The Client: How States are Profiting from the Child's Right to Protection

71 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2018

See all articles by DeLeith Gossett

DeLeith Gossett

Texas Tech University School of Law

Date Written: 2018


In The Client, John Grisham tells the tale of Mark Sway, a poor kid from a trailer park who knows something he shouldn’t –– something that could get him killed. He has to dodge both law enforcement officials and the Mafia to keep his secret, and he is running scared. When he refuses to tell anyone what he knows, the attorneys for the government explore ways to make him talk. They investigate his family and find a single mother with a rough background. She works long hours at a factory and often leaves Mark and his brother alone. The attorneys decide to use that to their advantage, and they haul Mark before the juvenile court “for his own protection.” Luckily, he has Reggie Love on his side, a tough attorney whom he has hired for $1, who just happens to specialize in child abuse and neglect cases in juvenile court. Without Reggie, he would have had to navigate the child protection system on his own, and probably to a different outcome.

Mark’s ordeal occurred in 1993, at a time when the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act was in effect. That Act favored family preservation and required states to use “reasonable efforts” to keep biological families intact. But things have changed since then. If someone hauled Mark into court today, he would likely face removal from his family because of their troubled history. He would likely spend time in the foster care system, an industry that exploits the very persons in its care for financial profit. That is because now the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which mandates speedier hearings and termination of parental rights, controls. Under the current framework, “child protection” often outweighs family preservation efforts, as more than 250,000 children annually become new wards of the state. But, as in Mark’s case, society has too often equated poverty with neglect, and the circumstances surrounding poverty have served as the basis for the removal of children from their families, even as States have the financial means to keep poor families together. Poverty, however, should never be the reason families are torn apart — especially when the State is the beneficiary, and not the child.

Keywords: John Grisham, The Client, Adoption, Child Welfare, Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, Adoption and Safe Families Act, Child Protection, Parental Rights

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Gossett, DeLeith, The Client: How States are Profiting from the Child's Right to Protection (2018). University of Memphis Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 753, 2018, Available at SSRN:

DeLeith Gossett (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )

1802 Hartford
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
806-834-7672 (Phone)

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