Neither Dyad Nor Triad: Children’s Relationship Interests Within Kinship Caregiving Families

Utilizing a research design lens as a platform for exploring children’s relationship rights, this Essay examines first, the limitations of a rights-based framework and second, insufficient participation by children in decision-making regarding their access to and interest in relationships with significant others. This Essay posits that neither the dyadic rights-based framework in domestic relations nor the, ostensibly, triadic one in child welfare serve the interests of children, since children’s rights are invariably subordinated to those of adults and the state. In place of a rights-based approach, this Essay endorses an interests-based model more attuned to the holistic aim of child well-being. Acknowledging that even if an interest-based approach were to grow in favor this Essay highlights the limitations of its implementation since the proverbial “best interests of the child” remains too attenuated as a critical decision-making factor due to currently limited mechanisms of children’s participation. This Essay argues that these limitations are particularly harmful to the development of a meaningful discourse on children’s relationship rights.