History 43.21
Children’s Studies 40.1
History of Children, Public Policy, and the Law in the United States
KC Johnson


Mondays and Wednesdays at 1.40pm, in Robinson 505


Political and legal history of children’s issues in the United States, focused on the attitudes and actions of figures in power. A general bibliography for the topic is available here.


The website contains links to a variety of documents, all of which are required, that will be used throughout the term. The following books, which are required, can be purchased at Shakespeare; or online at amazon.com by following the links below:

  • Final Exam (Date TBA): 30%
  • Midterm Exam (October 19): 15%
  • Group Presentation on Policy Issue: 25% (see details below)
  • Paper Write-up of Presentation: 15%
  • Participation: 15%

Reading Questions Guide


August 31: Introduction

September 5: No class--Labor Day

September 7: Children’s Issues in the 19th Century: Public Education and Welfare

  • Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, pp. 1-159.

September 12: Muller v. Oregon, the Child Labor Amendment, and the Progressive Era

  • Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, pp. 373-524.
  • Muller v. Oregon (1908)

September 14: 1920s Youth Culture and Legal Issues--QUIZ #1

September 19: The New Deal and the Changing Nature of American Liberalism

September 21: Brown v. Board of Education

September 26: Shaping the Next Generation: Cold War Education

September 28: The Great Society

October 3: The Warren Court and Family Law----QUIZ #2

October 5: No class--college holiday

Tuesday, October 11: The Warren Court and Youth Legal Rights

October 12: No class--college holiday

October 17: The Nixon Years--QUIZ #3

  • Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education 402 U.S. 1 (1971)
  • Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974)
  • Edited versions of both cases available here.
  • Policy Advocacy: The Case of the Family Assistance Program (Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a Nixon policy advisor on domestic issues and later senator from New York; John Erlichman and Bob Haldeman were Nixon's top domestic aides; George Shultz was secretary of the treasury; Arthur Burns was chairman of the council of economic advisors.)

October 19: Midterm

October 24: The Changing Rationale for University Education, I

  • Donald Downs, Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University, pp. 1-164.

October 26: No class

  • Downs, Cornell '69, pp. 165-268.

October 31: Roe and Redefining Personhood

November 2: Using Public Schools to Promote Diversity: Busing and School Integration, II

  • J. Anthony Lukas, Common Ground, pp. 83-251, 556-654.

November 7: The Development of Family Law: adoption, child custody, children's rights

November 9: Welfare Reform

  • Douglas Besharov, ed., Family and Child Well-being after Welfare Reform, chapters 1-4, 8, 10, 16.
  • Sanders Korenman, “Welfare Reform and Non-Marital Fertility in the 1990s,” Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy Vol. 3, No. 1 (2003), pp. 27-42.

November 14: Public Policy and Public Education

November 16: The Changing Rationale for University Education, II: Grutter and Diversity

November 21: Children as a Political Issue

November 23: The Law, Family, and Same-Sex Issues

November 28: Academic Freedom Redefined?

December 5: Group Presentation 1: School Vouchers

Briefing book readings:

December 7: Group Presentation 2: NCLB, Children and the Media

December 12: Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Initiatives

December 14: Children's Rights, Adoption, and the Law


Group Presentations

At the beginning of the course, you will be divided into five or six groups of 3-4 people each (depending on the size of the class). Each group’s assignment is to prepare a one-hour briefing for a hypothetical policymaker and his/her staff on one of the following topics:

  • Education: No Child Left Behind

  • Education: School Vouchers

  • Children, Government Regulation, and the Media/Internet

  • Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Action

  • Children's Rights, Adoption, and the Law

Each presentation will include the following:

(1)   A pre-circulated “briefing book” containing copies of documents, statistics, and book, journal, and/or magazine articles relevant to your topic. You will pre-circulate this briefing book to your instructors and your classmates one week prior to your group’s presentation. Its purpose is to provide your audience with background information in advance of your formal presentation;

(2)   A 60-65 minute briefing, with time allotted for questions and answers, in which your group will provide: an overview of the issue; policy recommendations; and a discussion.

You will be expected to draw on the themes and lessons of the previous weeks and apply them to your assessment and recommendations.

You should prepare for vigorous questioning from both instructors and classmates. You are required to attend all presentations.

You will then submit to your instructors a final report of 5-8 pages in length.

The audience for your briefing will depend on the topic. In all cases, however, important considerations include:

(1) Current developments related to your topic;

(2) The current political composition of the White House and Congress (Senate and House of Representatives); or the state government.

Assignment of groups (in class September 14)

In class on September 14, you will be assigned to a group of 3-4 (depending on the size of the class)

Preliminary list of documents (due in class September 28)

Working together, your group will submit 5 essential documents relating to your topic. These documents may be government reports, chapters from important books, journal articles, or other reliable and respected sources of information.

Briefing book (due in class November 7)

 The final briefing book of documents to be circulated to instructors and classmates.

Draft of report and policy recommendations to instructor only (due in class November 16)





Ainsworth, Janet. “Re-Imagining Childhood and Reconstructing the Legal Order: The Case for the Abolition of the Juvenile Court,” North Carolina Law Review 69 (1991), pp. 1083–1133.


Areen, Judith. Family Law: Cases and Materials (New York: Foundation Press, 1999, suppl. 2001, 2004).


Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition 535 U.S. 234 (2002).


Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Company, 259 U.S. 20 (1922).


Bane, Mary Jo. Welfare Realities: From Rhetoric to Reform (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

Bell, Derrick. Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Bell, Winifred. Aid to Dependent Children (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965).

