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Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy

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Class action litigations, media commentary, and statistical data have time and again laid bare the tragically poor quality of foster care in this country. In response to the extensive nature of these problems, federal and state commissions have been established to study what ails the foster care system, to issue reports on their findings, and to make recommendations for reform. But a critical component of reform has been missing. In order truly to protect children from the perils of the foster care system, we must examine the out-dated and short-sighted standards nearly every state currently uses to justify initially removing children from their parents and placing them in foster care in the first place. The reformulation of these standards so they require more comprehensive and balanced assessments before removing a child from her home and placing her in foster care is essential. Even if there exists some risk to a child in her home, moving her into a new living situation without first assessing the risks in that placement is, at best, irresponsible. This paper explains how and why current standards developed such a limited and ultimately perilous focus; describes an innovative approach recently introduced by the social services field and the legal system to more accurately, comprehensively, and compassionately determine the risks to a child before removing her, even temporarily, from her home; and proposes how this new approach can be used by attorneys, judges, and policy makers to institute removal standards which ensure children are no longer placed in harmful settings under the guise of protection.



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