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Part 3 of the Restatement of Children and the Law, “Children in the Justice System,” reflects recent dramatic reform in juvenile law and practice. The reform recognizes that kids are different, requiring special attention to protecting due process when the justice system must make decisions in delinquency cases. The Restatement’s analyses use neuroscientific and psychosocial developmental research that has improved our understanding of children’s and adolescents’ immature decision-making capacities and psychosocial vulnerability compared to adults. This developmental perspective has led to extensive reform of laws and practices that seek to better protect juveniles’ due process rights when in custody of the juvenile justice system. Analyzing established law and progressive trends, the Restatement offers guidance for the legal system and process, highlighting the need for continued changes in courts and legislatures not yet in step with prevailing trends in juvenile law.

This commentary examines two topics in Part 3 of the Restatement: Chapter 15, § 15.30 on “Adjudicative Competence in Delinquency Proceedings,” and Chapter 14, § 14-2 on “Interrogations and the Admissibility of Statements.” For both areas, the commentary examines the present state of law, policy, and practice trends identified by the Restatement, with special attention to needs for further reform. What evidence do we have that states are adopting, or are slow to adopt, important trends in juvenile law identified in the Restatement’s approach to juvenile adjudicative competence and pretrial custodial interrogations? Where is there still work to be done to promote changes in law highlighted by the Restatement, and what factors challenge that work?