Tag Archives: best interests of child

The Best Interest of the Child

Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has recently posted this article expressing concern about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC]. The fear is that the CRC would permit judges, and possibly even a committee of internationals sitting in Geneva, to probe into every area of the parent-child relationship and make determinations based on the “best interest of the child.”

The U.S. has yet to ratify this over a decade old treaty, but there is fear that under the new heavily Democrat Senate, it could be ratified in the near future.

If the treaty really allows the feared state (and even worse, international) intrusion into parent-child relationships, then it is not merely home schoolers who should worry, but every parent who, whether for religious or other reasons, believes that she has inherent authority to direct the moral, physical, emotional, and educational upbringing of her children.

As with so many other topics I have discussed in this blog, the issue comes down to one of authority. Who has authority over children–the state or parents? And if the state–is it the state governments or the federal government? If the Senate ratifies the CRC, it will have the force of a federal statute, and constitutionally, federal statutes are supreme over state laws.

But the CRC should never be imposed as law in the United States both because in an absolute sense, it surpasses the inherent authority granted to the state and in a legal sense, it is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not give the federal government authority to regulate the parent child relationship. This is why we have state laws governing divorce, child custody, child abuse, etc., rather than federal laws. However, as we know, the Supreme Court has allowed the Federal government to overstep its constitutional bounds in countless ways. It is possible that our current Supreme Court would rule the CRC unconstitutional based on the fact that the Constitution does not grant this authority to the Federal government, but there is a real risk that it would not.

And the risk that it would not leads me again to suggest that it might be a good thing that the Supreme Court upholds what it calls Substantive Due Process rights (which aren’t in the Constitution at all). One of these rights is the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. This right has proved impotent in many situations (such as when parents seek a constitutional right to opt their children out of certain classes in public schools), but it has been used effectively, even as recently as 2000, to prevent a judge from granting a grandparent custody rights against the wishes of a fit parent. See Troxel v. Granville.

It appears, then, that based on substantive due process rights, the Supreme Court still states that, as a constitutional matter, a fit parent can override a judge’s determination of the best interests of a child. The fear of the CRC is that a judg’es determination of the best interest of a child could and would override various decisions, such as relating to education and religion, of fit parents.

As long as the Supreme Court holds this view, the CRC would hopefully lose all or much of its sting.

[next post to discuss the concept of the Best Interest of the Child, the interesting situation of divorce, and various issues of authority relevant to these cases.]