Adultism in the Law

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After a decade of research focusing on United States and international laws, the Freechild Institute has found there are many laws that both enshrine and combat adultism. Many of these try to protect youth from discrimination.

Issues Addressed By Laws

These laws prohibit or ban things that are done to youth or things that youth are excluded from, including:

  • Discrimination against youth by physical, sexual, and/or psychological maltreatment or neglect
  • Discrimination against youth through illegal labor, endangerment and infanticide
  • Discrimination against youth through parental actions including youth maltreatment
  • Discrimination against youth because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation
  • Discrimination against youth through sexual abuse/exploitation
  • Discrimination against youth through neglect or abuse
  • Discrimination against youth through sexual or labor trafficking
  • Discrimination against youth with disabilities
  • Discrimination against youth through familial migration
  • Discrimination against youth through unaccompanied children in a situation of migration
  • Discrimination against youth without parental care or who are in alternative care
  • Discrimination against youth in police custody or detention
  • Discrimination against homeless youth
  • Discrimination against youth with parents in prison or custody
  • Discrimination against youth in court or other judicial proceedings
  • Discrimination against youth in custody disputes, including parental child abduction
  • Discrimination against youth because of their race
  • Discrimination against youth in minority ethnic groups
  • Discrimination against youth through female genital mutilation or forced marriage
  • Discrimination against youth through who are not in compulsory education or training or working children below the legal age for work
  • Discrimination against bullying or cyberbullying against youth

Who Is Affected?

Stakeholders in these issues space all the areas touched upon, including youth, parents, law enforcement, teachers, community educators, public health workers, social workers, government officials, school leaders, elected representatives, youth workers, business owners, medical doctors, NGO leaders, community advocates, mental health counselors, and many, many others.

Lawmakers who could make laws to further prevent youth discrimination include local elected officials include mayors, members of a county commission, city counsel, school board, utility or hospital district; a judge, a justice of the peace, a county or city attorney, a marshal, a sheriff, a constable and a registrar of deeds; tax collectors and assessors; and members of advisory boards and committees.

These individuals control, have power over, legislate or otherwise represent all people in democratic societies, including youth. They can make, enforce, modify or otherwise affect youth in countless ways, and are essential all elected officials who can prevent youth discrimination.

Similarly, in many countries a president and the vice president or another democratically elected official on the national level can prevent youth discrimination. In many states, a governor, a secretary of state, or a member of a legislative body such as the Congress or a state legislature can affect youth discrimination.

How To Change Laws

Organize and mobilize youth to speak up, take action and advocate for change! You can change laws to stop adultism even more effectively. Here are some steps you can take.

  1. Invite policymakers to freechild.org to learn about adultism. Educate legislators by providing them with data, research, stories and general information about adultism. They might not know what it is, what it does, who it affects and what the outcomes are. Share us!
  2. Meet with policymakers in person while they are at their in-district offices during congressional recess. Make appointments and go to meetings and share data and research that highlights adultism in your community.
  3. Call your elected officials’ offices to weigh in on specific adultism-related issues. Host educational meetings and trainings to gather, network and share information on adultism in policies, rules and laws.
  4. Share stories, data and resources with elected officials to illustrate how their decisions promote adultism. Educate the public about the policymaking process and how it promotes adultism. Introduce youth and their adult allies to elected officials who represent them, and talk about adultism.
  5. Participate in lobbying visits or hold anti-adultism advocacy days to advocate for or against specific legislation. Build public awareness by educating community members on adultism in specific laws that impact young people and their communities.
  6. Draft a petition or sign-on letter to express views about adultism and recruit youth and/or adults to sign on.
  7. Organize a rally, town hall or press conference to build public awareness about adultism and to hold policymakers accountable.
  8. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor to share your expertise on adultism in laws that recently became important in your school or community.
  9. Participate in a town hall and ask your elected officials questions about their position on adultism overall and in specific laws.
  10. Encourage citizens to vote (through nonpartisan voter mobilization efforts).
  11. Submit comments or feedback on policies affecting children and youth as they are being developed.
  12. Use social media like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to educate the public and lawmakers about adultism. Don’t forget to tag them and include #facingadultism hashtags!

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help face adultism in your community or organization, contact us.

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