112th: Jane Spinak with Brenda Jones Harden

Event date: 
04/25/2024 - 7:00pm

Join us Thursday, April 25th at 7pm for a reading and conversation with Jane M. Spinak, author of The End of Family Court: How Abolishing the Court Brings Justice to Children and FamiliesShe will be joined by Brenda Jones Harden.


In order to facilitate this in-person author event, we will be partially closing the second floor starting at 6:45pm. Please review our Safety guidelines and register for the event using the link below. 


or register using the following link: https://forms.gle/sZNquje5abcfEKAeA

At the turn of the twentieth century, American social reformers created the first juvenile court. They imagined a therapeutic court where informality, specially trained public servants, and a kindly, all-knowing judge would assist children and families. But the dream of a benevolent means of judicial problem-solving was never realized. A century later, children and families continue to be failed by this deeply flawed court.

The End of Family Court rejects the foundational premise that family court can do good when intervening in family life and challenges its endless reinvention to survive. Jane M. Spinak illustrates how the procedures and policies of modern family court are deeply entwined in a heritage of racism, a profound disdain for poverty, and assimilationist norms intent on fixing children and families who are different. And the court’s interventionist goals remain steeped in an approach to equity and well-being that demands individual rather than collective responsibility for the security and welfare of families.

Spinak proposes concrete steps toward abolishing the court: shifting most family supports out of the court’s sphere, vastly reducing the types and number of matters that need court intervention, and ensuring that any case that requires legal adjudication has the due process protections of a court of law. She calls for strategies that center trusting and respecting the abilities of communities to create and sustain meaningful solutions for families. An abolitionist approach, in turn, celebrates a radical imagination that embraces and supports all families in a fair and equal economic and political democracy.

Jane M. Spinak is the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School.

Spinak co-founded Columbia Law School’s clinics focused on representing families and children. Spinak most recently directed the Adolescent Representation Clinic, which represented teenagers and young adults aging out of foster care. From 2001 to 2006, Spinak served as the Law School’s director of clinical education. 

Spinak's current scholarship focuses on the history and effectiveness of the family court. Her 2023 book, The End of Family Court: How Abolishing the Court Brings Justice to Children and Families, is the culmination of her examination of family court. She has also written books and articles for child advocates, lawyers, and judges; has served on numerous committees and task forces addressing the needs and rights of children and families; and has trained and lectured widely on those issues to lawyers, social workers, health and mental health professionals.

Before joining the Columbia Law faculty in 1982, Spinak worked as a staff attorney at the Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society of New York City. From 1995 to 1998, while on leave from Columbia, Spinak served as attorney-in-charge of the Juvenile Rights Division.

Spinak was a member of the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children for 25 years and served on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary from 2018 until 2021. From 2008 to 2011, she co-chaired the Task Force on Family Court in New York City created by the New York County Lawyers Association. She is an adviser on the ALI’s Restatement of the Law, Children and the Law. She was the founding board chair of the Center for Family Representation, an advocacy and policy organization dedicated to ensuring the rights of parents in child-welfare proceedings, and continues to serve on the center’s board.

Before joining CSSW, Brenda Jones Harden was the Alison Richman Professor for Children and Families at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. She directed the Prevention and Early Adversity Research Laboratory, where she and her research team examined the developmental and mental health needs of young children who have experienced early adversity, particularly those who have been maltreated or have experienced other forms of trauma. A particular focus was preventing maladaptive outcomes in these populations through early childhood programs. She conducted numerous evaluations of such programs, including parenting interventions, early care and education, home visiting services, and infant mental health programs. Dr. Jones Harden has consulted with and provided training to numerous organizations regarding effective home visiting, infant and early childhood mental health, reflective supervision, infant/toddler development and intervention, and working with high-risk parents.

She began her career as a child welfare social worker, working in foster care, special needs adoption, and prevention services, the latter of which became her long-term practice and research focus. She is a scientist-practitioner who uses research to improve the quality and effectiveness of child and family services and to inform child and family policy. She received a PhD in developmental and clinical psychology from Yale University and a Master’s in Social Work from New York University.


Event address: 
Book Culture
536 W 112th St
New York, NY 10025
The End of Family Court: How Abolishing the Court Brings Justice to Children and Families By Jane M. Spinak Cover Image
ISBN: 9781479814084
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: New York University Press - August 1st, 2023