Protecting children: Time for a new story?

Plenary session
Thursday 26 July, 0900 – 1000


Brigid Featherstone
University of Huddersfield, UK

In this presentation, Professor Brigid Featherstone will argue that the policies and practices that have been developed to protect children have come to exemplify a punitive and neglectful state in many respects. While this reflects a particularly harsh climate currently in England, Professor Featherstone will argue that it is mistaken to dismiss it as unique to there and that it is time to revisit the fundamental assumptions of an international ‘child protection story’. These have resulted in a frame whose mandate struggles to move beyond holding individuals (usually poverty stricken mothers) responsible for managing children’s protection, thus, in effect, privatising public ills and outsourcing their management to those often most harmed by such ills.

Based upon the analysis in the forthcoming book, Protecting Children: A Social Model, she will explore how adopting a new story might support more hopeful and socially just policies and practices. This would oblige rooting the protection of children within broader understandings of what all families need to flourish and locating such understandings within the scholarship on inequality and poverty. Crucially, as has occurred in the field of mental health, it obliges developing strategies to deal with the social determinants of many of the harms experienced by children and families.