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The Restatement of Children and the Law features a strong endorsement of parents’ rights to the care, custody, and control of their children because parents’ rights are generally good for children. Building on that foundation, the Restatement’s sections on child neglect and abuse law would resolve several jurisdictional splits in favor of greater protections for family integrity, thus protecting more families against the harms that come from state intervention, especially state separation of parents from children.

But a close read of the Restatement shows that it only goes so far. It is not likely to significantly reduce the wide variation in practice by jurisdiction, nor will it satisfy calls for a more fundamental transformation of the legal system. For instance, the Restatement requires consideration of the harm of removing children from their parents, without explaining how to weigh that against possible harms of remaining at home. It provides that poverty alone does not amount to neglect, without providing much guidance on the difficult question of how to implement that principle. The Restatement creates a clear preference for placement with relatives over strangers, without clarifying what suffices to overcome those preferences. It recognizes a right of parents and children separated by the state to visit with “frequency,” without defining that term.

This analysis is not a criticism of the Restatement — by codifying existing law, it does what the Restatement should do. Rather, this analysis highlights how this Restatement can contribute to child neglect and abuse law in the present context. It can help nudge the law in a modestly improved direction and highlight areas that require more transformative legal changes.


Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law


Originally appearing in the University of Chicago Law Review, 91 U. Chi. L. Rev. 469 (2024). Reprinted with permission from the University of Chicago Law School.