Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1747803
 


 



Stories Told and Untold: Confidentiality Laws and the Master Narrative of Child Welfare


Matthew I. Fraidin


University of the District of Columbia


Maine Law Review, Vol. 63, pp. 1-60, 2010
Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-17

Abstract:     
In most states, child welfare hearings and records are sealed or confidential. This means that by law, court hearings and records may not be observed. The same laws and court rules also preclude those who are authorized to enter and watch from discussing anything learned or observed in a closed courtroom or from a sealed court record with anyone not involved in the case. It is the restriction on speech - on telling stories about child welfare - with which this Article is concerned.

The master narrative of child welfare depicts foster care as a haven for child-victims savagely brutalized by “deviant,” “monstrous” parents. Notwithstanding this shared public understanding, however, most children in foster care have experienced, or are alleged to have experienced, neglect - deprivation of food, clothing, shelter, education, or another necessity of life - not physical abuse. There is also a growing understanding that some children in foster care ought not to be there at all. In addition, research and experience indicate that many maltreated children would be better off if simply left at home - with those responsible for the maltreatment - rather than placed in foster care.

This Article argues that confidentiality laws perpetuate the inaccurate master narrative, and preclude other stories from informing or influencing that narrative. Stated simply, laws prohibiting the discussion of child welfare cases silence a vast number of stories. By their terms, these laws define the stories that may not be told, and the putative storytellers who may not speak, while designating as acceptable other stories and other voices. The unchallenged dominance of the inaccurate, law-sanctioned narrative affects even those involved in child welfare as a profession, and by affecting their worldview, diminishes the quality of care provided to children. The laws that require silence outside the courtroom permit the acceptance of pervasive dysfunction in child welfare, and affect the administration of justice inside the courtroom.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 62

Keywords: child welfare, child neglect, storytelling, disclosure of information, confidential communications

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K30, K32, I30, I38

Accepted Paper Series





Download This Paper

Date posted: January 26, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Fraidin, Matthew I., Stories Told and Untold: Confidentiality Laws and the Master Narrative of Child Welfare. Maine Law Review, Vol. 63, pp. 1-60, 2010; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 11-17. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1747803

Contact Information

Matthew I. Fraidin (Contact Author)
University of the District of Columbia ( email )
4200 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,081
Downloads: 153
Download Rank: 115,753

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.313 seconds