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Posted on September 28th, 2012, by

The well-being of children is traditionally one of the major concerns of parents and, normally, parents take care of their children, provide them with the possibly higher standards of living, education, and bring them up. In fact, the parental care is considered to be a norm in the modern society. However, it is not always possible to provide all children with the parental care or, to put it more precisely, with the normal conditions of living and development of children. In this respect, it is necessary to speak not only about orphans who are deprived of the parental care because they have lost their parents, who died, for instance, but it is also necessary to take into consideration those children, whose parents are alive and actually can live with their children, but, in actuality, they cannot afford the maintenance of normal stands of living for their children. In such a situation, the life and normal development of children can be under a threat. In such a situation, the parens patriae comes into play, when the state usurp the rights of natural parents of children, which is done for the sake of children’s well being. However, the parens patriae evokes a number of controversies and often this practice becomes a subject of severe criticism because it is considered to be unjust in regard to both the parents and the children that are actually deprived of the natural parents’ care, which is substituted by the state or, to put it more precisely, by those agencies which take care of children. Consequently, the parens patriae is a controversial practice which may have both advantages and disadvantages.

On analyzing the essence of the prens patriae and its possible effects on children, it is necessary to primarily dwell upon the concept of the parens patriae itself and its application in the real life. Basically, the parens patriae is the public policy power of the state to usurp the rights of the natural parent, legal guardian or informal carer, and to act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection. In such a context, it is possible to speak about the substitution of the natural parents of a child by the state, which provides children with essential care through its agencies which are supposed to perform functions of parents and provide children with normal standards of living, nutrition, clothes item, education, etc. As a rule, the parens patriae is applied in cases when natural parents or legal guardian or informal carer are unable to perform their parental functions and duties properly.

In fact, parents can be unable to perform their parental functions and duties under the impact of different factors. For instance, it is worth mentioning the fact that many parents are unable to afford the normal standards of living and cannot provide their children with elementary care because of their poor socioeconomic position. In such a situation parents have to work, while their children lack the parental care and attention and, what is more, they can be simply left on their own that, at the early age, can put under a threat their life and health. But, as a rule, the Parens patriae is enabled when parents are intentionally ignoring their duty of taking care of their children. This means that they intentionally avoid be performing their parental functions. This problem is particularly widely spread in single-parent families. In such a situation, children are simply left alone by their parents, they do not receive essential care, the eat irregularly, they do not receive essential health care and social services as well as education, etc. Naturally, in such a situation, the state, which ensures the observation of human rights for all people, regardless of the age, gender, race, etc., is practically obliged to interfere and take care of these children who suffer from the parental neglect.

In such a context, the parens patriae looks like a panacea for neglected children. It proves beyond a doubt that neglected children face a risk of having problems in their socialization, physical and psychological development. In fact, they are simply deprived of a possibility to develop normally if parents do not take care of them properly. Consequently, it seems to be logical that the state takes the parental responsibilities and takes care of the neglected children. The positive effects and advantages of the parens patriae seem to be obvious.

Firstly, the state ensures the safety of children. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that often neglected children are subjected to the domestic violence and often they suffer regularly from the violent behavior of their parents and there is no one to protect them while the parens patriae ensures that the children will be protected from any kind of offensive behavior from the part of adults. Furthermore, the state can provide children with basic education and involve them into social programs which help them to start independent life, provide them with educational and financial support. In addition, the parens patriae provides an opportunity for children to start a different life and avoid flaws which expect for them, if they stay in their families, in which they are deprived of the parental care. In actuality, the parens patriae opens new opportunities for children because they can learn a lifestyle different from the one they get used to when they were neglected by their parents. At this point, it is also possible to speak about a positive psychological effect of the application of the parens patriae.

On the other hand, it is obvious that the state can never substitute parents for any child. In this regard, it is possible to speak about considerable disadvantages of the parens patriae. First of all, it should be said that the parens patriae deprives children of the real parental care. In fact, the state takes the power of the natural parents that is apparently unnatural for a child. What is mean here is the fact that whatever the position of a child in a family is he or she always perceives his or her natural parents as the only people who have certain authority of them and whose position is really meaningful for them, especially at the young age. As a result, when the state deprives children of the natural parents and takes their power, children may develop serious psychological problems, especially if it occurs at the very early age, before the adolescence. At this age, parents are the major authority for children and if they are deprived of their parents they get lost in their system of values which is in the process of formation. To put it more precisely, they lose the meaningful adults, their parents, who were the highest authorities to them, regardless of the actual attitude of the parents to their children. In such a situation, children can develop various psychological complexes, anxiety, mistrust, and they can develop depression because of the separation with their natural parents.

Moreover, it is even possible to speak about a profound psychological trauma, which can affect the adult life of children. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that, when children are deprived of the natural parents’ care, they fail  to develop any models of behavior within the family since they do not have a sufficient experience of family life being under the care of the state. As a result, when these children grow up they simply do not know how to live in the families they create as adults.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the parens patriae can produce a dubious effect on children.

On the one hand, it is an effective measure which can protect children from offensive practices within their families. Moreover, it can provide children with normal conditions of living, provide psychological assistance, education and material support of children. On the other hand, the state can never fully substitute the natural parents and social services and state agencies cannot shape positive models of behavior of children who cannot learn how to live within a family.

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