Throughout the year, we will periodically post about terminology and system-specific terms CASA uses. This month, in honor of our new training group, we will do a deep dive into terms we commonly use. You will hear CASA talk about how we advocate for children's best interests. What does best interest mean and who determines it? The best interest of the child or children has some surprising origins within the child welfare system. We will talk about three of these philosophies of best interest.
Firstly, we have the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article Three specifically talks about the Best Interests of the Child. “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
Secondly, we have the International Federation of Social Workers. They state “The best interest would be support through infancy to adulthood. This includes access to health, education and community support, critical in developing the child’s perception of society and his/her responsibilities to the wider community.”
Lastly, we have the Michigan law 722.23 Section 3 of the Child Custody Act of 1970. It is written (this has been condensed down to not weigh anyone down with legal jargon) “As used in this act, ‘best interests of the child’ means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court:
Now that we have looked at three separate entities and how they define best interest of the child, we can see they overlap in certain aspects. Overall they all state that best interest means the child is receiving support to their development that allows them to thrive and supports them into a healthy adulthood. Legally best interest factors are at the center of CASA’s advocacy for children. However, we know each child and their family is unique and their best interest must be assessed with that unique lens. Every recommendation CASA volunteers make in the court system and community on behalf of a child is centered on what is in the child’s best interest, taking into consideration their unique needs, values, and cultural identity.
To learn more about these factors consider going to the following links: