Harvard Educational Review
  1. Winter 1973 Issue »

    Foster Care—In Whose Best Interest?

    Robert H. Mnookin
    Under existing law, judges have wide discretionary authority to remove "neglected" children from their natural parents and place them in state-controlled foster care. The children are for the most part from poor families. The author describes the process by which the state can coercively remove children from their parents, and he analyzes the best interests of the child test, the legal standard courts usually employ to decide whether a neglected child should be removed from parental custody. He suggests that this standard requires predictions that cannot be made on a case by case basis and necessarily gives individual judges too much discretion to impose their own values in deciding what is best for a child. While critical of the procedural informality of the current juvenile court process, he believes additional procedural safeguards for children and their parents are in themselves unlikely to remedy the situation. He goes on to propose a new standard to limit removal to cases where there is an immediate and substantial danger to the child's health and where there are no reasonable means of protecting the child at home. In addition, a standard is proposed to ensure that prompt steps are taken to provide children who must be removed with a stable environment.

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    Winter 1973 Issue


    A Statement by Senator Walter F. Mondale
    Walter F. Mondale
    Children Under the Law
    Hillary Rodham
    Amphetamines in the Treatment of Hyperkinetic Children
    Lester Grinspoon, Susan B. Singer
    Abused and Neglected Children in America
    A Study of Alternative Policies
    Richard J. Light
    Foster Care—In Whose Best Interest?
    Robert H. Mnookin
    Report Analyses
    The Massachusetts Task Force Reports: Advocacy for Children
    Peter B. Edelman
    The White House Conferences on Children
    An Historical Perspective
    Rochelle Beck
    Call 1-800-513-0763 to order this issue.