It is interesting
to contrast this blunt critique of foster
care as a system that destroys poor and minority families with
Smith v. OFFER, 1977.
In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that foster parents
had limited constitutional protections in comparison with birth
parents, even in cases where psychological ties were strong
and long-lasting. For an excerpt from the book being described here,
see Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, and Albert
J. Solnit, Beyond the Best Interests
of the Child, 1973.
As a group of professionals working in the field of child welfare,
social work, and law, we are deeply concerned with the uses to which
psychiatry and psychoanalysis are being put under the influence
of BEYOND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, by Goldstein, Freud and
New York, like many states, uses foster care as its primary form
of child welfare service to poor Black and Hispanic families. Poor
parents in distress are not offered the supportive services they
need to keep their families together; rather, they are induced to
place their children in foster care as a form of “help”.
The children are placed in agencies whose financial support depends
on maintaining as many children as possible in foster care. These
children and their parents are then but small cogs in the industry
of foster care.
Once the parent places her child in foster care, that parent must
confront every bureaucratic obstacle imaginable to see her own child,
much less to regain custody of her own child. For example, the system
systematically seeks to alienate children from their parents by
severely restricting contact between them, by placing New York City
children in rural and suburban foster homes though the parents cannot
afford the carfare to see their children, by placing children of
one ethnic background in foster homes of an entirely different ethnic
background, by telling children that their foster mother is their
new “mommy” and by devaluing children’s ties to
their parents in countless other subtle and not so subtle ways.
Because of pervasive racial and class bias, foster care, established
as a system to help families, functions as a system to destroy families.
BEYOND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD, uses psychoanalysis to
legitimize and reinforce the operation of the foster care system
as a brutal form of social manipulation of the poor.
The concept of the “psychological parent” works to
free agencies and social workers from any guilty sense they may
have that they are violating civilized norms by taking people’s
children away from them. Now they are told by the “experts”
that the “psychological family” is not only better for
the child but will create a better society for us all.
These propositions have of course never been proved. BEYOND THE
BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD is not a study, but a polemic. However,
unless exposed as such, its teachings will be taken for gospel.
We hope the enclosed articles will stimulate a real debate of the
book’s scientific basis as well as of its totalitarian implications.