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Ward of the state

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Title: Ward of the state  
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Subject: Joint custody (United States), Child custody
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Ward of the state

In law, a ward is someone placed under the protection of a legal guardian. A court may take responsibility for the legal protection of an individual, usually either a child or incapacitated person, in which case the ward is known as a ward of the court, or a ward of the state.

In the United States, Australia and New Zealand, the child is termed a ward of the court. In Ireland and the United Kingdom "the" is not used; the ward is thus termed a ward of court.[1] In Canada the legal term is Crown ward.[2]

When children enter into the custody of Children and Youth Services, also known as foster care, they become wards of various government entities depending on the country.

In the U.S. they become wards of the respective states in which they reside. The state via the family court stands in loco parentis to the child. Generally this entails assuming all lawful authority to make medical and legal decisions on the child's behalf.[3][4]

United States

In the Supreme Court case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the native peoples were legally made to be wards of the state. One consequence of this was that they were not permitted to sue the U.S. government because of their status as a domestic foreign nation.[5]

The Indian Appropriations Act was passed on March 3, 1871, with an amendment ending tribal recognition and the treaty system. All Indians were made wards of the state; thus the U.S.government no longer needed tribal consent in dealing with the tribes.[6]


In Canada, to this day, people of Native American status remain wards of the Crown as a result of Indian Act legislation. Some scholars and political organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations, have argued that this represents an apartheid-like system of governance.

See also


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