The idea for this issue, entitled “Becoming Adults: How Law and Policy Treat Coming of Age,” was borne of the notion that the line between childhood and adulthood has never been more blurred than it is today, and the difficulty in defining the separation is evident not only in the law but in families. While there have always been times when it has been hard to draw a clean line between childhood and adulthood, the recognition that not all kids become adults when they turn eighteen and that some kids can behave in adult ways before they turn eighteen, has made that line a bit more bendy than in the past.
It is not all bad, of course, to attempt to define the line between childhood and adulthood in more nuanced and case-specific ways. Not all kids are able to leap into adult life at the age of eighteen (to be honest, probably very few are fully equipped to do so), and not all kids are in need of continued support past the age of majority. Lawmakers have been making an effort to recognize reality and address concerns about that transition phase by using standards that are more reflective of modern society. Our articles reflect these updated standards in several realms.
First, Valarie Blake and Jessica Haught look at how the Affordable Care Act approached concerns that young adults were left without healthcare coverage when they turned age eighteen and found themselves kicked off of their parents’ health insurance plans before they had time to seek employment that either provided healthcare coverage or enough of an income to purchase that coverage. Next, Amy Cyphert delves into the problem of the hyper-sexualization of child’s play, that is, the punishment of children for engaging in age-appropriate behavior that may be considered by adults to be sexual in nature but is not harmful or out of the ordinary. The behavior has not necessarily changed over time, but adult reactions to it seem to have, which puts kids at risk of stigmatization for completely normal behavior. Next is Benita Miller’s description of a shift in policy in New York City that is aimed at helping keep kids raised in the City at home, should they choose to remain there, in times when it is increasingly difficult for young people of modest means to afford to live in New York. And last, is Ann Haralambie’s review of Donald Duquette’s book, Children’s Justice: How to Improve Legal Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System, which is a fitting end to an issue that focuses on how the law treats and sometimes mistreats kids.
We hope that our readers who represent kids or parents of kids or grandparents of kids (likely most, if not all, of our readers) will find this issue useful as a starting point for addressing the many areas in which becoming an adult can be hard to navigate. Happy reading!