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Childhood Studies Children and Social Policy
by
Tess Ridge

Introduction

Social policies play a key role in the lives of children and their families, and children rely very heavily on welfare services for their present and future well-being. Children’s lives are substantially affected by the type and quality of welfare provision available, and their needs are met through a range of policy measures, including, for example, education, health, social services, and social assistance. In the main, children live within a family setting and their needs are addressed through a range of formal and informal welfare provisions. However, the position of children within the family has meant that their particular needs and concerns can remain hidden and unacknowledged, and a historic tension has existed between the needs and rights of children, the needs and rights of parents, and the role of the state in children’s lives. The impact of social policies on children’s lives is wide ranging, encompassing both targeted provision, for example, interventions, services, and support in childhood, and policies directed at their parents and caregivers, for example, employment policies and legal regulation in relation to family formation and dissolution. Modern childhood is undergoing considerable social and economic change, and children in the 21st century live increasingly complex lives in a range of diverse family settings. Policies seek to respond to social and demographic change, but changing ideologies and constructions of childhood will also affect how governments formulate policies and provide services. Policymakers increasingly recognize that children are social actors and bearers of rights, and, alongside this development, some countries register a growing commitment toward some elements of participation of children and young people in the policymaking process. A trend is also evident toward governments taking a keen interest in the future outcomes of childhood through the development of “social investment policies,” which focus on children as “citizen workers” of the future.

General Overviews

The topic of children and social policy has been explored in many different ways. Historically, children have tended to be hidden within the family and rarely seen as individuals in their own right. Since the late 20th century a change has occurred in the ways in which children have been understood and conceptualized within policy. This trend has included, in part, a significant theoretical contribution toward our understanding of contemporary childhood from the new sociology of childhood, which positions children as active social agents with their own needs and concerns. This approach informs many of the general texts, including Qvortrup, et al. 1994, a seminal text in the new sociology of childhood, and James and James 2004, which brings together social theory, social policy, and research to explore key areas of social policy. Goldson, et al. 2002 provides a different approach to child welfare. Informed by impact of social class and socioeconomic structures on childhood, the authors take a more critical stance in relation to insights from the new sociology of childhood. Prout 2000 provides a valuable critical review of the governance of childhood at the turn of the 21st century, highlighting key tensions in the recognition of rights and agency and the increasing institutional control of childhood through policy and practice. Both Wells 2009 and Montgomery and Kellet 2009 engage with the shaping of childhood and policy and practice on a local and a global level.

  • Goldson, Barry, Michael Lavalette, and Jim McKechnie, eds. Children, Welfare and the State. London: SAGE, 2002.

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    A critical review of children and welfare that takes issue with the “new sociology” of childhood to argue that social class and socioeconomic structure are key factors in the development of child welfare and the positioning of children as welfare recipients. Notes the tensions inherent in welfare discourse in relation to how children are to be conceptualized.

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  • James, Alison, and Adrian L. James. Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy, Social Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    A sociological review of children and policy drawing on the cultural politics of childhood to examine the role of adults in shaping childhood policy. The authors argue that how social policies for children are shaped is informed by particular discourses of childhood, ideological stances, and responses to social events, which can combine to create very particular constructions of childhood.

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  • Montgomery, Heather, and Mary Kellet. Children and Young People’s Worlds: Developing Frameworks for Integrated Practice. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2009.

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    This text explores children’s welfare on national and international levels. Linking the local and the global, the authors engage with a wide range of welfare issues and practices. Drawing on the voices of children and young people and using a case-study approach, they highlight key issues in children’s lives in relation to policy initiatives and practice interventions.

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  • Prout, Alan. “Children’s Participation: Control and Self-Realisation in British Late Modernity.” Children & Society 14 (2000): 304–315.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2000.tb00185.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written at the turn of the 21st century, Prout’s article explores the nature of contemporary childhood in Britain to critically highlight the tensions inherent in the relationship between policy and practice and children’s rights and agency. He argues that despite evidence of enhanced recognition of children’s rights and agency, public policy and practice are exerting an increasing degree of institutional control, surveillance, and regulation in children’s lives.

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  • Qvortrup, Jens, Marjatta Bardy, Giovanni Sgritta, and Helmut Wintersberger, eds. Childhood Matters. Social Theory, Practice and Politics. Aldershot, UK: Avebury, 1994.

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    A seminal text that brings new sociological insights to our understanding of childhood, welfare, and the intergenerational contract. In the introduction to the book, Qvortrup sets out the conceptual distinction between children being seen as “beings” in childhood and “human becomings” destined for future adulthood. This is a key tension inherent in much policy formulation, especially with regard to policies of social investment.

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  • Wells, Karen. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

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    Wells’s book is an excellent and accessible introduction into global issues of social constructions of childhood and the governance of childhood. Drawing on the new sociology of childhood, the author takes a historical and comparative approach to childhood through a critical examination of a wide range of policy areas, including family policy, war, children’s rights development, and child protection.

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Textbooks

Textbooks are informed increasingly by the notion of children as active social beings who have a role to play in the generation of policies and the development of welfare practices. Mason and Fattore 2005 and Montgomery 2003 engage with children and policy in this way, as does the more recent edition of Wyness 2011. Fawcett, et al. 2004 and Kehily 2009 provide good coverage of policy issues in childhood and Featherstone, et al. 2010 brings an important gendered dimension to our understanding of child welfare. The collection of edited contributions compiled in Hendrick 2005 is particularity extensive, drawing on key experts in theory, policy, and practice to set out some of the most important issues that arise when thinking about this topic, and it is a good place to start.

  • Fawcett, Barbara, Brid Featherstone, and Jim Goddard. Contemporary Child Care Policy and Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    UK-based text that critically examines child policy and practice under the “New Labour” administration in Britain. The authors explore children as carers, family policy, disability, and youth justice, among other policy issues.

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  • Featherstone, Brid, Carol-Ann Hooper, Jonathan Scourfield, and Taylor Julie, eds. Gender and Child Welfare in Society. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470684771Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book brings a valuable gendered dimension to issues of theory policy and practice. It focuses on a range of issues, including health and parenting, and the text draws on contributions from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is particularly strong in relation to practitioner-based welfare interventions.

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  • Hendrick, Harry. Child Welfare and Social Policy: An Essential Reader. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2005.

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    A comprehensive reader in contemporary welfare that covers a wide and diverse range of concepts, issues, policies, and practices. The text draws on seminal writing from experts in the field of child welfare to provide an excellent starting point for gaining an insight into, and an understanding of, the impact of policies and practices on children’s lives.

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  • Kehily, Mary Jane. An Introduction to Childhood Studies. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2009.

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    General overview that draws on the new sociology of childhood. Part 3 explores policy perspectives on childhood.

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  • Mason, Ian, and Toby Fattore, eds. Children Taken Seriously: In Theory, Policy and Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2005.

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    Coming from a theoretical perspective that positions children as agentic beings, these Australian academics explore how children can be actively engaged in a range of policy areas, including social work, education, health care, and broader social policies.

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  • Montgomery, Heather. Changing Childhoods: Local and Global. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2003.

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    An Open University textbook that provides a sound introduction to the experiences of children across the globe and the nature of policies developed in different cultural settings in addressing key issues of childhood, including poverty and health. The text draws on case studies from around the world and children’s voices are present throughout. The text covers key issues in policy, including participation, interventions, and children’s well-being.

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  • Wyness, Michael. Childhood and Society. 2d ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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    This is a second edition and it includes global as well as local policy issues. Section 2 covers social problems and social policy, focusing, in particular, on policy and family life, the policing of childhood, and issues of schooling.

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Journals

Children and Society and Childhood are both valuable child-focused journals that come from a largely children’s rights perspective and present a wide range of policy issues, although Childhood is not strongly policy orientated. Academics working in the field of social policy and childhood publish in a range of journals. Some journals are highly specialized and have a particular applied focus, such as the Journal of Children’s Services and Child and Family Social Work. Others, such as the Journal of Childhood and Poverty and Children’s Geographies, have a specific area of interest but cover policy-related issues. Others may have a family-based approach but engage with relevant literature in relation to children’s lives. These include Families, Relationships and Societies and Family Matters. Other internationally respected journals, such as the Journal of Social Policy, do not have a child focus but carry a range of articles that relate to family and childhood policy.

