In Loco Parentis Gone Loco
You’ve got it all wrong, Jeff.
The problem is not the willingness of the State to fill in where parents are derelict. As observant Jews, we should be the last to rail at the State taking over and protecting kids when their parents are busy being oblivious to their well-being.
To me, the issue is the inconsistency. If the State is ready to acknowledge that it has a legitimate interest in meddling in affairs that heretofore were seen as belonging exclusively to parents, why won’t it go all the way? Why hide from the fact that the State should and must sometimes decide that it is in the best interests of a child to be raised by those who have provided love, safety and security for years, rather than misfit and miscreant providers of nothing more than genetic material – and that usually by accident rather than design.
I’m referring, of course, to the several cases in which courts have taken small children away from the only sources of love they have ever known – adoptive parents, and given them away to people who you would not want caring for your dog. Jeff Jacoby will tell you more.
Interestingly, a Responsum of the Rosh, going back more than 600 years, already articulated the best-interest rule about child custody in divorce cases. As usual Jewish Law was way ahead of parallel systems.