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This Essay begins by reviewing Stanley v. Illinois, and outlines how that foundational case originally recognized parental rights in foster care cases yet became understood primarily as a private adoption case. Second, it explains how, simultaneously, family courts developed the One-Parent Doctrine and a related doctrine making it difficult to transfer custody of a child from an abusive or neglectful parent in one state to a non-offending parent in another. Both doctrines violate Stanley by allowing the State to take custody of children without ever proving parental unfitness. Cases adopting these doctrines literally ignore Stanley. Third, this Essay argues that this trend may be changing with In re Sanders, which resuscitated Stanley’s core holding in foster care cases. Finally, it suggests how Sanders and a revived Stanley can be an important tool to improve family court practice and better determine when State custody is necessary to protect children.


Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law