Harvard Law Professor Faults Strategies for Protecting Abused Kids

Research to develop policy models aimed at assuring that children grow up in nurturing homes - supplemental support

Starting in 1997, Elizabeth Bartholet a law professor at Harvard Law School, researched and wrote Nobody's Children: Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative.

The book analyzed both the current strategies for protecting abused or neglected children and the shortcomings in prevailing foster care and adoption policies.

As part of the research, the principal investigator reviewed the legal, medical, and social science literature; conducted interviews with key players in child welfare; and participated in conferences and workshops on child welfare policy. Nobody's Children: Abuse and Neglect, Foster Drift, and the Adoption Alternative was published by Beacon Press in 1999. Nearly 4,000 copies had been sold as of March 2001.

Key Conclusions:

  • Child abuse and neglect are growing problems.
  • The traditional societal response to child abuse and neglect, which focuses on family preservation, gets triggered only after severe abuse and neglect are evident, and it achieves too little, too late.
  • More effective alternatives would include earlier intervention in families with problems as well as permanent removal of children to adoptive homes when the family has fallen apart and abuse and neglect are occurring.

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