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Professor Josh Gupta-Kagan observes that the Restatement of Children and the Law does not transform the law of child abuse and neglect. As he contends, this is neither a feature nor a bug. It is simply the reality of a restatement, which can only nudge, not reform, the law. I agree with Gupta-Kagan that only political will, not the American Law Institute (ALI), can fix the significant problems with the family regulation system. For advocates and scholars — including both of us — who seek structural and doctrinal change, the ALI has principles projects, and there is a broader ecosystem for law reform. But the nature of a restatement is to restate.

Notwithstanding this inherent constraint, I want to underscore one aspect of Gupta-Kagan’s argument and suggest that the Restatement does more than may first meet the eye. Gupta-Kagan applauds the Restatement’s embrace of parental rights for families facing coercive state intervention through the family regulation system. He demonstrates that at several doctrinal forks, the Restatement relies on parental rights to choose the rule that is more protective of family integrity. As Gupta-Kagan shows, by emphasizing these rights, the Restatement reinforces the doctrinal shield that helps protect marginalized families from state intervention. I second the value of this shield, but in my view, the Restatement does something else as well.


Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law


Originally appearing in the University of Chicago Law Review, 91 U. Chi. L. Rev. 503 (2024). Reprinted with permission from the University of Chicago Law School.