Friday, May 25, 2012

Tracing the Foundations of the Best Interests of the Child

Comments from the front line. In response to several supportive comments from our readers on "the best interest of the child"

If one wants to understand the idea behind the term "best interests of the child" an article by Lynne Marie Kohm does an excellent job in laying the foundation of where and how the concept came about. It has a long history going back to ancient times and how children have been viewed by the family and society.

The modern concept of "the best interest of the child" has its roots in Colonial America and England. The foundations that were laid out back then dealt with many of the same issues confronting todays parents and court system. This would include Rights to custody and visitation and developed indirectly rather than through legal contests.

Although "the best interest of the child" is the gold standard with over 200 years of history behind it the concept is open for abuse. The Nazi party was probably the first to execute the concept of what the state considered was in the best interest of the child. It is true they were not the first to come up with the term. They were the first state organization though to implement the idea of what is in "the best interest of the child" and apply it on a mass scale.

The term itself is one that is abstract and applied as fact in the court room setting by GALs. It is meaningless and is often used as a shield by GALs and Child protective services. In the end who really can determine what is in the best interest of the child? A state sponsored organization that tries to apply a formula to what is deemed in the best interest? Or the child's parents and family?


  1. "The best interests of the child" is totally a matter of personal opinion. No one can say for sure. It is like reading the future or fortune telling. It is very subject to power plays by authorities and pseudo authorities, On the other hand, child safety is easier for people to evaluate. Is the child's health, nutrition, bodily security, psychological security being looked after? Are there dangers to the child in the home environment. Are the parents mentally ill, drug or alcohol addicts, criminals? These are questions that are more answerable.

    "Child's best interest" is a political, social, cultural idea that re-enforces the cultural style 'du jour'! It is not about the child.

    1. You need to read all of the criteria considered in evaluating "the best interest" The legislature enacted it in Titles 18, 19-A, and 22. Both the GAL, if there is one assigned, and the Judge must consider the various factors. The GAL generally writes them out in his/her report and then discusses all of the evidence he/she has gathered that apply to each one, summing it up with a recommendation based on those criteria. If you disagree with them, then give constructive comments to your legislator so the standard can be amended.

    2. Joe,
      Again thank you for your comment. Or in this case the reply to a comment. Although you are correct in that there are published criteria for the evaluation of 'the best interest' the criteria is open for intreptation by the person doing the evaluation. It is based on the opinion of the person and then that opinion is taken as fact in the court room. Maybe there can not be a way to fully measure whether one thing or another is 'in the childs best interest' but there has to be a certain measure of common sense and or logic in the equasion. For a GAL to recommend that it is in 'the childs best interest'for a child to live with a parent that has mental health issues, and is taking perscription drugs, does not work, does not properly cloth a child, where the child often has brusies and one time had cigarette burns makes no sense. I think anyone would agree that this type of situation is not safe. Yet in case after case GALs recommend this type of evrionment over one that is safe and the Judges back it up. What is a parent to do?

  2. The GAL made so many weird recommendations that were hard to understand. My ex had serious mental health issues and still does, but she got residential custody.