This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.
The United States of America (US) is the only UN state not to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), despite being heavily involved in drafting it. The CRC has been cited in US cases several times, but rejected on the grounds that it has not been ratified. The US does not have a comprehensive set of federal laws or any uniform statutory framework for child rights; rather, provisions on children’s rights are scattered across several state laws. Minors can only initiate action in state civil court through a parent or guardian ad litem. Challenges to children’s constitutional violations are brought in the same way as any other case - through a representative, in either state or federal courts. The Supreme Court can strike down any law or action that is incompatible with the Federal Constitution, including its rights provisions. Neither the federal nor the state courts provide legal aid for non-criminal cases, but both court systems allow for plaintiffs to proceed forma pauperis under certain circumstances.