British law gives more of a share in decision-making about children’s lives to the state, and less to the parents, than is typical in American law. I like American law better. [Damian Thompson, The Spectator]
A reader recommends this piece by barrister Matthew Scott in Quillette defending the British authorities’ actions. While it fills in much useful detail, I’m not at all persuaded on the central issue of whether it was proper for British law in 1989 to oust parental rights from areas in which they had been long respected, all in the name of the best interests of the child as discerned by courts, experts, and the state. In my first book, The Litigation Explosion, I argued against the specious attractions of a best-interest-of-the-child standard in the child custody modification context, pointing out that to upset an existing decree of custody it should be needful to allege something stronger than that the child would be marginally better off with a switch, or that the case for a switch was supported by marginally better expert avowals than the case for leaving custody where it was. Instead, presumptions of stability and family integrity should be respected, to be overcome only by a strong showing of likely substantial harm from not switching. Likewise, the presumption that parents are the ones to direct their infant children’s medical care should be a strong one, rebuttable to be sure in some cases of wretched or misguided parental errancy, but not simply by rhetorical flourishes, even when embodied in law, about how the best interests of the child must conquer all and we determine what those are.
For examples of the narrower scope of parental rights in the United Kingdom and its subdivisions, see this 2015 story (parents warned they may be reported for neglect if they allow under-18s to play adult-themed videogames such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto); this from 2009 (seven children seized from obese couple in Scotland; but note American trends too); and the Scottish Named Persons scheme. More on expertise and best-interests-of-the-child standards: Megan McArdle, Jim Geraghty.