Beyond Winning
     Barriers to Conflict Resolution
     Dividing the Child
     Negotiating on Behalf of Others
     In the Interest of Children
     Child, Family, and State


In the Interest of Children: Advocacy, Law Reform, and Public Policy

by Robert H. Mnookin
Robert A. Burt
PON Books (June 1996)
572 pages

Is litigation a sensible way to improve policies affecting children and youth? The Supreme Court has declared that "neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone," and since the landmark desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, advocates have increasingly used "test-case" litigation not simply to enforce an individual's rights but as a tool to change policy.

In the Interest of Children provides a compelling introduction to the workings of the legal system and to five crucial areas of contemporary policy concern relating to children: foster care, teenage pregnancy and abortion, school discipline, institutions for the mentally retarded, and the welfare system. By focusing on only five cases, the field research of the author and his nationally-known contributors exposes the often surprising human stories that lie beneath the judicial opinions. The book explores the dilemmas necessarily involved in formulating policies for the benefit of children, and critically analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of litigation as a means of achieving reform.

“The product of a distinguished legal study group who intensively examined five Supreme Court cases involving diverse arenas of child and family policy... the case studies add life to the justices’ words. Readers will see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the lives of the key actors... to test the laws ‘realism’ -- to assess the courts’ ability to respond to the social and personal realities and dilemmas... [This] collection of moral autopsies of children’s litigation, [reflecting] a renaissance of scholarly interest in child and family policy can serve only to increase the welfare of children and families... [S]uch work should increase intellectual honesty in children’s law -- to elucidate the real assumptions underlying policy and open these tenets to debate.” -- Gary B. Melton, Law and Human Behavior

“[I]ts perceptive description… gives the reader the vicarious experience of child-oriented public interest litigation while probing its costs and benefits from an informed perspective… its rich detail, interspersed with thoughtful commentary, should prove very instructive to lawyers, judges, advocates of children’s rights, and others informed in public policy regarding children.” -- Bruce C. Haven, Harvard Law Review

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