History

The history of the development of welfare policies for children is intimately tied to changing social constructions of childhood and the changing needs and concerns of the state. Texts such as Cunningham 2005, Heywood 2008, Hendrick 1994, and Hendrick 2003 reveal how the policies have changed over time as the state’s interest in children evolves and new notions of well-being and welfare come to the fore. Children in poverty have been an enduring focus of policy, and Platt 2003 gives a good account of how policy approaches to poverty change over time. Kamerman, et al. 2010 provides a useful account of policies in relation to child well-being, an area of interest in policy formation that has grown in recent years and places greater emphasis on the well-being of children in childhood. This book provides a valuable overview of this changing approach to children and childhood.

  • Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. 2d ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson/Longman, 2005.

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    Extensive history of childhood that also seeks to map the development of public policies toward children. It reveals the changing nature of policies directed toward children as they are informed by different reforming movements and the changing expectations and demands of the state.

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  • Hendrick, Harry. Child Welfare: England 1872–1989. London: Routledge, 1994.

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    A key text that sets out the history of public policy and childhood and youth from the 1870s to the 1980s. The author discusses the development of seminal welfare policy areas, including health, child protection, and poverty, and highlights the enduring dichotomy evident in policy discourse and the conception of children as either threats or victims—a dichotomy that is still evident in policymaking today.

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  • Hendrick, Harry. Child Welfare: Historical Dimensions, Contemporary Debate. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2003.

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    Charts the development of child welfare policies through several political and economic periods up to and including “New Labour” in the late 20th century in the United Kingdom. Very policy-based text showing the changing policy approaches to children and childhood over time.

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  • Heywood, Colin. A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2008.

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    Comprehensive text that looks across countries and time to draw out the changing nature of childhood and our different cultural understandings of childhood. Heywood challenges some of the enduring myths of childhood while revealing its complexity and cultural richness. Policy is discussed mainly in chapter 8, “Children and Work,” and in chapter 9, “Investing in the Future Health and Education.”

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  • Kamerman, Sheila, Shelly Phipps, and Asher Ben-Arieh, eds. From Child Welfare to Child Well-Being: An International Perspective on Knowledge in the Service of Policy Making. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2010.

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    In covering fifty years of child welfare, this volume of writings is produced under the main umbrella of child well-being and explores the development of policy and practice over time. The focus on child well-being and policies for childhood focuses on recognizing children as beings in childhood rather than solely as future adults as well as the importance of welfare policies that address those childhood needs and experiences.

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  • Platt, Lucinda. Putting Childhood Poverty on the Agenda: The Relationship between Research and Policy in Britain 1800–1950. London: Young Lives, Save the Children Fund UK, 2003.

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    Addressing a key period in the development of UK policy and the welfare state, the author focuses on policies to address child poverty and stresses important issues, including the politics of measuring poverty and the tensions between policies for child welfare and the other political and economic concerns of the state.

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Childhood and the Welfare State

An important aspect of understanding childhood policies is the role of welfare states in developing and delivering policies. The type of welfare state in each country can affect the type of welfare developed and the welfare mix—the balance between public and private responsibility for providing care and welfare for children. Lewis 2006 and Skevik 2003 reveal the ways in which welfare states’ provide support for children and how different perceptions and expectations of family and parenting can determine the type and quality of support available to them. Engster and Olofsdotter Stensöta 2011 highlights the significance for children’s well-being of the welfare policy regime under which they live. Fox-Harding 1997 is much cited and constitutes an important contribution to our understanding of how policy can be influenced and shaped by underlying ideologies of children and childhood. Mayall 2006 follows on from this in identifying how values and assumptions about childhood can inform the development of policies for children. Different welfare approaches are also evident across the developing and developed worlds. The chapter in Boyden 1997 shows how child welfare in the developing world can be informed by welfare and rights legislation in the developed world, which, Boyden argues, fails to take account of the lived experiences of children and the cultural settings in which they find themselves embedded.

  • Boyden, Jo. “Childhood and the Policy-Makers: A Comparative Perspective on the Globalisation of Childhood.” In Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood. Edited by Allison James and Alan Prout, 190–229. London: Routledge, 1997.

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    An important and challenging chapter that critically engages with the tensions between protective approaches to child welfare embodied in international children’s rights legislation and the socioeconomic and cultural realities of children, especially children in the global South (or developing world). The chapter argues that policies can be judgmental and repressive and also serve to isolate children from their families and communities.

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  • Engster, Daniel, and Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta. “Do Family Policy Regimes Matter for Children’s Well-Being?” Social Politics 18 (2011): 82–124.

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    This article examines the association between different family policy regimes and children’s well-being. Using panel data, the authors explore a range of issues, including parental leave policies and child-care policies. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Fox-Harding, Lorraine. Perspectives in Child Care Policy. London: Longman, 1997.

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    This is a valuable text for understanding the underpinning values that can inform child protection policies. The book highlights how different value perspectives on child-care policy—laissez-faire, state paternalism, defense of the birth family, and children’s rights—are built on different values and assumptions about children, parents, and the state. These perspectives, in turn, inform the type of services and interventions that are developed.

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  • Lewis, Jane, ed. Children, Changing Families and Welfare States. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006.

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    The contributors to this edited collection look at policies for investing in children, supporting families, and paying for care across a range of welfare state configurations.

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  • Mayall, Berry. “Values and Assumptions Underpinning Policy for Children and Young People in England.” Children’s Geographies 4 (2006): 9–17.

    DOI: 10.1080/14733280600576923Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article focuses on the United Kingdom and “New Labour” to explore how children are represented and provided for in social policy. Mayall argues that a particular conception of UK childhood is operating at the state level and children are valued more as “becoming” (future adults/workers) than as “beings” (children in childhood). She argues that, although there is a growing recognition of children’s rights and participation, their status remains low.

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  • Skevik, Anne. “Children of the Welfare State: Individuals with Entitlements, or Hidden in the Family?” Journal of Social Policy 32 (2003): 423–440.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0047279403007013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article argues that different welfare provision in welfare states is often informed by diverse conceptions of family and family responsibility. Critically comparing the United Kingdom and Norway, Skevik argues that the state’s approach to family formation, coupled with notions of family “worthiness,” can be highly influential in the type and quality of welfare provision available to children and their families.

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Social Investment Policy

“Social Investment” policies signal a movement away from traditional welfare policies toward policies built on investment in social and human capital. In this welfare strategy, children are central to future economic success; therefore, their care cannot be left solely to parents. Esping-Anderson, et al. 2002 is a key text in setting out the rationale for increasing social investment policies in childhood to improve future global competitiveness and alleviate poverty in older age. Several chapters in Lewis 2006 and Jenson and Saint-Martin 2003 explore how social investment policies are formulated and review the growth of such policies in many, mainly Western, welfare states. However, writers such as Ruth Lister (Lister 2003) and Alan Prout (Prout 2000) have identified inherent tensions between the state’s interest in children and children’s own interests and well-being. They argue that increased investment in childhood is welcome but the future orientation of policies can fail to address the everyday quality of life that children experience. Danziger and Waldfogel 2000, focusing on the United States, takes a strong social investment stance to set out the importance of investment in childhood for future outcomes. Social investment policies are targeted at interventions during the early years, and Staab 2010 shows that, despite an increase in interest and the development of such policies in Chile, inequalities between children and the needs of older children are not fully addressed.

  • Danziger, Sheldon, and Jane Waldfogel, eds. Securing the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000.

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    A wide-ranging text that looks at factors—psychological, social, and economic—influencing children’s development and well-being. The authors critically examine different policy and practice interventions and assess their effectiveness as investments in securing good outcomes in adulthood for children, especially for disadvantaged children.

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  • Esping-Andersen, Gosta, Duncan Gallie, Anton Hemerijck, and John Myles. Why We Need a New Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/0199256438.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Seminal text that sets out the case for developing policies that invest in children, especially in relation to child poverty, arguing that adulthood is too late to address poverty and that social investment should be a key project for future governments if they wish to compete in a global arena and be a “post-industrial” winner.

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  • Jenson, Jane, and Dennis Saint-Martin. “New Routes to Social Cohesion? Citizenship and the Social Investment State.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 28 (2003): 77–99.

