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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 10, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2003

Fiduciary Ethics

Martin G. Leever
Pages 55-60

Conflicts of Interest in the Privatization of Child Welfare

Due to the enormous disparity of power in the child welfare professional-client relationship, a high level of trust is necessary for this relationship to achieve its intended benefits, including protecting, caring for, terminating parental rights to, and finding appropriate adoptive homes for, abused and neglected children. This paper first defines conflicts of interest as necessarily including the exercise of judgment, and then argues that contractual relationships between private child welfare agencies and public departments of child welfare often betray their fiduciary responsibilities through conflicts of interest inherent in these contracts, particularly as regarding incentives for and against finding permanent homes for abused and neglected children. Finally, I propose an evidence-based strategy to ameliorate conflicts of interest when making permanent placement decisions for foster children.

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