5.24.2017

How much SNAP $ is needed by American families?

President Trump's first budget proposal asks Congress to consider decreasing food stamp spending in fiscal year 2018.   Federal government subsidizes for American families are important, but have also risen dramatically over the past decade.  

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a public welfare benefit for families that need help with their household food budget due to unemployment or family breakdown.  It has, however, become so easy to qualify for SNAP that the system can be victimized by fraud, and can even work to rob families of personal responsibility.  The program has also worked to burden state and federal governments with huge public benefits costs.  For example, since 2007, Alabama households had a 248% increase in annual SNAP costs, Californian’s saw a 252% increase in annual SNAP costs, Delaware households had a 275% increase in annual SNAP costs, Georgia households had a 257% increase in annual SNAP costs, and DC saw a massive 368% increase in SNAP expenditures. 

Find out how much your state spends on SNAP by viewing the appendix at A Fifty-State Survey of the Cost of Family Fragmentation, 25 REGENT U.L. REV. 25 (2012). Family restoration may even be hindered by too much government overreach into families, creating a dependence by those families who may be otherwise situated to not be in need of SNAP funds.

5.16.2017

Birth Certificate Based on Biology?

A recent ruling in Arkansas considered the birth certificate dilemma for a child whose mother was married to another woman. 

One could argue that the child has a vested interest in this outcome, considering the child’s right to self-identity, the court’s need to protect the best interests of the child, and the biological fact that every child has a biological mother and a father. But the court ruled that Arkansas has a vested interest in listing biological parents on birth certificates. 

"What is before this court is a narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process," Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote in the court's majority opinion. "...In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths."

Read the text of the full opinion here, and further analysis at the Mirror of Justice hereA state has an interest in knowing who a child’s parents are, and a child has a liberty interest in that information as well.

5.08.2017

Teens Running The Court: Scary or Genius?

This guest post is by 3L law student, now graduate, Alison Haefner, co-author with me of “Empowering Love and Respect for Child Offenders Through Therapeutic Jurisprudence: The Teen Courts Example,” 4(4) Sociology and Anthropology 212, 214 (2016):     

It’s all too familiar a story: a young kid makes a bad decision that leads to his involvement with the judicial system. He goes to juvenile detention, and once released he makes yet another bad decision landing him back in jail. This cycle continues, and one day he finds himself in prison as an adult for something he never thought he would do.

Unfortunately, this narrative is pervasive in the lives of young persons involved with the American juvenile justice system. High recidivism rates as well as mental, physical and psychological problems characterize those involved in the juvenile justice system, effectively chewing youths up and spitting them out in time for them to make another mistake and repeat the cycle again. In our article, Empowering Love and Respect for Child Offenders through Therapeutic Jurisprudence: The Teen Courts Example, we discuss teen courts in depth, looking to therapeutic jurisprudence as a framework with which to conduct further research into this intriguing solution to the pervasive juvenile justice system issues in America.

Established to interrupt the perpetual cycle, teen courts use positive peer pressure and juvenile involvement in the judicial system to redirect children from a life characterized by crime. This intriguing trend emerging in juvenile justice is a peer-based forum where children ages 10-17 actively participate in their own criminal process, rather than being herded through a system filled with adults. Scott Peterson of Global Youth Justice, a proponent of teen courts, says in his Youth Justice Philosophy, “[i]f negative peer pressure is a primary factor in leading some young people to commit a crime or an offense, then positive peer pressure can be harnessed and redirected to become a positive force and lead other young people to adhere to the rule of law and become more productive citizens.”

According to the Judicial Council of California, there were only 78 teen courts in 1994, and there are now over 1,400 teen courts across America. In a book chapter on child participation in juvenile justice the four different models of teen courts are discussed: 1) adult judge, 2) teen jury, 3) teen judge panel, and 4) youth judge. While teen courts vary on what types of crimes they review, most children going before these teen courts are first-time offenders of non-violent crimes such as truancy, curfew violations, petty theft, shoplifting, underage drinking, and possession of drug paraphernalia. In each model, the child must stand before his/her peers, admitting to the crime. The teen jurors or judges then ask questions and come up with an appropriate sentence designed to rehabilitate the child, teaching him/her that decisions have consequences. While many of those in opposition are concerned over handing the judicial system over to teens, we argue at page 214 that putting a young person in front of a jury of their peers actually “allows the law to work as a therapeutic agent to benefit the child offender, as well as the community in which he or she lives.”

Our research shows that Teen Courts in the context of family restoration can be a strategic part of juvenile rehabilitation. Teens Running The Court: Scary or Genius? You decide.

5.02.2017

FGM Destroys Lives of Little Girls

A Michigan court will determine whether to protect a child’s best interests when she was the subject of female genital mutilation (FGM), or to protect the religious freedom of those who mutilated her.  This could be a test on whether other Sharia Laws will be upheld over state sovereignty in protecting what is best for children
CNN reported last Wednesday that “two Michigan doctors and a medical office manager were indicted Wednesday by a Detroit grand jury in the first federal female genital mutilation case in the United States.” In an audacious move, Mary Chartier, the attorney for one of the doctors, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, is basing her defense upon the need to protect religious practices that mutilate little girls.  Chartier said: “I do believe that the government does not fully understand the religious practices of Dr. Attar and Dr. Attar’s religion, and I think that’s why we are in this courthouse today, and what we’ll be fighting over for the next few months.”  This defense holds that FGM is deserving of more protection than an innocent child, and is justified in Islam.  Therefore Dr. Attar was just exercising his freedom of religion.  The right to genitally mutilate a little girl could become a test case for the spread of Sharia practices in the U.S.
This Sharia practice of FGM violates Michigan and U.S. law requiring courts to protect the best interests of a child, and it violates the international Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  To learn more about the horrific reality of FGM see footnote 87 of Suffer the Children: How the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Has Not Supported Children, published by the N.Y. Int’l. L. Rev.  The CRC has been working to protect children since 1989 but FGM still destroys the lives of little girls around the globe.  In A Brief Assessment of the 25-Year Effect of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, published by the Cardozo J. Int’l. & Compar. L. I set out the concerns of FGM clearly as they still exist today.  This Michigan case is just an example of the harm inflicted on little girls in the name of religious freedom.  Protecting the practice of FGM is no way to restore families.