Social Justice and Family Court Reform

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Creating a unified family court, or any type of family court reform, may have only a minimal impact if it simply changes the structure of how judges do business rather than addresses the structure of the child welfare system itself. The authors argue that family court reform must place social justice at its center. First, they discuss profound flaws in the child welfare system that make poor and minority families especially vulnerable to coercive state intervention. Second, they describe two approaches to child welfare cases–family systems theory and therapeutic justice–that can help to guide reform efforts directed at addressing these structural flaws. Finally, they suggest ways in which family law scholarship can assist in creating a social justice agenda for family court reform.

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Family Court Review