"The law cannot terminate bloodlines": Families and child welfare decisions
Child welfare professionals are called to make determinations that affect whether children can stay or reunify with their families. These decisions are framed by policies that inform and constrain their professional and personal understanding of risk and relationships. This manuscript explores themes related to children's relationships with their families that emerged from a qualitative study with 18 child welfare professionals, including judges, lawyers, and masters-level social workers who represent different constituencies in child welfare cases. It is supplemented by interviews with 6 child-welfare involved parents, all of them biological mothers. The majority of participants' believe that existing families are nearly always better caregivers to children than legally mandated ones. Existing families are perceived as more likely to love and be loved by their children, to protect children from harm, and to be superior to currently available foster care and alternative placements. Yet, participants perceive the policies to prefer substitute, legally created families over already existing families. Such policies leave child welfare unenviable position of having to work in ways contradicts their personal and professional judgment of what is best for the families and children they serve.
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