Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Alaska

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Alaska Stat. §§ 47.06.020; 47.06.030(4)-(5)

The purpose of this title, as it relates to children, is to secure for each child the care and guidance, preferably in their own home, which will serve the moral, emotional, mental, and physical welfare of the child and the best interests of the community; to preserve and strengthen the child's family ties unless efforts to preserve and strengthen the ties are likely to result in physical or emotional damage to the child; to remove the child from the custody of the parents only as a last resort when the child's welfare or safety or the protection of the public cannot be adequately safeguarded without removal; and, when the child is removed from the family, to secure for the child adequate custody and care and adequate planning for permanent placement of the child. It is the policy of the State to acknowledge and consider the principles of early childhood and youth brain development and, whenever possible, consider the concepts of early adversity, toxic stress, childhood trauma, and the promotion of resilience through protective relationships, supports, self-regulation, and services.

It is in the best interests of a child who has been removed from the child's own home for the State to apply the following principles in resolving the situation:

  • The child should be placed in a safe, secure, and stable environment.
  • The child should not be moved unnecessarily.
  • A planning process should be followed to lead to permanent placement of the child.
  • Every effort should be made to encourage psychological attachment between the adult caregiver and the child.
  • Frequent, regular, and reasonable visitation with the parent or guardian and family members should be encouraged.
  • Parents and guardians must actively participate in family support services to facilitate the child being able to remain in the home. When children are removed from the home, the parents and guardians must actively participate in family support services to make return of their children to the home possible.
  • To the extent practicable, the Department of Family and Community Services should enable a child's contact with previous out-of-home caregivers when appropriate and in the best interests of the child.

Numerous studies establish the following:

  • Children undergo a critical attachment process before the time they reach 6 years of age.
  • A child who has not attached with an adult caregiver during this critical stage will suffer significant emotional damage that frequently leads to chronic psychological problems and antisocial behavior when the child reaches adolescence and adulthood.
  • It is important to provide an expedited placement procedure to ensure that all children, especially those under age 6, who have been removed from their homes are placed in permanent homes in a timely manner.

Best Interests Factors

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Other Considerations

Citation: Alaska Stat. §§ 47.06.030(2); 25.24.150

The State recognizes that when a child is removed from the home, visitation between the child and their parents or guardian and family members reduces the trauma for the child and enhances the likelihood that the child will be able to return home; therefore, whenever a child is removed from the parental home, the department should encourage frequent, regular, and reasonable visitation of the child with their parent or guardian and family members.

In determining the best interests of the child, the court shall consider the child's preference if they are of sufficient age and capacity to express a preference.