A companion piece to Beyond the Best Interests of the Child (1973), a seminal study which established ways to help children already involved in the legal system, this pursues the critical question, ""Why and under what circumstances should the state be authorized to invade family privacy and to overcome the presumption of parental autonomy?"" In keeping with the precepts of their previous collaboration, these three eminent authors, using guidelines which build on the bedrock of several disciplines, favor a policy of ""minimum state intervention"" to preserve family integrity and to assure continuity of care and other fundamentals for the child. They maintain, specifically, that intervention is justified when family privacy no longer benefits the child and begins to threaten his safety--physically, medically, or emotionally. They present capsule cases to clarify the issues under consideration (including, in an appendix, a shortened version of England's emblematic Maria Colwell case); they discuss how the fragile bonds of imperfect but viable parent-child relationships can be upset by official third-parties; and they demonstrate why subsequent relationships--such as long-term foster placements--must also be protected from unwarranted state intrusions. The ""best interests"" of the child, then, vary from case to case; more precise legal language, a necessity, still can't cover all contingencies. Policies that protect children in general may harm individual ones; and, given current procedures that hold no one accountable, state intrusion can easily make a bad situation worse (inquiries into incest cases, for example, have frequently destroyed already weakened family ties). Sometimes, unhappily, the ""least detrimental alternative"" is to let an unacceptable status quo continue. Like the earlier book, this pursues its difficult course sedulously, with humane efficiency, unencumbered by the idioms of law or psychology. An unusually cautious, circumspect approach and a certain referral in child advocacy work and related occupations.