Editorial: Raising Elian


Questions about Elian Gonzales and his custody problems and how they relate to the wellbeing of all children.



Raising Elian

For the past six months newspaper headlines, editorial pages, cocktail party discussions, and dinner table conversations have been laced with information and opinion about the past and future of a 6-year-old boy who accompanied his mother as she tried to immigrate to the United States on a raft. The rescue of Elian Gonzales and the battle over his future has presented the American public with many questions, including the following:

  • Who is smart enough to know which adult(s) will ensure the best future for a child?

  • Does a father always have the right to determine what happens to his son, or do we need some mechanism to evaluate his suitability as a parent?

  • Which is more important for a child—that he grow up with material comfort, or that he live with a biological parent?

  • Is ensuring a nurturing and supportive environment with people who love them important for all children, or only for those whose future challenges the pride of a government?

  • Should pediatricians, psychologists, and educators lend their expertise to decision-making about each child, or only those for whom a defect or vulnerability would provide ammunition in a battle over custody?

The struggle over the right to care for and raise one 6-year-old child has been frustrating to observe and, at times, ridiculous. But as the dilemma over the future home and family of Elian Gonzales has been debated and adjudicated, perhaps we have learned a little about what happens when a child's future is determined by adults who are motivated more by hatred of each other than by love of the child. Perhaps we will also have learned that when families break apart, for whatever reason, maintaining the security and well-being of the children involved requires unusual wisdom and good will. If so, the media attention, government resources, and political grandstanding will have been worth it.



Julia A. McMillan, MD, Editor-in-chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, is Vice Chair, Pediatric Education, and Director, Residency Training, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Julia McMillan. Editorial: Raising Elian.

Contemporary Pediatrics


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