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    A key text from Canada that identifies the value and expected return to society of investing in policies for children. The text explores the notion of an “activating state,” setting out the case for investment in human capital and lifelong learning for social cohesion, economic competitiveness, and poverty reduction. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Lewis, Jane. Children, Changing Families and Welfare States. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006.

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    The contributors to this edited collection look at policies for investing in children, supporting families, and paying for care across a range of welfare state configurations. Part 1 of the book looks at children and social investment policies, drawing out the underlying political and strategic values that inform social investment policies and the issues arising from policies that invest in children in childhood but with a future orientation toward outcomes in adulthood and increased competitiveness in a global economy.

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  • Lister, Ruth. “Investing in the Citizen-Workers of the Future: Transformations in Citizenship and the State under New Labour.” Social Policy & Administration 37 (2003): 427–443.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9515.00350Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical analysis of the emergence of social investment policies in the United Kingdom. Good insight into the challenges presented by policies that position children as citizen workers of the future rather than children as citizens in childhood. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Prout, Alan. “Children’s Participation: Control and Self-Realisation in British Late Modernity.” Children & Society 14 (2000): 304–315.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2000.tb00185.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written at the turn of the 21st century, Prout’s article explores the nature of contemporary childhood in Britain to critically highlight the increasing control, surveillance, and regulation of childhood and children’s lives despite evidence of increasing recognition of children’s rights and agency. Prout argues that a concern with children as citizens of the future has done little to improve the lives of children in the present. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Staab, Silke. “Social Investment Policies in Chile and Latin America: Towards Equal Opportunities for Women and Children?” Journal of Social Policy 39 (2010): 607–626.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0047279410000243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article looks at social investment policies as they develop in Latin America, focusing on Chile. The article explores how early childhood and care policies have risen high on the welfare agenda. The article not only highlights the values for children but also reveals the disadvantages and inequalities that still persist in older childhood despite investment in early years.

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Children’s Rights and Policy

The growth and development of children’s rights has been a significant advance in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Two key resources from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are the website for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets out the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The State of the World’s Children, which provides an annual global overview of issues affecting childhood. There is also a strong field of literature in this area, but here the interest lies in the ways in which children’s rights legislation and approaches have increasingly begun to inform the development of policies for children. Archard 2004 is an essential text for understanding children’s rights and Franklin 2002 gives a valuable overview of the development of rights-based initiatives. Woodhead and Montgomery 2002 and Montgomery 2003 are two valuable resources for understanding international childhoods and the impact of local and global rights–based policy approaches on children’s lives. Children’s rights are linked to notions of citizenship, and Invernizzi and Williams 2008 explore the link between citizenship, rights, and policy and practice. De Waal and Argenti 2002 takes the issue of rights further in arguing for a stronger rights-based approach to policies for children in Africa.

  • Archard, David. Children: Rights and Childhood. London: Routledge, 2004.

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    An essential text for understanding the issue of children’s rights. Part 3 looks at children, parents, family, and the state to draw out the complexities and challenges of the state’s involvement with children and the issue of children’s rights in relation to parental rights.

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  • de Waal, Alex, and Nicolas Argenti, eds. Young Africa: Realising the Rights of Children and Youth. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 2002.

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    Valuable book that addresses the challenges facing Africa’s children from a rights-based perspective that situates children and young people as agentic beings. The authors make a strong case for extending democratic rights and participatory rights to Africa’s young people if solutions to the deprivations of war, famine, HIV/AIDS, and poverty are to be found.

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  • Franklin, Bob, ed. The New Handbook of Children’s Rights: Comparative Policy and Practice. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2002.

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    This book presents a valuable comparative perspective on children’s rights and policy, looking at rights-based policies and the influence of supranational organizations through the UN Convention and the Human Rights Act. Focused on Britain, the edited collection covers a wide range of policy issues in relation to children’s rights, including health, education, and criminal justice policies. The book has a useful comparative approach in covering rights and policy debates in China, Australia, and Europe.

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  • Invernizzi, Antonella, and Jane Williams. Children and Citizenship. London: SAGE, 2008.

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    Useful text that is clearly written especially for students. An edited collection that explores the key issue of children’s citizenship through a variety of different disciplinary perspectives. Part 3 focuses, in particular, on how laws and policies are influenced by underpinning constructions of childhood and whether and how children are seen as citizens and rights holders.

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  • Montgomery, Heather. Changing Childhoods: Local and Global. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2003.

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    An excellent, comprehensive, and wide-ranging text that presents local and global childhood in all its complexity and diversity. The book takes a rights-based approach in covering important policy areas in childhood, including poverty, health, violence, and protection. The author examines adversity, resilience, and the role of intervention in children’s lives, and the book concludes with an important discussion of children’s participation in society.

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  • United Nations Children’s Fund. The State of the World’s Children.

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    Annual report that targets different issues in relation to childhood across the globe. Recent editions have covered adolescence, children’s rights, health, and education.

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  • United Nations General Assembly. Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989. UN Doc. A/RES/44/25.

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    Full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A universally agreed set of rights and obligations, the text can be accessed in several different languages.

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  • Woodhead, Martin, and Heather Montgomery, eds. Understanding Childhood: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2002.

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    The first of four teaching texts from an Open University teaching course, this is a valuable textbook that provides a global insight into children’s lives, with examples from the richer North and the poorer South. Chapter 4, “Children and Rights,” deals specifically with children’s rights in policy and practice and the tensions between a global rights agenda and the realities of children’s rights in the everyday lives of children.

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Children Policy and Participation

Accompanying the growth of children’s rights in policy has come the notion of children’s participation in the development of policies and practices. Hallett and Prout 2003 sets out participation and voice as being a key change in late-20th-century childhood. However, the involvement of children in a range of different ways, and in different settings, has proved challenging for policymakers and practitioners at all levels of governance. Central to many debates about participation has been the issue of whether participation can be made meaningful and the dangers of tokenistic engagement of children. Percy-Smith and Thomas 2009a and Percy-Smith and Thomas 2009b provide a global overview of the growth of children’s rights and participation and draw out the challenges of engaging meaningfully with children in different social and cultural settings. These tensions are further highlighted in Davis, et al. 2006. Differential power between adults and children has been a key issue in participatory practice and policymaking, and Eke, et al. 2009; Wyness 2006; and Thomas 2007 provide useful discussions and examples of participation in practice. Hart 2007 reminds us that participation under conditions of extreme physical, social, and political constraint can result in essentially meaningless and tokenistic experiences for children.

  • Davis, John, Malcolm Hill, Kay Tisdall, and Alan Prout. Children, Young People and Social Inclusion: Participation for What? Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2006.

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    A good edited collection that covers several key issues in relation to children’s participation in the policy process. Chapter 12 looks at representative versus participatory democracy for children, drawing out the challenges of different modes of participation of children in policymaking and the tensions between the rhetoric and the reality of participation.

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  • Eke, Richard, Helen Butcher, and Mandy Lee, eds. Whose Childhood Is It? The Roles of Children, Adults and Policy Makers. London: Continuum International, 2009.

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    An interesting textbook particularly useful for students, it uses two interconnected themes throughout the text, namely, children’s sense of self, adult notions of childhood, and their articulation with policy and practice as well as representations of children and childhood. This UK-based study looks in detail at policies enacted during the early years, such as Sure Start, and analyzes them through the lens of children’s rights and the two interconnected themes.

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  • Hallett, Christine, and Allan Prout, eds. Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    An excellent resource that looks at the ways in which children have participated in policy formulation and service development and delivery in the United Kingdom. The first chapter by Alana Prout sets out key changes in childhood at the turn of the 21st century, highlighting the advent of the voice of children in policy as a key element of change.

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  • Hart, Jason. “Empowerment or Frustration? Participatory Programming with Young Palestinians.” Children, Youth and Environments 17 (2007): 1–23.

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    An article that challenges the notion that participation can be achievable and sustained in an environment of immense political, physical, social, and cultural constraints. The author focuses on the experiences of young Palestinians in participatory projects and argues that, for these young people, successful participation is rare and children’s participation remains within a “virtual box.”

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  • Percy-Smith, Barry, and Nigel Thomas. A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation: Perspectives from Theory and Practice. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2009a.

