The status of the American family may well be one of the hottest political and social issues this nation faces as we emerge into the new millennium.This article seeks to explain why recent parental rights legislation has encountered opposition and presents a Proposed Bill to Preserve the Right of Family Integrity that will focus on the family as a unit, with parental rights being reinforced, and without jeopardizing the necessary protections granted to children. By examining the historical and legal status of both parents and children in the United States of America from early colonial times through the present, this article will demonstrate that while parental rights have gradually been stripped away, children’s rights have continued to expand. The gravamen of this article suggests that existing legal policies and practices that fail to recognize the family as a legal entity in and of itself, with its own precious set of rights, have contributed to this nation’s family crisis. By considering families as a group of individuals with competing sets of rights, legislatures and the courts are also responsible for the current state of the American family. Part II traces the best interest of the child doctrine—where it came from, what it means—and demonstrates how it has been overused and overextended. Part III examines what the legally recognized rights of parents have been in the past and shows how those rights have been threatened, or in some cases altogether eradicated in the best interest of the child. Part IV evaluates the opposing positions of both parental rights advocates and children’s rights advocates. The viewpoints and motivations of the recent parental rights movement that seeks to codify parental rights are examined, and an explanation of why these efforts have not been entirely successful will be presented. Part V discusses the problems encountered when the debate becomes polarized and presents proposals directed at strengthening families by empowering parents through the resurrection of the previously recognized but more recently neglected “right to family integrity.” Part VI presents suggestions for strengthening the proposed Senate Bill 984: The Parental Rights and Responsibilities Bill, in light of preserving family integrity with the best interests of the parents, children, and family as a unit. Part VII proffers a proposed bill on preserving family integrity.
John C. Duncan Jr.,
The Ultimate Best Interest of the Child Enures from Parental Reinforcement: The Journey to Family Integrity,
83 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol83/iss4/7