Family Law and the Construction of Childhood in England and Wales
Listening to the voices of children has become somewhat of a mantra within the current politics of English childhood following the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and the implementation of the Children Act 1989. However, although the Convention establishes children’s rights to be heard and the Act makes specific provisions for ensuring that children have a proper say in matters concerning their own welfare, it is clear that in England and Wales the courts still do not always listen to children’s wishes and feelings (Lyon, 1995; Murch 1995; Parry, 1994). And in contexts outside of the family justice system, such as hospitals and schools, routine consultation with children about matters concerning their own welfare appears to be an even less well-established practice (Alderson, 1993, 2000; but see also Blair, this volume). Any firm commitment to listening to children’s views would, therefore, still seem to be absent from the everyday practices of many professionals working directly with vulnerable children. As such, the contemporary day-to-day politics of childhood in Britain unfolds in ways which remain characterised by adultist concerns, rather than those of children, despite the Children Act 1989 being heralded as a ‘children’s charter’. How this happens and the implications this has for children is the subject of this chapter.
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