Parens Patriae Run Amuck: The Child Welfare System's Disregard for the Constitutional Rights of Non-Offending Parents

45 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2008  

Vivek S. Sankaran

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Law School

Date Written: October 31, 2008

Abstract

Over the past hundred years, a consensus has emerged recognizing a parent's ability to raise his or her child as a fundamental, sacrosanct right protected by the Constitution. Federal courts have repeatedly rejected the parens patriae summary mode of decision-making that predominated juvenile courts at the turn of the twentieth century and have instead held that juvenile courts must afford basic due process to parents prior to depriving them of custodial rights to their children. This recognition has led to the strengthening of procedural protections for parents accused of child abuse or neglect in civil child protection proceedings

Yet, despite these advances, juvenile courts continue to disregard the constitutional rights of non-offending parents, individuals against whom the state has made no allegations. Nearly every state permits juvenile courts to deprive non-offending parents of rights to their children based solely on findings or admissions of child maltreatment by the other parent. Such actions not only raise many constitutional questions, but also jeopardize children's safety and well-being by increasing the likelihood that they will unnecessarily enter foster care and that their parents will disengage with the process. This Article proposes a policy solution that reflects the correct balance between safeguarding the constitutional rights of the non-offending parent and preserving the flexibility of juvenile court judges to issue orders ensuring that the child's needs are met.

Suggested Citation

Sankaran, Vivek S., Parens Patriae Run Amuck: The Child Welfare System's Disregard for the Constitutional Rights of Non-Offending Parents (October 31, 2008). Temple Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1292771

Vivek S. Sankaran (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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