Emerging Trends - Children's
The issue of “children’s rights” is clearly
at the forefront of American jurisprudence today. However, it is
only fairly recently that these issues have finally come to be
prominently discussed by lawyers, judges, and legislatures. In
fact, our common law history inherited from England treated children
like property or “chattel”, not independent human beings
with rights of their own. Since well over half of all of the cases
currently filed in the State of Colorado involve family law matters,
this is now an area that deservedly gets the attention of public
policymakers in this state.
Though the law continues to develop in the area of children’s
rights, there are some key, emerging trends:
- Juvenile Court Systems: In most jurisdictions, including Colorado,
there is a separate and independent court system to handle cases
involving juveniles. The goal of the juvenile justice system
is to protect and rehabilitate juvenile offenders and their families.
It is based on the concept of parens patrie, a Latin term for
parental role that the court system takes to protect children.
The courts continue to struggle to develop new and innovative
ways to provide services to help keep families intact, and to
offenders out of the adult criminal justice system.
- National Advocacy
Organizations: Hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated attorneys,
social workers, and physicians are at the
forefront of protecting children’s rights across the country
and throughout the world. These groups are making significant strides
in educating the public and passing child-friendly legislation
at the local, state, and national level. In fact, Denver is the
proud home of several, such organizations, including the National
Association of Counsel for Children, the Rocky
Mountain Children’s Law Center, and the Kempe
- Growth of Legal Protections for Children: Colorado
is on the cutting edge nationally when it comes to legal developments
the area of family law. The area of children’s rights is
no exception. For example,
the family law courts continue to develop ways to allow for early
intervention in divorce and custody
to help speed court relief for families. Since family law judges
increasingly frown upon children’s
testimony, court-approved “special advocates” are required
to report to the court the child’s wishes in a custody case.
Child support enforcement authorities have been given a number
of tools to help collect from “deadbeat” parents, including
ways to intercept tax refunds, suspend drivers’ licenses,
and garnishee wages and bank accounts.
There are a great number of additional protections needed for
children. This topic is finally getting the attention it deserves,
and there is little doubt that it will be discussed in the U.S.
for years to come. The biggest challenge that child’s rights
advocates face may be in funding the initiatives and the public
education. We have come far, but certainly have a long way to go.
All of us who care about children and the law are encouraged to
support the organizations listed above.
Back to Emerging Trends