Bartholet has now written a book, Nobody's Children, that deepens her critique of the way our society fails orphans and children who are abused or neglected by "parents." I put parents in quotation marks pursuant to one of the main lessons of Nobody's Children-that "true parenting should be defined more by social bonds than by blood." In Bartholet's view, parenting consists of nurturing a child. She resists endowing an individual with the honorific title of parent simply because that person sires a child or gives birth to it. [She argues that] the blood tie alone should be viewed as an insufficient predicate for parenthood, especially when adults seriously neglect or abuse children that are presumptively "theirs." When adults do these things, Bartholet contends, their parental rights should either be terminated or suspended and reinstated only if they show convincingly that they are apt to rehabilitate themselves forthwith. Children, Bartholet convincingly argues, should not be condemned to dangerous, dysfunctional homes once it is clear that putative "parents" cannot, in fact, parent. Rather than waste public resources and precious time on doomed efforts at "family preservation" where there is no realistic family to preserve, she advises administrators and legislators to free neglected and abused children more readily and quickly for adoption. . . . .
One need not agree with all that Bartholet writes . . . to feel admiration and gratitude for her analysis of the dismal situation in which all too many American children-our children-are stuck. She has distinguished herself nobly as a caring, combative and insightful public intellectual.
Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard Law School. He is also a contributing editor of IntellectualCapital.com.