It would be difficult to find someone who does not agree that society must do all it can to protect children from harm. It would be hard to find a culture anywhere in the world that does not at least pay lip service to the ideals of child protection. Keeping them from suffering, preserving their innocence, and shielding them from emotional and mental distress are all-important goals. A political regime can instantly sway public opinion in its favor by showcasing harm suffered by children at the hands of political opponents. 1 It is a universal ethos; we must protect our children, even if doing so puts adults at risk.
The basic premise is easy to agree upon, but protecting children is not as simple as it sounds. What constitutes harm can be hard to determine, balancing the harm in removing children from their parents’ care against the harm of staying in an abusive or neglectful circumstance is difficult, and maintaining a productive relationship with at-risk children and parents is challenging. It is a delicate process that requires flexibility and care. The Supreme Court has made clear that the constitutional rights of parents are fundamental and must only be invaded after a thoughtful evidentiary analysis and a high level of deference to those compelling rights. 2 Unfortunately, some courts do not bring a surgeon’s scalpel to aid them in the termination of parental rights process—they bring a sledgehammer.