Pitiful Plaintiffs: Child Welfare Litigation and the Federal Courts

Overview

Focusing on a class action lawsuit against the Illinois child welfare system (B. H. v. Johnson), Pitiful Plaintiffs examines the role of the federal courts in the child welfare policymaking process and the extent to which litigation can achieve the goal of reforming child welfare systems.

Beginning in the 1970s, children's advocates asked the federal courts to intervene in the child welfare policymaking process. Their weapons were, for the most part, class action suits that ...

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Overview

Focusing on a class action lawsuit against the Illinois child welfare system (B. H. v. Johnson), Pitiful Plaintiffs examines the role of the federal courts in the child welfare policymaking process and the extent to which litigation can achieve the goal of reforming child welfare systems.

Beginning in the 1970s, children's advocates asked the federal courts to intervene in the child welfare policymaking process. Their weapons were, for the most part, class action suits that sought widespread reform of child welfare systems. This book is about the tens of thousands of abused and neglected children in the United States who enlisted the help of the federal courts to compel state and local governments to fulfill their obligations to them. Based on a variety of sources, the core of the research consists of in-depth, open-ended interviews with individuals involved in the Illinois child welfare system, particularly those engaged in the litigation process, including attorneys, public officials, members of children's advocacy groups, and federal court judges. The interviews were supplemented with information from legal documents, government reports and publications, national and local news reports, and scholarly writings. Despite the proliferation of child welfare lawsuits and the increasingly important role of the federal judiciary in child welfare policymaking, structural reform litigation against child welfare systems has received scant scholarly attention from a political science or public policy perspective. Mezey's comprehensive study will be of interest to political scientists and public policy analysts, as well as anyone involved in social justice and child welfare.

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What People Are Saying

Lawrence Baum
Lawrence Baum, Ohio State University

Susan Mezey has written a fine study. She takes a careful look at the actions and effects of the federal courts in an important field of policy. In doing so, she provides insight into the practical impact of litigation that is aimed at reforming public programs.
Martin Shapiro
Martin Shapiro, University of California, Berkeley

For all the general talk, there are remarkably few detailed, empirical studies of the how, what, where, when, and why of judicial policy making. Focusing on class action law suits in lower" federal courts rather than big Supreme Court cases or routine trials, this study will be vital for all future analyses of courts and public policy.
Karen O'Connor
Karen O'Connor, American University, Washington, D. C.

[Susan Mezey's] careful analysis of child welfare policy and the role of the federal courts will soon become a critical source in the debate over class action litigation. It not only provides a thorough analysis of how `big' cases move with glacial pace through the court system, but how they affect the system as they proceed. It is a carefully researched, excellently written, and sophisticated legal and political analysis of the emotional and often heart-wrenching problems involving child welfare.—Karen O'Connor, American University, Washington, D. C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822941163
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Political Science Series
  • Pages: 288

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