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    An edited collection of chapters from distinguished experts in the field of children’s rights. The book addresses children’s rights and participation in a global setting. It highlights the growth of children’s rights and the corresponding challenges of engaging meaningfully in different cultural and political settings with the notion of children as citizens and bearers of rights who are active in the business of developing policies and practices.

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  • Percy-Smith, Barry, and Nigel Thomas, eds. A Handbook of Children’s Participation: Perspectives from Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 2009b.

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    Edited collection that looks at issues of participation in developing and developed worlds, highlighting the ways in which participation may mean very different things to children in different settings and drawing out the challenges that real participation presents.

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  • Thomas, Nigel. “Towards a Theory of Children’s Participation.” International Journal of Children’s Rights 15 (2007): 199–218.

    DOI: 10.1163/092755607X206489Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good overview of participation. Identifies two central discourses of participation—a discourse of social relations, inclusion, and process and a discourse of political relations, power, and outcome. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Wyness, Michael. “Children, Young People and Civic Participation: Regulation and Local Diversity.” Educational Review 58 (2006): 209–218.

    DOI: 10.1080/00131910600584173Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the challenges of participation for children in structures determined and controlled by adults. Draws on two cases to look at how children understand their roles as representatives for other children and how they negotiate their relationships with adults in civic participatory settings.

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Comparative Childhoods and Policy

An important aspect of childhood policy is captured with a comparative view. Policy learning takes place across different welfare states, and the provisions made for children in different welfare settings tell us a great deal about how children are valued and supported in different ways. The publication Doing Better for Children (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2009) and Lewis 2006 give a comparative insight into social spending and policies for children and families across a wide range of different areas of governance. Boyden 1997 and Wells 2009 remind us that policies developed in one country or area can be imposed in another without an understanding of the very different lifestyles and cultural practices in which childhood is embedded. Katz 2004 provides an excellent insight into two seemingly very different childhood experiences—one in Africa and one in New York.

  • Boyden, Jo. “Childhood and the Policy Makers: A Comparative Perspective on the Globalization of Childhood.” In Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood. Edited by Alison James and Alan Prout, 190–229. London: Routledge, 1997.

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    An influential chapter that highlights the tensions inherent in the global imposition of a Western ideology of childhood and children’s rights. Boyden argues that European values were exported to Third World countries, where they had a profound and damaging impact on the everyday lives of children and that resulted in outlawing many childhood cultural and working practices.

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  • Katz, Cindi. Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

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    An important comparative text that compares the lives and experiences of children in two settings, a Sudanese village and New York. The book explores globalization, policies of development, and economic restructuring through the perspective of children’s lives.

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  • Lewis, Jane, ed. Children, Changing Families and Welfare States. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006.

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    The contributors to this edited collection look at policies for investing in children, supporting families, and paying for care across a range of welfare state configurations.

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  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Doing Better for Children. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009.

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    This book compares child well-being and child welfare policies across the OECD nations. Topics include the OECD child well-being indicators and social spending across the child’s life cycle, including analysis of the effects of family structure, inequality, migration, and family policies, among others.

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  • Wells, Karen. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

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    This is an excellent and challenging book that examines the governance of childhood and critically evaluates the influences on policy that occur at macro, meso, and micro levels. The book reveals how childhood is governed by international law and international institutions and is shaped by both local and global forces.

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Children, Families, and the State

There is a historic tension between the public and private realms of childhood, and the boundaries between these two realms are increasingly blurred and permeable. Children are, in general, embedded within the family setting, with parents traditionally having responsibility to care for children. However, a delicate balance exists between parental “control” and care of children and the state’s role in producing welfare for children. Childhood policies are informed by the rights and responsibilities of parents as well as by the needs and concerns of the state. Carling, et al. 2002 provides a useful insight into the interaction and sometimes tensions between policy assumptions and family practices. Increased interest by the state in the welfare of children in relation to social investment has meant that parenting has become a key area of family policymaking. Churchill 2011 argues that parenting policies can be inflexible and fail to recognize the diversity of parenting that is practiced. Parental leave policies significantly impact children, and Kamerman and Moss 2009 gives a comparative overview of the development of parental leave policies and reveals the different expectations and values that inform provision. Mätzke and Ostner 2010, the introduction to a special issue of the Journal of European Social Policy, gives an excellent critical overview of recent trends in family policy.

  • Carling, Alan, Simon Duncan, and Rosalind Edwards, eds. Analysing Families: Morality and Rationality in Policy and Practice. London: Routledge, 2002.

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    This is a key text in examining the interaction between policy and what families do, analyzing family life and family moralities, and exploring contemporary family structures and practices, choices, and constraints. Provides a valuable discussion of the role of family policy in the lives of children’s families and the underlying assumptions and intent of policy interventions.

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  • Churchill, Harriet. Parental Rights and Responsibilities: Analysing Social Policy and Lived Experiences. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2011.

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    A UK-based text exploring family policy in relation to child welfare and parenting. In critically analyzing current family policy approaches, the author highlights family diversity and the experiences and perspectives of parents. In doing so, she argues for greater flexibility and responsiveness in policy to different family practices.

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  • Kamerman, Sheila B., and Peter Moss, eds. The Politics of Parental Leave Policies: Children, Parenting, Gender and the Labour Market. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2009.

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    Parental leave policies are a key policy area that is directed at parents but has particular significance for children. In this edited collection, the parental leave policies of fifteen countries are compared in drawing out the different policy regimes and the underpinning values and policy imperatives that inform provision.

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  • Mätzke, Margitta, and Ilona Ostner. “Introduction: Change and Continuity in Recent Family Policies.” In Special Issue: Explaining Recent Shifts in Family Policy. Journal of European Social Policy 20 (2010): 387–398.

    DOI: 10.1177/0958928710380476Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This special issue presents a valuable assessment of contemporary family policies across a range of different country settings. The introduction brings together key changes in family policy and maps how family policies are developing in response to social, economic, and demographic change in advanced industrial countries. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Family Policy

The late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen considerable social, economic, and demographic changes. Such changes have been particularly important in the lives of children. Hantrais 2004 sets out key changes to family life in Europe and examines how different welfare regimes are responding to family change. Mätzke and Ostner 2010 discusses how family policies are developing in response to social, economic, and demographic changes in advanced industrial countries. Families have become more diverse and changes have occurred in family practices, family formation, and dissolution, with the result that children live in a variety of family settings. Family policies seek to address family change, divorce, and parenting and support after divorce. Wasoff 2007 gives a useful comparative insight into how children’s care and contact is mediated by the state following separation. Butler 2003 and Smart, et al. 2001 approach divorce from the perspective of the child and each sets out a good case for the importance of including children’s voices and experiences in the development of family policies and professional interventions. Prince Cooke and Baxter 2010 provides a comparative perspective on policy responses to family diversity and change from a gendered perspective. Interest has grown in the role of fathers in policymaking, and Featherstone 2009 gives a good overview of policy issues in relation to contemporary fathering.

  • Butler, Ian. Divorcing Children: Children’s Experience of Their Parents’ Divorce. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2003.

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    UK-based, child-focused insight into the impact of divorce on children. Situating children as active social agents within the family, the author examines children’s lives during periods of separation and divorce, revealing the ways in which children are actively mediating and negotiating that experience. The book addresses flaws in family justice policy and argues for improvements in the ways in which professionals understand and work with children at such times.

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  • Featherstone, Brigid. Contemporary Fathering: Theory, Policy and Practice. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2009.

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    A key text that focuses on the increasing attention being given in policymaking to issues of fathering and the role of father, including those of welfare and services. Explicating a range of different approaches to understanding fatherhood, the author offers a challenging insight into issues of gender equity and welfare policy and practice.

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  • Hantrais, Linda. Family Policy Matters: Responding to Family Change in Europe. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2004.

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    This book sets out the key changes to family life in Europe in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The book highlights key demographic, social, and economic changes and their impact on family life, and explores how policymakers in different European countries are responding to family change and diversity.

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  • Mätzke, Margitta, and Ilona Ostner. “Introduction: Change and Continuity in Recent Family Policies.” In Special Issue: Explaining Recent Shifts in Family Policy. Journal of European Social Policy 20 (2010): 387–398.

