The Doctrines of Parens Patriae


Parens patriae is legal terminology referring to the power of government to act on behalf of people who cannot care for themselves anymore. The doctrines of parens patriae allow judging to reassign or assign custody of the minor child, regardless of the wish of parents’. The principles will enable the state to come in as guardian for children with mental conditions, the elderly, the incompetent, and the disable people. Parens patriae arises in the juvenile system where children are taken away from their parents due to abuse or neglect. In such a situation, the state serves as the guardian to the minors, (Sewu, Nuraeny, Permanasari, & Sirait, 2018).

Majority of the juvenile cases are tried on juvenile versus adult. Parens patriae doctrines play a significant role such as juvenile detention, medical matters, child support, and custodial issues. Parens patriae doctrines are limited in a situation where the guardian or caregiver portrays the ability to take care of the minor. In proceedings affecting the validity of the marriage, children cannot be parties in their rights. In such a situation, the court is invited to enforce and accept any agreement between husband and wife regarding parental responsibility. The decision is made for the wellbeing of the children.

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In practice, the doctrines are applied narrowly, representing the interest of a single child ad broadly to protect the welfare of the entire population. The scope of parens patriae has been expounded by the court to include the capability of the state to act on behalf of all its citizens regardless of their health and age. Overtime, parens patriae has been modified to accommodate the needs of the modern states.

The components of parens patriae differ from one situation to another. In the context of homeschooling, the majority have asserted that parens patriae doctrine is constrained by parental liberty doctrine. In some cases, parties may submit their dispute through formal arbitration proceedings, which may assume judicial or quasi-judicial. Such circumstances cannot prevent the court system from exercising parens patriae to a child. The test of the best interest of a child can be ascertained of the challenge of the parent. There are numerous case findings that have led to the enforcement of children’s rights.

The tremendous growth of parens patriae doctrine has contributed to the recognition of children’s independent’s rights. Various changes that have occurred over time include the ability to appeal. There are procedural rights to ensure protection from abuse and court proceedings. Some of the cases filed involve the wellbeing of the general population rather than specific monetary damages. In some situations, police provide warnings while the court offers legal defense counsel. Judges are expected to follow the set protocols in handling juvenile cases. Some circumstance denies the judge the opportunity to review the conditions of the offense,(Sanborn, 2001).

The limitation of parens patriae doctrines by parental liberty had some positive impact on the entire population. The constitutional principles intended to prevent the abuse of civil rights due to unjustified government intervention. Care agencies may alter the practices for various types of services for the purpose of improving the care to the child. States have modified parens patriae clauses to allow the release of juveniles to the media to allow prosecutors to make an informed decision. The actions are consistent with punitive attitudes towards the youth. The public usually favors the juvenile system separate from the adult system. Various strategies can be implemented to prevent child from engaging in disruptive behavior.



Sewu, L. S., Nuraeny, H., Permanasari, A., & Sirait, Y. H. (2018). The Development of Doctrine Parens Patriae in Indonesia’s Juvenile Justice System. International Review of Management and Business Research7(2), 449-459.

Sanborn Jr, J. B. (2001). A parens patriae figure or impartial fact finder: Policy questions and conflicts for the juvenile court judge. Criminal Justice Policy Review12(4), 311-332.