Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention to Prevent Maltreatment and Protect Victimized Children

52 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013 Last revised: 15 Feb 2013

Elizabeth Bartholet

Harvard Law School

Date Written: November 12, 2012

Abstract

This article argues that what we call the “child welfare” system has traditionally focused more on adult than on child welfare, placing greater emphasis on family preservation than warranted. It argues further that while the system purports to value research as a guide to policy, research is too often designed to serve predefined ideological goals, and to advance family preservation rather than examining what policies best serve child interests. It shows how these themes played out in two recent conferences sponsored by the author’s Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School. The first conference addressed claims made by the “Racial Disproportionality Movement,” and showed that actual black and white maltreatment rates closely track official rates, indicating that a child-friendly system would focus not on claimed racial discrimination but on reducing actual maltreatment. The second revealed the existence of many promising prevention and protection strategies, but also the ongoing power of the adult rights agenda and the constraints it puts on promising reforms and truly illuminating research. We could do better by children. But to do so we must transform the values that guide the child welfare system, honor child rights equally with adult, and recognize the centrality for children of the right to grow up in a nurturing family.

Keywords: child welfare, family preservation, racial disproportionality, child maltreatment

Suggested Citation

Bartholet, Elizabeth, Creating a Child-Friendly Child Welfare System: Effective Early Intervention to Prevent Maltreatment and Protect Victimized Children (November 12, 2012). 60 Buffalo L Rev 1323 (2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2212916

Elizabeth Bartholet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Hauser Hall 422
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 495-3128 (Phone)
(617) 496-4947 (Fax)

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