Sunday, June 26, 2011
On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law School, a center that holds among its core values that children are human beings and that all children matter, this short commentary reflects on lessons juvenile courts teach us about family values and the disconnection between our expectations of and aspirations for rich and poor families and their children. This dichotomy of expectations undergirds the myth of separation: that children can be fully and existentially separated from their parents; and that we must excise children from parents to improve children’s lives. The separation myth works to the detriment of all children, but particularly to children under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts who are more vulnerable to family disruption in a system that devalues kinship and ignores socioeconomic solutions. Against the kin-suspicious culture of juvenile courts, this commentary juxtaposes research in adoption that illustrates the importance of birth kin to children and their adoptive parents.