IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD by Joseph & Others Goldstein


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This volume supplements Beyond the Best Interests of the Child and Before the Best Interests of the Child, which recommended standards for assigning child custody in broken families. Here, Sonja Goldstein of the Yale University Child Study Center teams up with the authors of the previous volumes to analyze problems that can arise when professionals make decisions or recommendations beyond their field of expertise. They examine a number of child-placement decisions to expose the harm done the child when professional decision-makers overstep the boundaries of their specific discipline. A judge orders a child placed in the mother's care because he found the father (who had been caring for the boy during the mother's institutionalization after a suicide attempt) to be ""a very demeaning person. . .and quick to demonstrate some kind of intellectual superiority."" The authors point out that the judge was inappropriately setting himself up as a psychologist. Had he relied on professional evaluations of the child and parents, the boy's interests would have been better served, and the judge would not have been forced to reverse himself four years later. On the other hand, they fault a psychiatrist who knows it would be detrimental for a child to visit her father. But, because he believes that courts never deny paternal visitation rights, he recommends visits of one afternoon a week. He was, say the authors, inappropriately assuming the judicial function. The author's position is that the welfare of the child should be paramount in every decision and that dispassioned evaluations by professionals should determine who, if anyone, the child regards as his/her ""primary caretaker"" and whether that person will reasonably be expected to provide the best environment for the child. Armed with this information and with lawyers and judges sticking solely to the legal aspects and social and psychiatric professionals to their disciplines, the final decision can be made in the child's best interests. An earnest, frequently sententious attempt to set limits of responsibility in child custody situations. Of interest to professionals in the field, and to laymen involved in custody disputes.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan