Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Utah
Citation: Ann. Code § 62A-4a-201(1)(c), (2)-(3)
It is in the best interests and welfare of a child to be raised under the care and supervision of the child's natural parents. A child's need for a normal family life in a permanent home and for positive, nurturing family relationships is usually best met by the child's natural parents. Additionally, the integrity of the family unit and the right of parents to conceive and raise their children are constitutionally protected. The right of a fit, competent parent to raise the parent's child without undue government interference is a fundamental liberty interest that has long been protected by the laws and Constitution and is a fundamental public policy of this State.
It is also the public policy of this State that children have the right to protection from abuse and neglect, and that the State retains a compelling interest in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing abuse and neglect. Therefore, the State, as parens patriae, has an interest in and responsibility to protect children whose parents abuse them or do not adequately provide for their welfare. There may be circumstances where a parent's conduct or condition is a substantial departure from the norm and the parent is unable or unwilling to render safe and proper parental care and protection. Under those circumstances, the State may take action for the welfare and protection of the parent's children.
When the Division of Child and Family Services intervenes on behalf of an abused, neglected, or dependent child, it shall take into account the child's need for protection from immediate harm and the extent to which the child's extended family may provide needed protection. Throughout its involvement, the division shall utilize the least intrusive and least restrictive means available to protect a child, in an effort to ensure that children are brought up in stable, permanent families, rather than in temporary foster placements under the supervision of the State.