    DOI: 10.1177/0958928710380476Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This special issue presents a valuable assessment of contemporary family policies across a range of different country settings. The introduction brings together key changes in family policy and maps how family policies are developing in response to social, economic, and demographic changes in advanced industrial countries. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Prince Cooke, Lynn, and Janeen Baxter. ‘Families’ in International Context: Comparing Institutional Effects Across Western Societies.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (2010): 516–536.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00716.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful article that looks comparatively at family diversity and family policies from a gendered perspective. The author treats gendered issues in relation to employment, care, family formation, and stability, among others. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Smart, Carol, Bren Neale, and Amanda Wade. The Changing Experiences of Childhood: Families and Divorce. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2001.

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    UK-based qualitative study of children’s experiences of family upheaval and change. Reveals children to be active moral agents active in the process of negotiating and constructing family life during and after family change. Sets out a compelling argument for including children’s voices in the development of legal and family policies.

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  • Wasoff, Fran. Dealing with Child Contact Issues: A Literature Review of Mechanisms in Different Jurisdictions. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research, 2007.

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    Literature review that explores the comparative evidence from different jurisdictions about the ways in which policies deal with child contact and parenting. Range of countries surveyed includes the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

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Parental Employment

Children’s lives are affected by not only policies that are directed at them but also policies that are directed at their parents. A key example of such policies are employment policies and their impact on the capacity of families to manage work and care. Gornick and Meyers 2005 takes a comparative look at policies for managing work and family life, and Waldfogel 2010 takes a child-focused perspective to set out a policy agenda to address the needs of children in working households. Both Ridge 2007 and Redmond 2010 address policy issues relating to single-parent families, an increasing target for labor force activation policies. Both highlight the impact of employment policy interventions on children’s lives. Ridge 2007 draws on research with children in low-income single-mother working households to reveal how children are active in helping to sustain employment. Redmond 2010 argues that there are inherent contradictions and tensions in state approaches to single mothers as workers and their children as social investments.

  • Gornick Janet, and Marcia Meyers. Families That Work: Policies for Reconciling Parenthood and Employment. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005.

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    A comparative look at work life balance policies to explore how US government policies could help families combine paid work with caring for children and improved child well-being. Covers family leave, work time, and child care. Chapter 7 focuses on the provision of child care for children in their early years.

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  • Redmond, Gerry. “Children’s Agency and the Welfare State: Policy Priorities and Contradictions in Australia and the UK.” Childhood 17 (2010): 470–484.

    DOI: 10.1177/0907568209359207Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article takes a critical look at how liberal welfare regimes treat single parents as workers and children as social investments and in need of protection. Exploring the tensions generated between these two welfare approaches through an analysis of welfare-to-work policies in the United Kingdom and Australia, the author argues that there are inherent contradictions in these two approaches. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ridge, Tess. “It’s a Family Affair: Low-Income Children’s Perspectives on Maternal Work.” Journal of Social Policy 36 (2007): 399–419.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0047279407001109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A UK-based insight into working family life from the perspective of children’s own lived experiences. The article explores how low-income working family life is experienced by children in single-parent working families and reveals the ways in which children are active in family life and the role that welfare-to-work policies may play in low-income children’s lives.

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  • Waldfogel, Jane. What Children Need: Family and Public Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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    Written by an American economist, this book examines the issue of balancing parental employment and care. Drawing on a review of evidence about what works for children, the author sets out a seven-point plan to meet the needs of children in working families while reconciling key tensions relating to employment and childcare choice and quality.

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Financial Support

The financial support of children is a key area of policy—whether children are seen as a private issue or as a public good is an important arbiter of whether or not the state steps in to provide extra financial support for families bringing up children. Economic investment in children entails recognition of the costs of raising children and a range of ways are available in which children can be supported by the state, including cash transfers, vouchers, and services in-kind. Both Bennett 2006 and Bjornberg 2006 provide useful overviews of financial support and cash transfers for children. They highlight how different factors influence qualification for such support, including family structure, gender, parenting, and employment status. How much support is given and to what effect for children can be seen from the comparative study of child benefit packages in Bradshaw 2010.

  • Bennett, Fran. “Paying for Children: Current Issues and Implications for Policy Debates.” In Children, Changing Families and Welfare States. Edited by Jane Lewis, 110–136. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006.

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    Cross-national policy trends reveal the different ways in which financial support and cash transfers for children can depend on a range of different welfare qualifications, including gendered claims with fathers as the main claim makers, parental employment status, and performance.

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  • Bjornberg, Ulla. “Paying the Costs of Children in Eight North European Countries: Ambivalent Trends.” In Children, Changing Families and Welfare States. Edited by Jane Lewis, 90–109. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006.

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    A comparative analysis of northern European countries. Useful chapter that looks at the different ways in which the costs of rearing children are acknowledged and supported based on different perceptions of parenting in northern European welfare states.

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  • Bradshaw, Jonathan. “An International Perspective on Child Benefit Packages.” In From Child Welfare to Child Well-being: An International Perspective on Knowledge in the Service of Policy Making. Edited by Sheila Kamerman, Shelly Phipps, and Asher Ben-Arieh, 293–307. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2010.

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    Child benefits represent one way in which the state can provide support for children. This chapter explores the different child benefit packages that are provided by different welfare state regimes.

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Childhood Policies

The majority of children live in a family setting and their welfare needs are met by a range of informal and formal provisions. Social policies for children need to be understood within the context of this informal/formal welfare mix. We saw in the previous sections how family policies have an important relevance for children. In this section, we look at policies that are targeted particularly at children. Children rely very heavily on welfare services for their present and future well-being, and their lives are affected by policies at local, national, and transnational levels. Although, in general, polices are becoming more family focused, they are not necessarily more child centered, and children’s needs and interests are still easily subsumed within family interests and needs, or the needs and interests of the state. Texts such as Hendrick 2005 and Wells 2009 give a valuable insight into how social policies for children have developed and the wider context in which the governance of childhood takes place.

  • Hendrick, Harry. Child Welfare and Social Policy: An Essential Reader. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2005.

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    A comprehensive reader in contemporary welfare that covers a wide and diverse range of concepts, issues, policies, and practices. This text draws on seminal writing from experts in the field of child welfare to provide an excellent starting point for gaining an insight into, and an understanding of, the impact of policies and practices on children’s lives.

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  • Wells, Karen. Childhood in a Global Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009.

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    A valuable international text that explores the impact of local and global laws and institutions on children’s lives. Wells’s book draws on insights from the new sociology of childhood to inform a critical examination of a wide range of policies at both global and local levels that have an impact on children.

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Children at Risk

Policies for children at risk form a key area intervention in children’s lives. The state’s approach to vulnerable children can vary considerably across countries and through time. The edited collection in Jensen and Fraser 2011 is a good example of the risk and resilience approach adopted in the United States. Gilbert, et al. 2011 provides a comprehensive overview of different welfare approaches to child protection and Mallon and McCartt Hess 2005 provides an extensive overview of welfare policies for children in the United States. Frost and Parton 2009 gives a useful insight into different areas of social care policy. Hetherington, et al. 1997 discusses the policy tensions generated when seeking a balance between child protection and family support. Although tightly focused on the child, policies for children’s care can fail to be child centered and children can be excluded from participation in the policies and decisions that affect their lives. Thomas and Campling 2002 and Kiely 2005 explore the ways in which children can actively and meaningfully participate in the policies of childcare. While Lindsey 2004 and Biehal and Rees 2010 address the impact of poverty on children’s experiences of public care and professional interventions.

  • Biehal, Nina, and Gwyther Rees. “Children in Public Care in England: Well-Being, Poverty and Rights.” In Why Care? Children’s Rights and Child Poverty. Edited by Wouter Vandenhole, Jan Vranken, and Katrien de Boyser, 71–91. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2010.

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    This chapter by Biehal and Rees explores the issue of poverty in relation to children’s likelihood of experiencing poverty both before entering and after leaving public care. They do so from a children’s rights perspective that explores the inherent tensions between children’s rights to protection and their rights to autonomy, and the balance between the two.

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  • Frost, Nick P., and Nigel Parton. Understanding Children’s Social Care: Politics, Policy and Practice. London: SAGE, 2009.

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    UK-based, this book is useful not only for a general overview but also for a more in-depth analysis of issues. This book has three main sections: administrative and policy, different service areas, and future issues.

