Removing Violent Parents from the Home: A Test Case for the Public Health Approach

48 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2005


Child services caseworkers adhere to the belief that, in the absence of prosecution, the only remedy for protecting a child harmed by a parent is to remove the child from her home. The effect of this often is to leave the alleged perpetrator in the household with the victim's siblings. Using sexual violence as an example, this Comment contends the evidence of potential risk for the remaining children is so overwhelming that, as a matter of policy, an adult who violates one child should be removed from the household. Parents who commit incest rarely stop with one child. Ignoring such evidence, courts in the US frequently fail to protect these siblings adequately from parents who are sexual predators. Using the public health lens developed by Professor Garrison, this Comment argues that the policy of dealing with this problem by engaging in risk assessment is simply an incomplete solution, because all other children are at risk. This Comment advocates a more radical, fundamental response that would exclude the offender from the household. This approach is widespread in the United Kingdom, providing a template for the United States. Removing the alleged offender, and not the victim, promotes important healing for the victim, provides her the security of remaining in her home with her non-offending parent and siblings, and makes the environment safer for siblings who would otherwise become the next predatory target. This Comment evaluates this approach and urges its wide-scale adoption in the United States.

Keywords: Child removal, family violence, child abuse & neglect, due process, protective order

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Robin Fretwell, Removing Violent Parents from the Home: A Test Case for the Public Health Approach. U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2005-35, Available at SSRN:

Robin Fretwell Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217.244.7582 (Phone)


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