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More and more children are raised by a parent and a stepparent.' These children are often unaware of the differences between such child caretakers under law. When a parent and a stepparent separate, stepparent childcare often ceases at the direction of the parent, sometimes prompting harm to the child, to the stepparent, and to other one-time and current family members (including stepgrandparents and stepsiblings). As well, stepparent childcare can cease when a parent dies, prompting similar harm. ...

This Article explores the federal constitutional limits on third party stepparent childcare over current parental objections. The Article then surveys both general and special contemporary American state laws on third party childcare, as well as some recent Illinois General Assembly proposals since they further illustrate available options for American state lawmakers. This Article finds existing legislative initiatives lacking, resulting in inadequate protections of the best interests of children, which is the guiding principle for most all of American state laws on child welfare. The Article concludes by urging broader opportunities for stepparent' third party childcare, with expansion coming preferably via new special stepparent childcare statutes, rather than by general third party childcare laws or by common law precedents

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