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  • Gilbert, Neil, Nigel Parton, and Marit Skivenes. Child Protection Systems: International Trends and Orientations. International Policy Exchange Series. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199793358.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Valuable comprehensive, comparative collection of informative chapters written by experts in their field. The book covers child protection systems in Anglo-American, Nordic, and continental European welfare states. It examines the way child protection systems have developed over time and identifies a diverse range of influences on their expansion and the tensions inherent in delivering child protection in welfare systems experiencing rapid organizational, policy, and legislative changes.

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  • Hetherington, Rachael, Andrew Cooper, Philip Smith, and Gerti Wilford. Protecting Children: Messages from Europe. Lyme Regis, UK: Russell House, 1997.

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    A wide-ranging text that uses case studies to compare child welfare and child protection policies in Europe. Critically engages with the concepts of child protection and family support and highlights the policy and practice tensions between the two.

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  • Jensen, Jeffrey, and Mark Fraser. Social Policy for Children and Families: A Risk and Resilience Perspective. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2011.

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    Edited collection from the United States, focusing on childhood policies, particularly those for children and youths in problematic circumstances from a risk and resilience perspective.

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  • Kiely, Patricia. “The Voice of the Child in the Family Group Conferencing Model.” In Children Taken Seriously: In Theory, Policy and Practice. Edited by Ian Mason and Toby Fattore, 218–229. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2005.

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    Coming from a theoretical perspective that positions children as agentic beings, these Australian academics explore how children can be actively engaged in a range of policy areas, including social work. This chapter focuses on children’s experiences of family group conferencing.

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  • Lindsey, Duncan. The Welfare of Children. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    A historical overview of US policies for children and welfare services. Keeping the focus on family and child poverty, the author presents a strong critique of the impact of welfare reform on poor children and presents alternative approaches to child welfare services with an emphasis on poverty-reduction schemes for low-income families.

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  • Mallon, Gerald, and Peg McCartt Hess. Child Welfare for the Twenty-First Century: A Handbook of Practices, Policies, and Programs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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    US-based text that covers a wide range of welfare policies and practice, including adoption, disability, child protection, and child mental health.

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  • Thomas, Nigel, and Jo Campling. Children, Family and the State: Decision-Making and Child Participation. 2d ed. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2002.

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    Valuable in-depth analysis of decisions regarding children entering the public care system in the United Kingdom. The book covers different disciplinary approaches and, with a historical dimension, it is a valuable text that approaches policy and practice from a child’s perspective in critically addressing key issues in children’s welfare, including participation in decision making.

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Health and Disability

Efforts to ensure good health in childhood, and support children who are sick and/or disabled, is an important area of policy and practice across the globe. Ehiri 2009 and Gullotta, et al. 1999 are both wide-ranging texts that cover a broad range of health and policy issues. Ehiri provides a global perspective and Gullotta brings together experts to discuss the health of American children and the policies and services that support them. Both Underdown 2006 and Read 2006 look in detail at policies and services for children, including during early childhood and during school years. Policy and practice have tended to focus on impairments and service provision rather than on understanding disabled children as active agents, striving to manage and negotiate challenging life experiences within an essentially disabling environment. In social policy, disabled children have often been conceptualized as vulnerable, passive, and dependent, and James and James 2004 and Davis, et al. 2003 discuss these issues from a child’s perspective, examining the impact of policies on sick and disabled children. Campbell 2001 takes a rights-based approach to understanding policy for disabled children.

  • Campbell, Lesley. “Rights and Disabled Children.” In The New Handbook of Children’s Rights: Comparative Policy and Practice. Edited by Bob Franklin, 196–207. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2001.

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    This chapter explores the importance of ensuring that children’s rights are extended to disabled children. Examines how children who have a disability are often seen to be in need of policies for protection and care services but they are viewed less as rights-based individuals in the same way that nondisabled children are. The right to life and the potential for devaluing disabled children’s lives through policy and law is discussed.

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  • Davis, John, Nick Watson, Marian Corker, and Tom Shakespeare. “Reconstructing Disability, Childhoods and Social Policy in the UK.” In Hearing the Voices of Children: Social Policy for a New Century. Edited by Christine Hallett and Allan Prout, 192–210. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Useful chapter that deconstructs notions of disability in childhood and the relationships between different models of childhood and disability and social policy. Examines the dominant notion that children with a disability are dependent, experience a life of suffering, and are costly for the state.

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  • Ehiri, John, ed. Maternal and Child Health: Global Challenges, Programs, and Policies. New York: Springer 2009.

    DOI: 10.1007/b106524Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited book with contributions from a range of experts in their field. This text covers maternal health and child health and well-being from a global perspective. Policies and programs across the globe are highlighted but the book is focused mainly on middle- and low-income countries; presents health policy problems and discusses possible policy solutions.

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  • Gullotta, Thomas, Robert Hampton, Gerald Adams, Bruce Ryan, and Roger Weissberg. Children’s Health Care: Issues for the Year 2000 and Beyond. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 1999.

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    Wide-ranging text that asks significant questions about the health of America’s children at the millennium and the challenges of producing health policies that are affordable and effective.

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  • James, Alison, and Adrian L. James. Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy Social Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    This is an excellent text for understanding the impact of adult-made policy on children’s lives. It is drawn from a cultural politics of childhood perspective and it has a good section on health policy and its impact on children. The authors seek to show that particular discourses, social events, and ideological conceptions of childhood can combine to inform policy responses.

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  • Read, Janet, Luke Clements, and David Ruebain. Disabled Children and the Law: Research and Good Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley, 2006.

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    Valuable book providing a key insight into how disabled children are treated within law and policy. Covers early years, school years, and the transition to adulthood.

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  • Underdown, Angela. Health and Well-Being in Early Childhood. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press, 2006.

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    Focused on policies and practices in the early years, this text explores key factors of interest in formulating early childhood policies, including parent–child relationships, poverty, family transitions, and children’s health.

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Poverty

Childhood poverty is a major issue throughout the world and this is a significant area of policy development and intervention. Jones and Sumner 2011 provides an extensive insight into the impact of antipoverty measures on children’s lives, drawing on policy examples from the macro, meso, and micro levels. Poverty is a persistent problem even in affluent countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and both Rainwater and Smeeding 2003 and Waldfogel 2010 address this issue. Rainwater and Smeeding 2003 uses a comparative approach to situate child poverty in the United States in an international perspective. Waldfogel 2010 is about policy learning and highlights significant attempts in the early 21st century by the Labour government in the United Kingdom to eradicate child poverty. Drawing on the policy lessons to be learned from this period, the author sets out the challenges facing America in efforts to reduce the numbers of American children living in poverty. Policies to alleviate child poverty can take a variety of reforms, and Vandenhole, et al. 2010 explores a wide range of poverty interventions and policies. Ridge 2002 utilizes a vital child-centered approach to understanding childhood poverty. It explores childhood poverty and policy from the perspective of low-income children, drawing on their identification of needs and concerns to challenge the effectiveness of UK policy. Ridge 2011 provides a valuable review of ten years of qualitative research with low-income children and families and reveals the impact of poverty in a wide range of policy areas. Wager, et al. 2010 also engages with children to explore their experiences in using public services.

  • Jones, Nicola, and Andy Sumner. Child Poverty, Evidence and Policy: Mainstreaming Children in International Development. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2011.

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    Examines the issue of child poverty and policy in an international context. Sets out three case studies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to explore how policies on a macro, meso, and micro level all impact on childhood. The authors argue for the development of child-sensitive policies and a greater understanding of the impact of policies in children’s lives.

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  • Rainwater, Lee, and Timothy Smeeding. Poor Kids in a Rich Country: America’s Children in Comparative Perspective. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003.

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    This book draws on data from the transnational Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) to explore the phenomenon of persistent child poverty in affluent countries. The authors explore data on child poverty in the United States and place the nation in an international comparative context to examine the state of America’s poorest children and the factors that might explain why child poverty in the United States has been rising.

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  • Ridge, Tess. Childhood Poverty and Social Exclusion from a Child’s Perspective. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2002.

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    A key text that looks at child poverty from the perspective of children and young people. The book reveals the impact of poverty on children’s everyday lives and argues that, unless policymakers take account of the issues and concerns that children identify in childhood, a danger exists that policies addressing child poverty will fail.

