Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Changing the Paradigm: Family Responsibility or Investing in Children (1)

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Changing the Paradigm: Family Responsibility or Investing in Children (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract: Since the 1980s and even more markedly in the 1990s, new public policies and programs with "child" or "children" in the title have proliferated in Canada. This article makes the claim that this shift in policy focus marks the appearance of a new policy paradigm. The article supports this claim first by describing change over time, characterizing it as shift from a paradigm in which parents have full responsibility for their children's well-being to one that can be labeled an investing-in-children paradigm, in which responsibility for children's well-being is shared by families and the broader community. In each case, the role of the state and its public policy choices are quite different. The article next accounts for the change, attributing it not only to new social and economic risks but also to the work of a social-learning network made up of advocates and experts from civil society and inside the state.

Resume: Depuis les annees 1980 et 1990, les politiques publiques dont le titre contient les mots "enfant" ou "enfance" ont prolifere au Canada. L'auteure de cet article soutient que ce changement de perspective annonce l'emergence d'un nouveau paradigme de politiques publiques. L'argument est formule en deux etapes. Dans la premiere partie, ce changement est decrit et analyse comme le mouvement d'un paradigme dans lequel les parents ont toute la responsabilite du bien-etre de leurs enfants vers un paradigme dans lequel la collectivite partage cette responsabilite avec les parents, a savoir un paradigme "d'investissement dans l'enfant". Le role de l'Etat et les choix de politiques publiques different d'un paradigme a l'autre. Dans la deuxieme partie, les facteurs a l'origine de ce changement sont presentes: l'emergence de nouveaux risques economiques et sociaux; les interventions d'un reseau d'apprentissage social compose d'experts travaillant au sein de la societe civile et de l'appareil d'Etat.

Since the 1980s and even more markedly in the 1990s, new public policies and programs with "child" or "children" in the title have proliferated in Canada. For example, in 1989 the House of Commons passed a unanimous resolution "to seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000," and with the National Children's Agenda and the National Child Benefit federal, provincial, and territorial governments had all promised to address children's needs in a more comprehensive fashion by the late 1990s. They had also reformed their public administration, setting up new ministries or agencies overseeing "children's policy."

Canada is, of course, not alone in shining a brighter spotlight on children in this era of social policy redesign. New Labour in the United Kingdom promised "to reduce child poverty by hall"' in ten years and eradicate it in 20 (UNICEF, 2000: 5). The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2001) claims early childhood education and care make a major contribution to countries' success in the knowledge-based economy. Even in France, where family policy forms one of the pillars of the social protection regime since World War Two, government and quasi-governmental agencies recently called for more attention to child poverty. (2) A final example comes from the much-remarked recent publication by Gosta Esping-Andersen and his colleagues which asks Why We Need a New Welfare State and forcefully advocates a "recast family policy and, in particular one which is powerfully child-oriented [and that] must be regarded as a social investment" (2002: 9).

While informed by observations of such a wider change, this article examines only the Canadian case, describing and accounting for a paradigm shift in the ways of thinking about the role of families and the state in this country. (3) In it, I make the claim that this shift in policy focus marks the appearance of a new policy paradigm. (4) It supports this claire first by describing change over time, characterizing it as shift from a public policy paradigm in which parents have full responsibility for their children's well-being to one that can be labelled an investing-in-children paradigm, in which responsibility for children's well-being is shared by families and the broader community. …

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