Forcing Protection on Children and Their Parents: The Impact of Wyman v. James

This Article will focus on one of the concerns implicated in Wyman: the government’s power to force assistance for the protection of children, when they or their parents are unwilling to accept that assistance. The state’s protective purposes in insisting that Mrs. James accept its assistance or suffer serious loss of benefits played an important role in the Wyman decision. Only a few years ago, in In re Gault, the Court refused to defer to a state’s similarly beneficent motives when it was asked to withhold the imposition of procedural safeguards in juvenile delinquency proceedings. Wyman does not overrule Gault. But the suppositions underlying the two cases are vastly different. In order to assess the prospects of Gault’s growth even in the juvenile court context, and the probable judicial attitude to other governmental exercises of benevolent coercive powers, it is instructive to set the underlying premises of the two cases side by side.