Best Interests and Family Preservation in America
During the 1980s and 1990s, American child welfare policy turned to family preservation to protect the best interests of children at risk of maltreatment. Where did the ideas of best interests originate and how has family preservation fared?
There was widespread acceptance in the United States of the principles of family preservation as congruent with the best interests of children in situations of abuse and neglect. This paper discusses the "best interest" ideas articulated by Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert Solnit in "Before the Best Interests of the Child and Beyond the Best Interests of the Child", comparing those ideas with the principles underlying child welfare decision making in the United States. The author addresses some of what goes wrong in the implementation of the U.S. principles, particularly as manifested in the family preservation ideal.
The paper was originally presented at the conference "In the Best Interest of the Child" in 1996 at the Sigmund Freud Center for Psychoanalysis of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.