Under existing law, judges have wide discretionary authority to remove "neglected"children from their natural parents and place them in state-controlled foster care. The children are for the most part from poor families. The author describes the process by which the state can coercively remove children from their parents, and he analyzes the best interests of the child test, the legal standard courts usually employ to decide whether a neglected child should be removed from parental custody. He suggests that this standard requires predictions that cannot be made on a case by case basis and necessarily gives individual judges too much discretion to impose their own values in deciding what is best for a child. While critical of the procedural informality of the current juvenile court process, he believes additional procedural safeguards for children and their parents are in themselves unlikely to remedy the situation. He goes on to propose a new standard to limit removal to cases where there is an immediate and substantial danger to the child's health and where there are no reasonable means of protecting the child at home. In addition, a standard is proposed to ensure that prompt steps are taken to provide children who must be removed with a stable environment.

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