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Whose Children?: A Response to Professor Guggenheim

12 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2000  

Elizabeth Bartholet

Harvard Law School


This article responds to Martin Guggenheim's book review of Bartholet's book, Nobody's Children: Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative (Beacon Press, 1999). Nobody's Children challenges the family preservation tradition that has dominated child welfare policy, and argues that we should take adoption seriously, for the first time in our history, as an option for abused and neglected children. It describes and critiques various reform moves that child welfare traditionalists are promoting, including family group decision making, community partnerships, and new permanency initiatives such as subsidized guardianships. It also describes reform moves that the author sees as moving in genuinely new and promising directions, which include early intervention in the form of intensive home visitation, and new adoption-friendly programs. Guggenheim in his book review attacks Bartholet's book and defends family preservation, arguing that she is too ready to give up on troubled families, to transfer children from poor black families to more privileged white families, and to sacrifice our nation's traditional respect for parental privacy and autonomy. Bartholet's Reply, in turn, claims that Guggenheim mischaracterizes her arguments and misconceives the evidence and the issues.

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Bartholet, Elizabeth, Whose Children?: A Response to Professor Guggenheim. Harvard Law Review, Vol. 113, p. 1999, June 2000. Available at SSRN: or

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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