The best interests of the child: More questions about this construct?


  • Frank Ainsworth James Cook University, Townsville, Australia



child protection, best interests of the child,


In this article I examine the best interests of the child construct and raise questions about the utility of the construct. I also draw attention to Winnicott’s good enough parenting proposal as an alternative conceptualisation that addresses the issue of parental child-rearing capacity.

The best interests construct that emanates from the US has been the dominant international child-protection paradigm for at least two decades. Associated with this construct is a focus on individual parental pathology and child-rearing deficits. Yet, family poverty is the dominant factor, rather than parental pathology or incapacity, that precipitates many child abuse and neglect cases. The question is, has the best interests construct, one that ignores poverty and social disadvantage, outlived its usefulness? This construct has certainly affected Aboriginal families and led, as evidence shows, to the over-removal of children from these families. A range of alternative interventions and a social model of child protection is then canvassed.


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How to Cite

Ainsworth, F. (2021). The best interests of the child: More questions about this construct?. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(2), 104–113.



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