liberation or child protection, or as social welfare redistribution programs, each effort found powerful opponents poised against it. Moreover, the conventional conception of rights as implying an autonomous person who needs freedom from interference seems ill-suited to meeting the needs of most children.
 
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n166. Some U.S. advocates for human rights worry that placing too high a priority on children's rights may defeat other human rights efforts currently underway. Given the history of the response to the convention on genocide and the way right-wing interest groups are currently targeting the children's rights convention, this worry is legitimate. The worry really raises the political calculus and priority of purposes: Should one abandon the convention on children's rights because it is controversial or should one support it to weigh in on the controversy?

n167. See, e.g., Samuel Francis, Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Guide to Child-Rearing, Wash. Times, Mar. 14, 1995, at A19 (asserting that "by signing onto the Convention, the British have opened themselves to the charge of violating an international agreement, and they've handed a stick to the child lobby with which they can be beaten, even if their children can't be").
 
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Yet the past does not determine our future, but instead offers a set of lessons about the relationship between ideals and contingent realities. Powerful concepts like rights are amenable to new interpretations and applications that may in turn make good on their earlier promise and deeper meanings. So I suggest we roll up our sleeves and work on every front - our own workplaces, schools, communities, and states, our Congress, our medical care, our world - to explore what it would mean to view children as human beings entitled to human rights, or else find a better way to summon attention and resources on their behalf.



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