Rights Myopia in Child Welfare


For decades, legal scholars have debated the proper balance of parents’ rights and children’s rights in the child welfare system. This Article argues that the debate mistakenly privileges rights. Neither parents’ rights nor children’s rights serve families well because, as implemented, a solely rights-based model of child welfare does not protect the interests of parents or children. Additionally, even if well-implemented, the model still would not serve parents or children because it obscures the important role of poverty in child abuse and neglect and fosters conflict, rather than collaboration, between the state and families. In lieu of a solely rights-based model, this Article proposes a problem-solving model for child welfare and explores one process born of such a model, family group conferencing. This Article argues that a problem-solving model holds significant potential to address many of the profound theoretical and practical shortcomings of the current child welfare system.

About the Author

Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law; J.D., Columbia Law School; B.A., Oberlin College. An earlier version of this Article was presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, and at the 12th World Conference of the International Society of Family Law.

By uclalaw