The Best Interests of the Child: The Least Detrimental Alternative

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What principles should guide the courts in deciding the fate of hundreds of thousands of children involved every year in parental divorces and family breakdowns? What should justify state intrusion on the privacy of family relationships? How should professionals - judges, lawyers, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists - conduct themselves in pursuing "the best interests" of children who have been abandoned, neglected, or abused? The agonizing dilemmas posed by these three questions were the subject of one of the seminal publishing events in the history of The Free press. The result has been a set of historic guidelines which forms the basis of their landmark trilogy Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, Before the Best Interests of the Child, and In the Best Interests of the Child, published between 1973 and 1986. The authors speak in one voice in concluding that the continuity of care - continuity of a child's relationship with his or her adult caregiver - is a universal essential to the child's well-being. To this end, they stress that minimizing intrusions by the law is paramount to safeguarding the child's growth and development. "The least detrimental alternative" - the authors overarching guideline for assuring the continuity of the psychological parent-child relationship - has been cited in more than a thousand child custody cases since 1973.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This consolidation of a classic trilogy (Beyond the Best Interests of the Child, 1980; Before the Best Interests of the Child, 1984; and In the Best Interests of the Child, 1986) that first appeared 23 years ago concerns the welfare of children in contested relationships. Rather than the familiar legal "best interests of the child" doctrine, this work is grounded in the more realistic standard of finding the "least detrimental alternative." The eminent authors, including Yale law professor Goldstein and the late Anna Freud, discuss the needs of "Baby Richard" and other children forced into the legal system, the conditions that warrant state intervention, and the ethical conduct of professionals who function in the system. Their analysis combines psychoanalytic theories with legal examinations. Because laws vary by jurisdiction, the book serves as a general guide for those involved in placement decisions. Many conclusions, including rejections of custodial arrangements involving forced visitation and the unquestioned primacy of birth parents, are controversial. Still, the book is tightly argued and well presented, and the updated references are very useful. For family law collections; libraries that hold only some of the earlier editions should consider this economic consolidation.-Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684835464
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 2/8/1998
  • Edition description: Revised and Updated
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 566,671
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Goldstein has been leading insight and loving-kindness meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. He is a cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts, where he continues as one of the resident guiding teachers. In 1989, together with several other teachers and students, he established the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and, later, The Forest Refuge. A seminal figure in the emergence of Buddhism in the West, Joseph is the author of numerous books including One Dharma. He lives in Barre, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The Problem and Our Premises 3
Pt. 2 Guidelines and Their Implications for the Laws of Child Placement 17
Pt. 3 The Guidelines Applied 63
Pt. 4 Examining Our Premises 79
Pt. 5 The Problem, Our Convictions, and a Framework for Examining State Decisions to Intrude on Parent-Child Relationships 85
Pt. 6 Ground for Intervention 99
Pt. 7 The Professional and Child Placement 151
Pt. 8 The Ambit of Professional Competence 163
Pt. 9 The Compleat Professional 223
Reflections 225
"We Want Our Children Back": Transcript of ABC News 20/20 (August 18, 1995) 229
Preface to Beyond the Best Interests of the Child 235
Preface to Before the Best Interests of the Child 237
Preface to In the Best Interests of the Child 238
Acknowledgments to Earlier Volumes 240
Notes 243
Index 297
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