Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century

Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century

Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century

Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century

Synopsis

Hearing the Voices of Children provides a fresh perspective on social policy. At the heart of the book is the emergence of 'children's voices' and the implications of this for social policy. The authors argue that children's voices should be heard much more strongly in the process of policy formation at all levels. Although there is growing support for this idea, it is not without opposition, and the authors themselves make many critical points about the current attempts to put it into practice. The book is divided into four main themes: hearing children's voices; discourses of childhood; children and services; and resources for children. Childhood experts from the UK, Scandinavia, Germany and Australia, examine how assumptions and models about childhood and discuss ways in which children's voices might become more influential in shaping policy. There are many obstacles to overcome, but the contributors to this volume show that children's participation is possible, and needed, if services are to be improved. This book is essential reading for students and academics in the field of childhood studies, sociology, social policy and education. It will also be of interest to practitioners in the social, child and youth services.

Excerpt

Alan Prout and Christine Hallett

The central concern of this volume is the emergence of 'children's voice' and the implications of this for social policy. Taken together the contributing chapters provide the fresh perspectives on social policy that hearing the voice(s) of children promises to bring about. The volume is divided into four main themes: hearing children's voices, discourses of childhood, children and services, and resources for children.

Before outlining the contribution that the different chapters make to these themes, we wish briefly to set out the orientation of this book. In essence we wish to give critical encouragement to the gathering movement for children's participation. Children's voice should, we believe, be heard much more strongly in the process of policy formation at all levels. We recognise that this is not uncontentious. Although the last twenty years have seen growing support for the idea of children as social participants in their own right, this has not been without opposition. As the chapters of Part II of this volume show, historically social policy has not thought of children as persons with a voice. Rather they have been seen as objects of concern. Contemporary societies are perhaps more ambiguous on this point, with different visions of childhood coming into play, sometimes overlapping and sometimes conflicting with each other. Nevertheless, the idea of children's voice, although more accepted, remains a contested one. One critical position is opposed to the very idea of children's rights, including their participation rights. Such a position may be argued for on a variety of grounds. It may be suggested, for example, that children's rights undermine those of parents or that they encode a culturally specific, 'northern' notion of childhood that is inappropriate to the circumstances of many children (see, for example, Pupavac 1998, 2001).

Whilst such arguments give rise to fundamental debate about the meaning of children's rights, we do not intend, in this volume, to enter into this debate or to mount a defence of the idea of children's participation. Others have set out the case for children's participation rights (see for example, Archard 1993; Franklin 2001) and, in any case, these issues continue to be debated in forums such as the International Journal of

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