Contested Child Protection Policies

The Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law (James G. Dwyer ed., 2019) Available at: DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190694395.013.20.

Posted: 27 May 2019 Last revised: 30 May 2019

Date Written: March 1, 2019


This chapter discusses the tension over recent decades in child welfare policy in the United States between two conflicting value systems, one focusing on parent and group rights over children, and the other focusing on child rights to grow up with nurturing parental care. It describes the leading legal and policy movements that have promoted keeping children with the family of origin and in the racial, ethnic and national group of origin. It contrasts these with some laws and policies that have instead prioritized protecting children against abuse and neglect, and placing them with nurturing parents including in adoption. It situates domestic US child welfare policy debates within the larger international context.

Keywords: child abuse and neglect, child welfare, adoption, family preservation, substance abuse, racial disproportionality, differential response, expedited termination of parental rights, family drug courts, birth match

Suggested Citation

Bartholet, Elizabeth, Contested Child Protection Policies (March 1, 2019). The Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law (James G. Dwyer ed., 2019) Available at: DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190694395.013.20.. Available at SSRN:

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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