Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Arkansas

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 9-28-104; 9-27-302

The general assembly recognizes that children are defenseless and that there is no greater moral obligation upon the general assembly than to provide for the protection of our children. Our child welfare system needs to be strengthened by establishing a clear policy of the State that the best interests of the children must be paramount and shall have precedence at every stage of juvenile court proceedings.

The best interests of the child shall be the standard for recommendations made by employees of the Department of Human Services as to whether a child should be reunited with their family or removed from or remain in a home in which the child has been abused or neglected.

 The purposes of this chapter include the following:

  • To ensure that all juveniles brought to the attention of the courts receive the guidance, care, and control, preferably in their own home when their health and safety are not at risk, which will best serve the emotional, mental, and physical welfare of the juvenile and the best interests of the State
  • To preserve and strengthen the juvenile's family ties when it is in their best interests
  • To protect a juvenile by considering their health and safety as the paramount concerns in determining whether to remove them from the custody of their parents or custodians
  • When a juvenile is removed from their family, to secure for them custody, care, and discipline with primary emphasis on ensuring their health and safety while in the out-of-home placement
  • In all cases in which a juvenile must be permanently removed from the custody of their parents, the juvenile is placed in an approved family home and be made a member of the family by adoption

Best Interests Factors

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Other Considerations

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 9-28-108; 9-28-1003

In an action concerning placement of a juvenile, the circuit court may consider the preferences of the juvenile if they are of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of their chronological age.

A child in foster care is entitled to the following:

  • To be heard and involved with the decisions of their life
  • To have complete information and direct answers to their questions about choices, services, and decisions
  • To be informed about and have involvement when appropriate with their birth family and siblings
  • To have reasonable access to and be represented by an attorney ad litem in all juvenile judicial proceedings so that their best interests are represented

Sibling relationships are recognized to be unique and separate from the parent-child bond due to the similar history, heritage, culture, and biology of the siblings. Sibling separation is a significant and distinct loss that must be repaired by frequent and regular contact, continuity, and stability during a child's placement in foster care or an out-of-home placement. Each child has the right to know and be actively involved in their sibling's lives, absent extraordinary circumstances.