The Myth of Separation

10 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011 Last revised: 23 Aug 2011

See all articles by Annette Ruth Appell

Annette Ruth Appell

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 31, 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.

Keywords: children, parents, postmodern families, juvenile court, adoption

Suggested Citation

Appell, Annette Ruth, The Myth of Separation (March 31, 2011). Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, Vol. 6, p. 291, 2011, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper, No. 11-06-05, Available at SSRN:

Annette Ruth Appell (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-7912 (Phone)

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