Besharov, Douglas, ed., Family and Child Well-being after Welfare Reform (New York: Transaction Press, 2003).

Bottoms, Bette, ed. Children, Social Science, and the Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).


Cammisa, Anne Marie. From Rhetoric to Reform? Welfare Policy in American Politics. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998).


Chase-Lansdale, P. Lindsay, and Jean Brooks-Gunn, eds. Escape from Poverty: What Makes a Difference for Children? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995).


Cmiel, Kenneth. A Home of Another Kind: One Chicago Orphanage and the Tangle of Child Welfare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Cottroll, Robert., et. al., ed. Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003).

Crenson, Matthew. Building the Invisible Orphanage: A Prehistory of the American Welfare System (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989).

DeWoody, Madelyn. Health Care Reform and Child Welfare: Meeting the Needs of Abused and Neglected Children (Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1994).


Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995).


Ebeling, Richard M., Lissa Roche, and Lorna Busch, eds. American Perestroika: The Demise of the Welfare State (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1995).

Edelman, Marian Wright. Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000).

Edelman, Marian Wright. Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Edelman, Marian Wright. Portrait of Inequality: Black and White Children in America (Washington, DC: Children’s Defense Fund, 1980).

Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962).

Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

Fass, Paula S. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).

Focus on Children and Youth; a Report for the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1960).


Garrow, David. Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).


Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982).


Goldberg, David. Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

Gordon, Linda. Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

Griswold v. Connecticut 381 U.S. 479 (1965).


Grossberg, Michael. Governing the Hearth: Law and the Family in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985).

Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918).

Hasci, Timothy A. Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

Hawes, Joseph. The Children’s Rights Movement: A History of Advocacy and Protection (Boston: Twayne, 1991).

Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967).

Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977).

Katz, Michael. In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (New York: Basic Books, 1986).

Katz, Sanford, ed. Cross Currents: Family Law and Policy in the United States and England (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Keller, Morton. Regulating a New Society: Public Policy and Social Change in America, 1900–1933 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

Korenman, Sanders, et. al. “Welfare Reform and Non-Marital Fertility in the 1990s: Evidence from Birth Records.” Advances in Economic Analysis & Policy Vol. 3, No. 1: Article 6 (2003).

Korenman, Sanders, et. al. “The Effect of Welfare Reform on Welfare Use, Fertility and Marriage of Disadvantaged Teenage Girls.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 22(2): 225-248 (Spring 2003).

Krause, Harry. Family Law in a Nutshell (New York: West Publishers, 1999).

Kunzel, Regina G. Fallen Women, Problem Girls: Unmarried Mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work, 1890–1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).

Lukas, J. Anthony. Common Ground (New York: Random House, 1986).

Macedo, Stephen, ed. Child, Family, and State (New York: New York University Press, 2003).

Manfredi, Christopher. The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998).

Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990).

Massachusetts v. Oakes, 491 U.S. 576 (1989).

Mason, Mary Ann. The Custody Wars: Why Children Are Losing the Legal Battle and What We Can Do About It (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988).

Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).

Michel, Sonya. Children’s Interests/Mothers’ Rights: The Shaping of American Child Care Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).

Milliken v. Bradley 418 U.S. 717 (1974).

Minersville School District v. Board of Education, 310 U.S. 586 (1940).

Mink, Gwendolyn. The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917–1942 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995).

Murray, Charles. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1995).

Nightingale, Demetra Smith, and Robert E. Haveman, eds. The Work Alternative: Welfare Reform and the Realities of the Job Market (Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 1995).


Norris, Donald F., and Lyke Thompson, eds. The Politics of Welfare Reform (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1995).


Novak, William. The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).


Ogletree, Charles. All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education (New York: Norton, 2004).

Osborne v. Ohio, 495 U.S. 103 (1990).

Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429 (1984).

Patterson, James. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).

Pollack, William. Real Boys’ Voices (New York: Random House, 2000).

Polsky, Andrew. The Rise of the Therapeutic State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).

Powe, Lucas. Warren Court and American Politics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944).

Robison, Susan. State Child Welfare Reform: Toward a Family-based Policy (Denver: National Conference of State Legislators, 1987).


Rodgers, Daniel. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998).


Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973).


Rothman, David. Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980).

Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982).

Schlossman, Steven. Love and the American Delinquent: The Theory and Practice of "Progressive" Juvenile Justice, 1825–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977).


Schuerman, John. Best Interests and Family Preservation in America (Chicago: Chapin Hall Center for Children, 1997).


Singer, Simon I. Recriminalizing Delinquency: Violent Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice Reform (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Skocpol, Theda. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Skocpol, Theda. Social Policy in the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

Skocpol, Theda, et. al., ed. Bringing the State Back In. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Sommers, Christina Hoff, The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men (New York: Touchstone, 2001).

Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education 402 U.S. 1 (1971).


Tannenhaus, David, “Growing Up Dependent: Family Preservation in Early Twentieth-Century Chicago,” Law and History Review 8 (fall 2001), pp. 1-24.


Tiffin, Susan. In Whose Best Interest? Child Welfare Reform in the Progressive Era (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982).

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

Trattner, Walter. From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America, 5th ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1994).

Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000).

United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995).

Walker, Nancy. Children’s Rights in the United States: In Search of a National Policy (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1999).

Weil, Alan, Welfare Reform: The Next Act (New York: Urban Institute Press, 2002).

Weir, Margaret, et. al., ed. The Politics of Social Policy in the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).

Youth in Transition: Report of the Panel on Youth to the President’s Science Advisory Committee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974).