Friday, March 9, 2012
In his article, “Changing the Narrative of Child Welfare,” Professor Matthew Fraidin argues that focusing on the strengths of a client, rather than the client’s weaknesses leads to better lawyering and better advocacy. Here is the abstract:
In child welfare, the difference we can make as lawyers for parents, children, and the state, and as judges, is to prevent children from entering foster care unnecessarily. And we can end a child’s stay in foster care as quickly as possible. To do that, we have to fight against a powerful narrative of child welfare and against the accepted “top-down” paradigm of legal services.
In this essay, Professor Fraidin suggests that we can achieve our goals of limiting entries to foster care and speeding exits from it by looking for the strengths of the people involved in our cases, rather than their weaknesses. We can look for what they can do, rather than what they can’t. We can focus on their abilities, not the shortcomings over which we often obsess — like drug addiction, impatience, illiteracy, poverty. We can start from a premise that families involved with child welfare are bundles of assets, rather than collections of problems. If we can do all this, we can help families build, rather than watch them fall.
Here is the article on SSRN. It will appear in19 Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 97 (2012).