Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2021

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science


Political Science & International Relations


Del Dickson


Three million children are abused every year in the United States. Although there are some safeguards, such as foster care and state child abuse laws, the number of abused children has not dwindled. How should the federal government respond? This article argues that the Thirteenth Amendment can be interpreted to protect abused children. It is widely accepted that the Thirteenth Amendment’s sole purpose is to abolish Black slavery, therefore rendering it useless in the modern legal climate. Nothing in the wording or context of the Amendment, however, suggests that it is limited to Black slavery. Interpreting the Amendment to encompass modern forms of slavery and involuntary servitude could provide a solution to many of the most pervasive and perplexing human rights issues facing the world today. Abused children could find protection in the Amendment, as it prohibits all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude, regardless of familial relations, age, or race. The Courts have struggled to balance the conflicts between parental rights and children's rights, causing inconsistencies that have prevented sustained progress. This paper will argue that the Thirteenth Amendment can be applied to child abuse cases by creating a connection between slavery and involuntary servitude as it is traditionally understood and child abuse. Once this connection is made, this article argues that this legal protection will allow for a workable standard to be developed within the Courts for balancing parental rights and children's rights in cases involving serious child abuse.