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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - Children's right to know and be brought up by their parents

Summary

Introduction

As Wall J observed:

The case thus raises as a central issue the classic dilemma sadly so often found in children's cases. B has become attached to people who are not her natural parents. To break that attachment will undoubtedly cause her harm. Does the harm that will be caused outweigh the benefit which B will otherwise derive from being brought up by her parents in the cultural heritage and traditions into which she was born?

These words encapsulate very well the difficulties confronting the courts when dealing with disputes over children who form attachments with those who care for them and love them on a day-to-day basis, but who are not their birth parents. Schaffer warns against assuming that these affectionate ties are somehow less important to the child:

The widespread belief in the blood bond is based on the notion that there is a natural affinity between child and biological parents which makes the latter more fit to be responsible for the child's care and upbringing than any outsider. Such fitness is assumed to be due to the common heredity found in parent-child pairs; whatever experiences a child may share with some other adult and whatever affectionate ties then develop between them are considered to be of secondary importance to the blood bond which is said to exist from the moment of conception.

Having summarised the well-documented research showing only too clearly the way in which children can form positive attachments with adopters and other carers, Schaffer concludes:

It is a history of social interaction, not kinship, that breeds attachment, and to break these bonds cannot be done lightheartedly – certainly not on the basis of a myth, namely a psychological blood bond.[…]

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