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Book Chapter

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A parent's constitutional right to raise his or her child is one of the most venerated liberty interests safeguarded by the Constitution and the courts.2 The law presumes parents to be fit, and it establishes that they do not need to be model parents to retain custody of their children.3 If the state seeks to interfere with the parent-child relationship, the Constitution mandates that the state: (1) prove parental unfitness, a standard defined by state laws; and (2) follow certain procedures protecting the due process rights of parents. The constitutional framework for child welfare cases is premised on the belief that the interests of children are best served when children are in their parents' custody. For that reason, the state's evidence of parental unfitness must satisfy a high burden before the state may interfere with or permanently sever the parent-child relationship.