Challenges to Social Policy and the Making of Law

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What is a family? Who gets to be a family? Who gets to be married? Who can adopt children? Who gets custody of the children after a divorce? It seems that the answers to these questions are ever-changing, and they are representative of the social upheaval that has been ongoing in the United States for at least the last 4 decades. In the contemporary United States, it has been a long time since the dad-goes-to-work, mom-stays-at-home family dominated the social scene. 

Although there are some who extol the virtues of returning to this family configuration, there are others who relish the changes in what counts as a family. Social movement groups and organizations including those promoting racial civil rights, women’s rights and gay/lesbian/transgendered rights have all contributed to changes in law and social policy related to the family. In this Discussion Board assignment, you have the opportunity to consider an issue related to “the family” that is of interest to you from the following list:

  • Defining the family
  • Who can marry
  • Divorce and child custody
  • Who can adopt children 

Assignment Guidelines

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  • In 5–6 paragraphs, address the following: 
    1. Since the 1960s, what are at least 3 major things that have changed about this issue/topic? Explain.
    2. What do you think have been major influences on these changes? 
      • Include examples of changes in public opinion, media attention, and/or activities on the part of advocacy organizations. 
    3. What are 2–3 highlights of changes in laws about this issue/topic that are reflected in the policies of specific government agencies or reflected in court decisions? Describe each of these briefly.

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