Advertisement

Reforming Children’s Law: History and Ideology

  • Michael D. A. Freeman
Chapter
Part of the Practical Social Work book series (PSWS)

Abstract

The Children Act is ‘the most comprehensive and far-reaching reform of child law in living memory’. It provides a new legal framework, but it does more than that. It rewrites the language of child care law and practice. It represents a change in attitude towards children and their families. The Act is about ‘parental responsibility’, which is for life; about’support for children and families’ where those ‘in need’ require assistance to carry out this responsibility; and about ‘partnership’, in many senses the key concept, although it does not appear in the Act itself. It requires, as the Cleveland report (1988) did, that ‘the child is a person and not an object of concern’. The Act is a product of many sources, including reports of inquiries into a series of abuse scandals in the late 1980s (London Borough of Brent (1985), London Borough of Greenwich (1987), London Borough of Lambeth (1987), Cleveland (1988)). But of these it is the influence of the Cleveland report which is most profound. Social workers had been criticised in the earlier reports for not using statutory coercive powers firmly enough (Parton (1986), Stevenson (1986), Freeman (1990)). The Cleveland report criticised them for an over-reliance upon compulsory measures and for paying too little attention to parents by adopting a perspective which placed ‘a strong focus on the needs of the child in isolation from the family’ (Cleveland report, para. 4.57).

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Barber, S. (1990) ‘Heading Off Trouble’, Community Care, 840, 23.Google Scholar
  2. Bebbington, A. and Miles, J. (1989) ‘The Background of Children Who Enter Local Authority Care,’ British Journal of Social Work, 19, 349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berridge, D. and Cleaver, H. (1987) Foster Home Breakdown, Oxford, Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Brent, London Borough of (1985), A Child in Trust, London Borough of Brent.Google Scholar
  5. Cleveland (1988), Report of Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland, Cm.412, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  6. Dingwall, R. et al. (1983) The Protection of Children, Oxford, Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. DHSS (1974) Report of Committee of Inquiry into the Care and Supervision Provided in Relation to Maria Colwell, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  8. DHSS (1985) Review of Child Care Law, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  9. DHSS (1987) The Law on Child Care and Family Services London, HMSO, Cm.62.Google Scholar
  10. Edelman, M. (1977) Political Language: Words that Succeed and Policies that Fail, New York, Academic Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  11. Fox Harding, L. (1991a), Perspectives in Child Care Policy, London, Longman.Google Scholar
  12. Fox Harding, L. (1991b), ‘The Children Act 1989 in Context: Four Perspectives in Child Care Law and Policy’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 179–93, 285–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeman, M. D. A. (1990), ‘The Politics of Child Care’ in M.D.A. Freeman (ed), Critical Issues in Welfare Law, London, Stevens, 103–22.Google Scholar
  14. Freeman, M. D. A. (1991) ‘Reconciling the Irreconcilable’, Social Work Today, 23(7) 17–19 (10 October).Google Scholar
  15. Freeman, M. D. A. (1992) ‘In the Child’s Best Interests? Reading the Children Act Critically’, Current Legal Problems. Google Scholar
  16. Gillick (1986) Gillick v. West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, [1986] AC 112.Google Scholar
  17. Goldstein, J. et al. (1979) Before the Best Interests of the Child, New York, Free Press.Google Scholar
  18. Greenwich, London Borough of (1987) A Child in Mind, London Borough of Greenwich.Google Scholar
  19. Harris, R. (1991) ‘The Life and Death of The Care Order (Criminal)’, British Journal of Social Work 21, 1–17.Google Scholar
  20. House of Commons (1984) Children in Care, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  21. Lambeth, London Borough of (1987) Whose Child?, LB of Lambeth.Google Scholar
  22. Lasch, C. (1977) Haven in a Heartless World - The Family Besieged, New York, Basic Books.Google Scholar
  23. Law Commission (1987) Wards of Court, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  24. Law Commission (1988) Guardianship and Custody, London, HMSO.Google Scholar
  25. Mount, F. (1982) The Subversive Family, London, Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  26. Packman, J. et al. (1986), Who Needs Care? Oxford, Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Packman, J. and Jordan, B. (1991) ‘The Children Act: Looking Forward, Looking Back’, British Journal of Social Work, 21, 315–27.Google Scholar
  28. Parton, N. (1985) The Politics of Child Abuse, London, Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Parton, N. (1986) ‘The Beckford Report: A Critical Appraisal’, British Journal of Social Work, 16, 511–30.Google Scholar
  30. Rowe, J. and Lambert, L. (1973), Children Who Wait, London, Association of British Adoption Agencies.Google Scholar
  31. Stevenson, O. (1986) ‘Guest Editorial on Beckford Inquiry’, British Journal of Social Work, 16, 499–510.Google Scholar
  32. Thoburn, J. (1991) ‘The Children Act 1989: Balancing Child Welfare with the Concept of Partnership with Parents’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 331–44.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© British Association of Social Workers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael D. A. Freeman

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations