Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Rhode Island

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Gen. Laws § 42-72-2(1)-(2)

The State finds and declares the following:

  • Parents have the primary responsibility for meeting the needs of their children, and the State has an obligation to help them discharge this responsibility or to assume this responsibility when parents are unable to do so.
  • The State has a basic obligation to promote, safeguard, and protect the social well-being and development of the children of the State through a comprehensive program providing for the following:
    • Social services and facilities for children who require guidance, care, control, protection, treatment, or rehabilitation 
    • A permanent home and safe environment for children, services to children and their families to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes, and foster care and services to children with special needs who must be removed from their families to meet their particular needs
    • The strengthening of the family unit and making the home safe for children by enhancing the parental capacity for good child care

 Best Interests Factors

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-7(c)

 In considering the termination of rights, the court shall give primary consideration to the physical, psychological, mental, and intellectual needs of the child insofar as that consideration is not inconsistent with other provisions of this chapter. 

The consideration shall include the following: If a child has been placed in foster family care, voluntarily or involuntarily, the court shall determine whether the child has been integrated into the foster family to the extent that the child's familial identity is with the foster family and whether the foster family is able and willing to permanently integrate the child into the foster family; provided that, in considering integrating the child into a foster family, the court should consider the following:

  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining that environment and continuity for the child 
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court determines that the child has sufficient capacity to express a reasonable preference

Other Considerations

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.