Courts handling child abuse and neglect cases face a daunting task. Within one to three days after a child is removed from his home, a court hearing must be held to determine whether court intervention and continued removal of the child is necessary. At this hearing, the court must sort through and evaluate the state's allegations and assess the various risks posed by placing the child in foster care or returning the child to one or both of his parents. Courts must weigh the heavy emphasis the law places on preserving the family unit against the equally paramount mandate to keep the child safe at all Costs. Courts thus face a daunting choice: should they risk a child's safety by returning him to a potentially dangerous parent or place the child in foster care and risk rupturing the familial bond so important to a child's healthy development?

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