The Voice of the Child in Child Protection: Whose Voice?
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines the rights of children to express their views in decisions affecting their lives. There is further evidence to support the positive benefits for children who are afforded this right. However, evidence shows that despite legislative and policy frameworks to support this, repeated messages from inquiry reports highlight failures to do so. This paper draws upon research undertaken in Scotland but the findings of the study are relevant across the UK and beyond. Child protection documentation including reports and case conference minutes were analysed to assess to what extent the child’s views were presented to, and considered in, decision making forums. In particular the study considers how the child’s views and wishes are represented in writing, and highlights the ways which professionals filtered and interpreted the child’s view rather than presented it in its pure form. Messages have emerged identifying a need for workers to be clear about the factors which influence their practice with children. These include the value they place on children’s participation, the skills and confidence needed to engage children with complex needs and the impact of competing tensions. One example of such a tension is that between the needs of busy workers, and those of children who are potentially involved in a range of decision making processes.
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