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  • Ridge, Tess. “The Everyday Costs of Poverty in Childhood: A Review of Qualitative Research Exploring the Lives and Experiences of Low-Income Children in the UK.” Children & Society 25 (2011): 73–84.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2010.00345.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides an extensive review of ten years of qualitative research carried out with children and families living in poverty in the United Kingdom. It was generated to provide evidence for the development of antipoverty policies for children. It provides an important subjective insight into the impact of poverty in the lives of children and their families.

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  • Vandenhole, Wouter, Jan Vranken, and Katrien de Boyser, eds. Why Care? Children’s Rights and Child Poverty. Antwerp, Belgium: Intersentia, 2010.

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    This book focuses on childhood poverty and policy and explores the issues through several different lenses, including a sociological perspective, participation, conceptual definitions of poverty, poverty in early childhood, poverty within the school setting, and a perspective from social work.

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  • Wager, Fiona, Malcolm Hill, Nick Bailey, and Day Rosie. “The Impact of Poverty on Children and Young People’s Use of Services.” Children & Society 24 (2010): 400–412.

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    UK-based, this article engages directly with disadvantaged as well as more affluent children to understand their use of services. Reveals the challenges children have in accessing services when they have limited resources, mobility, and choice, providing a valuable insight into children’s experiences of service policy and the value of taking children’s views into account when designing services. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Waldfogel, Jane. Britain’s War on Poverty. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2010.

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    Comprehensive evaluation of the British Labour government’s “War on Poverty.” This study evaluates the three-pronged antipoverty strategy employed by the British government and discusses in depth what was accomplished by these approaches. The book focuses on the United Kingdom and United States to ask what lessons can be learned in the United States from policies implemented in the United Kingdom.

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Housing

Housing is a key issue for children, although this is often obscured because housing policy is often determined in relation to adult “family” need. Yet, the impact of bad housing policies on children’s lives can be significant. Sandel, et al. 2004 and Harker 2006 both reveal the importance of good housing policy for children and the poor outcomes for children’s well-being, education, and health that can arise when children live in poor quality housing or are made homeless. The article by Verhetsel and Witlox 2006 provides an interesting case study looking at the situation of children in Belgium, where children’s rights–based legislation has resulted in children’s needs in relation to housing being considered as an issue in its own right.

  • Harker, Lisa. Chance of a Lifetime: The Impact of Bad Housing on Children’s Lives. London: Shelter, 2006.

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    A UK report that examines the impact of poor housing conditions, overcrowding, and homelessness on children’s well-being, including their health, safety, and education. The report also explores longer term outcomes for children and makes recommendations for improved housing policy to address children’s needs.

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  • Sandel M., Phelan K., Wright R., Hynes H. P., and Lanphear B. P. “The Effects of Housing Interventions on Child Health.” Pediatric Annals 33 (2004): 474–481.

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    This is a review of tested interventions to address the hazards in housing that may impact on children’s health in the United States.

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  • Verhetsel, Ann, and Frank Witlox. “Children and Housing: ‘Only the Best Is Good Enough’ Some Evidence from Belgium.” Childhood 13 (2006): 205–224.

    DOI: 10.1177/0907568206062929Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interesting article from Belgium where children’s rights legislation has led to children being considered as a housing policy issue in their own right. The article is based on a survey carried out by the government to ascertain the housing needs and desires of children, in conjunction with an analysis of children’s current housing situations. The comparison between the two is used to inform future policy. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Marginalized Groups

Tensions can be considerable between the types of policies that are developed for children in society and the ways in which such policies are experienced by children who live in marginalized social positions. Minority children can experience differences in policy across a range of areas, including immigration, poverty, education, and social security. Dominelli, et al. 2001 and Kirton 2000 explore the challenges facing children from minority ethnic groups in relation to social work practice and adoption. Giner 2007 and Vitus and Leiden 2010 focus on the unaccompanied, or asylum-seeking, children, who can be subject to policies informed by contradictory discourses. Their work reveals the importance for children in how they are positioned in relation to state laws, either as children with rights to protection and support or as asylum seekers subject to a range of more repressive policies designed to protect borders. Kohli and Mitchell 2007 engages directly with social work practice in the field of resettlement of unaccompanied minors. Crock 2006 draws out the challenges for asylum-seeking children in Australia, where policies are too adult centric and fail to take sufficient account of children’s needs.

  • Crock, Mary. Seeking Asylum Alone: A Study of Australian Law, Policy and Practice Regarding Unaccompanied and Separated Children. Sydney: Themis Press, 2006.

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    A key report into Australian policies for unaccompanied and separated children. The report highlights the challenges facing children in a legal system that fails to adequately recognize issues such as child trafficking and where policies directed toward unaccompanied children are heavily informed by adult models that fail to appropriately address the experiences of the child.

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  • Dominelli, Lena, Walter Lorenz, and Haluk Soydan, eds. Beyond Racial Divides: Ethnicities in Social Work Practice. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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    An essential text for understanding issues of racism and social work practice. The edited collection draws on case studies from Africa, Europe, North America, and Australia to bring together a body of work that provides an overview of how different countries treat issues of race and ethnicity and how social work practice is often informed by deeply racist policies.

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  • Giner, Clotilde. “The Politics of Childhood and Asylum in the UK.” Children & Society 21 (2007): 249–260.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2007.00097.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a critical insight into the problematic nature of children asylum seekers in relation to policy. Examining policy in the United Kingdom, the author reveals how children are subject to two contradictory discourses, which result in two separate policy frameworks—one in relation to childhood and children’s rights, which activates policies of care and protection, the other in relation to asylum seeking, which activates policies of border control, detention, and other repressive practices.

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  • Kirton, Derek. Race, Ethnicity and Adoption. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press, 2000.

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    An important study of adoption policy and practice regarding black and minority ethnic children in public care. Makes the case very strongly for placing children in families where their ethnicity is the same.

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  • Kohli, Ravi K. S., and Fiona Mitchell, eds. Working with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children: Issues for Policy and Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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    This book is aimed at students and practitioners who are working in the field of settlement and support of unaccompanied minors. The book examines policies and suggests good practices.

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  • Vitus, Kathrine, and Hilde Leiden. “The Status of the Asylum-Seeking Child in Norway and Denmark: Comparing Discourses, Politics and Practices.” Journal of Refugee Studies 23.1 (2010): 62–81.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrs/feq003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article explores how asylum-seeking children are positioned in discourse, politics, and practice in Norway and Denmark through a comparative analysis of policies and legal practices. The article argues that children are positioned very differently within the law depending on whether they are treated, in the main, as children or, in the main, as asylum seekers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Early Childhood and Early Intervention Policies

Growing numbers of children are spending their lives in some form of early years childcare or other service provision, including initiatives such as Head Start in the United States and Sure Start in the United Kingdom. A key element of social investment policy is the perceived need to intervene at an early age in children’s lives. Halfon, et al. 2009 give a useful comparative overview of interventions during the early years. Clarke, et al. 2005 argues that early year’s services and policies need to be informed by children’s own experiences of services, which involves listening to children even at an early age. Two major reviews of Head Start and Sure Start are included here. To understand the impact of early interventions, programs need to be evaluated over a number of years. Both National Evaluation of Sure Start Team 2010 and Puma, et al. 2010, respectively, give an insight into outcomes and policy issues arising from these programs over time.

  • Clark, Alison, Anne Trine Kjorholt, and Peter Moss. Beyond Listening: Children’s Perspectives on Early Childhood Services. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2005.

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    A key text and the first of its kind to really engage with children’s perspectives of policies that address the early years. It is international in scope and combines theory and practice. Drawing on contributions from practitioners in six countries, the authors make a strong case for finding ways to listen to children’s experiences of services even at an early age.

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  • Halfon, Neal, Shirley Russ, Frank Oberklaid, Jane Bertrand, and Naomi Eisenstadt. An International Comparison of Early Childhood Initiatives: From Services to Systems. New York: Commonwealth Fund, 2009.

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    This is a comparative overview of policies developed for improvements in child well-being. The early childhood initiatives of England, Canada, and Australia are reviewed and evaluated and conclusions drawn to inform the development of interventions during the early years in the United States.

