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Copyright (c) 2005 Journal of Law & Family Studies  
Journal of Law & Family Studies

Study Note: Custody Relinquishment to Obtain Mental Health Services


7 J. L. Fam. Stud. 475


Rebecca G. W. Random*


I. Introduction
In 1988, Linda Steen endured what she has described as the "the most humiliating, frustrating, upsetting experience I have ever been through." 1 Steen, a divorced mother of three, could no longer afford the mental health treatment her fourteen-year-old daughter Marney required. 2 Therefore, she found herself with no other option except to stand before a judge and "ask the state to take over the mothering of her firstborn." 3 This family's predicament was not unique then, and is still a reality twenty-five years later, in the nation's current family law system.

A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) report estimated that in the year 2001 over 12,700 children were placed by their parents into the child welfare or juvenile justice systems solely for the purpose of obtaining mental health services for the children. 4 This number reports data from only eighteen states, suggesting that the national annual figure could be more in the range of 35,000 children. 5 These figures are supported by several other studies, including a comprehensive report issued by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in March of 2000. 6 This Article will review the phenomenon of custody relinquishment to obtain mental health services, relying primarily on these two sources: the GAO Report, "Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: Federal Agencies Could Play a Stronger Role in Helping States Reduce the Number of Children Placed Solely to Obtain Mental Health Services", and the Bazelon Report, "Relinquishing Custody - The Tragic Failure to ...
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