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Child Protection Legislation:
The Rights of Children & Parents

Child Protection Legislation...

The Children Act 1989

The Children Act 1989 is a major piece of legislation.

Previous laws, passed during the nineteenth and tewntieth centuries, overlapped and were sometimes inconsistent.

Child Protection Legislation

This caused confusion and difficulty.

The Children Act aims to provide a consistent approach to child protection both by bringing together and changing previous laws.

There was also a concern that recent law, passed before the Children Act, could be used too easily to take rights and responsibilities away from parents.

This was thought to be neither in the interests of children nor parents.

One of the main aims of the 1989 Act was therefore to balance the needs and rights of children and the responsibilities and rights of parents.

The Needs And Rights of Children

Cultural Differences in Child-Rearing Patterns

The way that children are brought up varies a great deal between different social groups and different cultures.

Families have different customs involving children. For example, some groups are traditionally more indulgent towards children, while others are more strict.

Some use physical punishment more readily; others are more likely to use emotional forms of control.

The Children Act 1989 acknowledges differences and values many of them. It recognises that a positive attitude to working in partnership with parents and understanding their perspective must underpin any action when working with families.

The Needs of Children

The Children Act 1989 recognises that all children have certain needs that are universal.

These basic developmental needs are the need for...

  • physical care and protection
  • intellectual stimulation and play
  • emotional love and security
  • positive social contact and relationships.

The Rights of Children

All children have certain rights. These include the right to...

  • have their needs met and safeguarded
  • be protected from neglect, abuse and exploitation
  • be brought up in their family of birth wherever possible
  • be considered as an individual, to be listened to and have their wishes and feelings taken into account when any decisions are made concerning their welfare.

The Rights And Responsibilities of Parents

Parents' Rights

In the past parents had the right of ownership of their children. This right, supported by the law, allowed parents to do more or less as they wished with their children.

The law has gradually changed, and it now limits considerably parental rights and powers.

It makes the rights of parents to bring up their children and make decisions on their behalf dependent on them carrying out their duties and responsibilities towards their children.

The law gives them the right to be involved throughout any child protection enquiry as long as this is consistent with the welfare and protection of the child.

They have the right, for example, to attend a case conference.

Research shows that greater parental involvement leads to more purposeful and creative work with families, but that disagreement between social workers and parents greatly hinders the achievement of positive outcomes for children following an enquiry.

Parents' Responsibilities

The law includes the idea that parents have rights but that they also have certain duties and responsibilities towards their children.

The Children Act uses the phrase 'parental responsibility' to sum up the collection of duties, rights and authority that parents have concerning their children.

The idea of parental responsibility is a principle that is at the centre of the Children Act 1989.

The law does not say precisely how adults should exercise their parental responsibility; it recognises that there is a great variety of ways that they can do this.

It emphasises that parents have a duty to care for their children and raise them 'to moral, physical and emotional health'.

In this way, the law imposes minimum standards for the care of children and protects their welfare.

The 1989 Act recognises that parents have both the right to and responsibility towards their children for the following...

  • caring for and maintaining them
  • controlling them
  • making sure that they receive proper education.

Parents also have the authority to...

  • discipline them
  • take them out of the country
  • consent to medical examination and treatment.

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