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  • National Evaluation of Sure Start Team. The Impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on Five Year Olds and Their Families. DFE-RR067. London: Department for Education, 2010.

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    Sure Start was designed to improve the life chances of young disadvantaged children, and a range of evaluation reports are available. This review evaluates the impact of services on children who are five years old—previously seen at nine months and three years—to determine what value the program has had in their lives and development.

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  • Puma, Michael, Stephen Bell, Rona Cook, and Camilla Heid. Head Start Impact Study: Final Report. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services, 2010.

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    The Head Start program was launched in 1965 to improve the school readiness of low-income children in America. The comprehensive program includes preschool education, health care, nutrition services, and parent education and support. This impact study reports on a longitudinal study following children over time to evaluate its effectiveness. A useful insight into the impact of a wide-ranging early years program.

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Childcare

While employment policy and the activation of parents, especially mothers, into the labor market is increasingly a key aim of many family policies, the corresponding issue for childhood policy is the provision of childcare to facilitate parental work. Childcare policies have evolved over time and can be very different according to the country a child is living in. Michel 2000 looks at childcare policy in the United States and the development of provision over time. The author reveals the different interests and ideologies of childhood and family life that have informed policies over time. Cleveland and Krashinskey 2001 provides an interesting insight into Canadian childcare policy in considering what childcare would look like if the state took a greater responsibility for its provision. Often childcare has been developed according to the needs of parents and the state rather than based on the needs of the child. Duncan, et al. 2004 argues that childcare provision rarely takes into account how mothers feel about childcare and the moral imperatives that may inform their use of public care. Moss and Petrie 2002 addresses this issue and presents a new way of looking at childcare from a child-centered perspective.

  • Cleveland, Gordon, and Michael Krashinskey. Our Children’s Future: Child Care Policy in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.

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    Extensive review of childcare issues written by key experts in the field. The book came out of a symposium that addressed issues that included quality of care and care services, policy learning from other childcare and family policy regimes, and policies for children at risk, among others. The book asks what childcare would look like in Canada if the state were to become more fully involved in childcare policy and provision.

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  • Duncan, Simon, Rosalind Edwards, Tracey Reynolds, and Pam Alldred. “Mothers and Child Care: Policies, Values and Theories.” Children & Society 18 (2004): 254–265.

    DOI: 10.1002/chi.800Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As governments expand their provision of childcare based on an adult worker model, this article questions whether policy is addressing the issues and concerns of mothers regarding whether childcare is appropriate for their needs or those of their children. The authors argue that use of childcare can be informed by deeply held, complex moral and emotional factors that influence caring decisions.

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  • Michel, Sonya. Children’s Interests/Mothers’ Rights: The Shaping of America’s Child Care Policy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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    A comprehensive history of American childcare policy that shows how government, philanthropists, educational reformers, and social welfare professionals interacted to shape childcare policies as they evolved and changed over time.

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  • Moss, Peter, and Pat Petrie. From Children’s Services to Children’s Spaces: Public Policy, Children and Childhood. London: Routledge, 2002.

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    A challenging book that takes a child-centered perspective to interrogate policies developed for children. The aim of the book is to generate a policy rethink about how we provide public services for children. To do so, the authors engage with notions of children and childhood and argue that an informed contemporary understanding of children and childhood should underpin the modernization of services, and space for children.

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Education

Education is an area of fundamental importance to children and the state. Policies to provide education are often informed by a range of different issues, including underpinning social investment concerns about ensuring that children are educated for future employment. Alexander 2010 presents a comprehensive overview of state provision in the United Kingdom. The review focuses on primary education and is extremely wide ranging in addressing many important issues arising from contemporary education policy and practice. Gillborn and Youdell 2000 and Ball 2008 discuss the development of education and the increasing marketization of education policy in the United Kingdom. James and James 2004 and Edwards 2002 look at education from the perspective of children as service users, highlighting the adult-centric nature of education. MacDonald and Marsh 2004 discusses the implications for children and young people of exclusion and poor education engagement.

  • Alexander, Robin J., ed. Children, Their World, Their Education: Final Report and Recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    The Cambridge Primary Review was an independent review of the primary education system in the United Kingdom. The final report identified and addressed three recurrent issues: the condition of childhood today, the state of the society and world in which children are growing up, and the focus and impact of government policy.

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  • Ball, Steven J. The Education Debate. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2008.

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    This book is UK-based and examines the education system, focusing in particular on the late 20th and early 21st centuries and offering a range of conceptual tools for thinking about state education in its contemporary form.

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  • Edwards, Rosalind, ed. Children, Home and School: Regulation, Autonomy, or Connection? London: Routledge, 2002.

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    An edited collection of contributions covering many countries and the different experiences of children within their education systems. The text focuses in particular on the multitude of ways in which children negotiate home and school relationships. The editors argue that education policy and practice is adult centric and fails to recognize and address children’s concerns and experiences.

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  • Gillborn, David, and Deborah Youdell. Rationing Education: Policy, Practice, Reform and Equity. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2000.

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    UK-based, this book examines the impact of the pressures generated by parental choice and the market system of education upon schools and pupils.

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  • James, Alison, and Adrian L. James. Constructing Childhood: Theory, Policy Social Practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

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    From a sociological perspective this book examines the cultural politics of childhood and the impact on children in diverse social and economic settings of the policies, laws, and professional practices that structure childhood. Section 5 looks at the web of policies and regulations that structure children’s educational experiences. A thought-provoking study that provides a challenging insight into education policies from the perspective of their impact on children.

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  • MacDonald, Robert, and Jane Marsh. “Missing School: Educational Engagement, Youth Transitions, and Social Exclusion.” Youth & Society 36 (2004): 143–162.

    DOI: 10.1177/0044118X04265156Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examining social exclusion and the impact of poverty and marginalization of children’s experiences of school, the authors use a life history approach to examine the schooling experiences of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their study brings out the implications of poor educational engagement for policy and practice. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Neighborhoods and Communities

Many children spend their childhoods in small neighborhoods and localized communities. Like housing, policies that address children’s space and neighborhood are of critical importance. It is in the neighborhood, as Holloway and Valentine 2000 shows, that children experience their social relationships and use space for play and social interaction. Life for children in cities and urban environments is also an important concern, and Christensen and O’Brien 2002 and Gleeson and Sipe 2006 both explore the nature of urban living and city dwelling for children, highlighting the often child unfriendly nature of much urban planning and use of space. Matthews 2001 and Barnes, et al. 2006 discuss the important contribution that children can make to developing and shaping their communities.

  • Barnes, Jacqueline, Illan Katz, Jill E. Korbin, and Margaret O’Brien. Children and Families in Communities: Theory, Research, Policy and Practice. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2006.

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    Good coverage of a diverse range of policy initiatives to address social problems for children in vulnerable families living in high-risk communities. A key discussion surrounds the role of local community initiatives in generating solutions and the growing emphasis on involving children in shaping their communities.

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  • Christensen, Pia, and Margaret O’Brien, eds. Children in the City: Home Neighbourhood and Community. London: Routledge, 2002.

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    Addresses a key policy issue of children’s neighborhoods and space especially within cities. An edited collection with contributions from childhood experts in Europe, Australia, and America. Draws on children’s own accounts of city living to explore how public space and city living can be made more child friendly.

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  • Gleeson, Brendan, and Neil G. Sipe, eds. Creating Child Friendly Cities: Reinstating Kids in the City. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    Broad-ranging text that examines cities and the social and economic environment in which children experience urban childhoods. The book explores the urban welfare of children at several levels—the metropolitan, national, and international—and asks how well do cities service children’s needs, and what is the impact of urban living on children’s health and well-being.

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  • Holloway, Sarah L., and Gill Valentine, eds. Children’s Geographies: Playing, Living, Learning. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    Edited collection that brings together children’s geographies and the new social studies of childhood to provide a valuable international insight into children’s use of space for playing, living, and learning. Issues of public policy and public space are evident throughout the text.

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  • Matthews, Hugh. Children and Community Regeneration: Creating Better Neighbourhoods. London: Save the Children, 2001.

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    A useful text looking at the role of community regeneration projects in Britain and the challenges presented when making policies that promote more “child-friendly” communities.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/23/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791231-0049

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