"The liberty interest at issue in this case - the
interest of parents in the care, custody, and control
of their children - is perhaps the oldest of the
fundamental liberty interests recognized by this
Court," the court ruled.
The court ruled that unless the
parents had been found unfit, the state should not
interfere in their child rearing decisions.
"Therefore, neither social workers nor judges have the
right to place children in foster care, mandate
psychological reviews, or require parents or children
meet with social workers when a fit parent is
available," said Eric Werme, a Family Advocate in New
The case centers on a grandparent
who sought visitation of the children against the
parentsí wishes. The court concluded, "if a fit
parent's decision of this kind at issue here becomes
subject to judicial review, the court must accord at
least some special weight to the parent's own
"The decision does not center on
limiting grandparents' rights. Rather it strongly
affirms parents' rights to raise a family as they see
fit, as long as the parents have not been found
unfit," says Werme.
In Child Protection cases where the
parents have been ruled unfit, the grandparents may
still seek to intervene into those cases. But this
case protects families from state interference in
raising their children when they haven't been ruled
unfit. "As we have explained, the Due Process Clause
does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental
right of parents to make child rearing decisions
simply because a state judge believes a better
decision could be made," ruled the court.
The Court strongly upheld general
parental rights within the ruling as well:
"In a long line of cases, we have
held that, in addition to the specific freedoms
protected by the Bill of Rights, the 'liberty'
specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes
the right ... to direct the education and upbringing
of one's children.
"In [our] view, a right of parents
to direct the upbringing of their children is among
the "unalienable Rights" with which the Declaration of
Independence proclaims "all Men are endowed by their
Creator." And in [our] view that right is also among
the "other [rights] retained by the people" which the
Ninth Amendment says the Constitution's enumeration of
rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage,"
the court stated.
The Court ended the case without
taking the usual step of remanding the case to the
lower court for further proceedings. "The decision
leaves little wiggle room," says Werme.