Gina Starfield is a Juris Doctor degree candidate at the Harvard Law School.
FXB: What do you see as the biggest overall challenges in Child Protection these days?
Gina Starfield: One of the biggest challenges in Child Protection is achieving universal respect for children’s rights in international and domestic legal systems. We have made several normative commitments that have yet to be reflected in our laws and practices. In the realm of refugee protection, for example, children are still treated as migrants first and children second. In the U.S., children who cross the border seeking protection are apprehended, detained and placed in removal proceedings without due consideration of their particular rights and vulnerabilities.
FXB: How do you think academic and scholarly work can inform child protection approaches? Have you seen any good examples of this in the real world?
Gina Starfield: Scholarly work shapes protection by observing, innovating and fighting for change to law and policy and their implementation. Academics have developed and advocated for child-specific systems that take into account children’s rights and needs, as informed by children themselves and research on childhood development and trauma. We have seen states raise the age of criminal legal responsibility and several courts recognize that harms experienced by children may rise to the level of persecution, even if they would not when experienced as an adult.