Special Issue "Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 March 2020).

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Special Issue Editor

Emeritus Prof. Nigel Parton
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield HD1 3DH, UK
Interests: social problems and social welfare; child protection and child welfare; social work; social policy
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Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

The last 50 years have witnessed increasing public, political, and media concern about the problem of child maltreatment and what to do about it. This is now evident in most jurisdictions and is receiving serious attention from many international and transnational organizations. While the (re)discovery of the problem in the USA in the 1960s was particularly associated with the ‘battered baby syndrome’, this concern has now expanded to include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, abuse on the internet, child trafficking, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, and radicalization and is now seen to effect all children and young people, not just young babies. Similarly, the focus of attention has broadened from intra-familial abuse to abuse in a whole variety of settings, including schools, day care, the church, and the wider community. There has also been a broadening of concern over not only protecting children and young people from serious harm, but also preventing the impairment of their health and development and ensuring that they are able to grow up in circumstances that are consistent with the provision of safe and effective care so that all children can achieve the best outcomes.

In the process, the laws, policies, practices, and systems to identify and prevent child maltreatment, have become much more wide-ranging and complex and have themselves been subject to continual review. Social workers, health and education workers, the police, and other criminal justice workers, as well as members of the wider community are all seen to have key roles to play in both protecting children and young people and assessing and monitoring actual and potential perpetrators.

Increasingly, the efficacy and effectiveness of child protection policies, practices, and systems have been subject to high-profile media and political scrutiny and have been the subject of critical social science analysis. The purpose of this Special Issue is to provide a platform for such critical debates, encouraging analysis of child protection policies and practices and presenting recommendations for how they might be improved. It builds on a previous Special Issue in Social Sciences in 2014—‘Contemporary Developments in Child Protection’. This Special Issue encourages the submission of papers from a wide range of disciplines, including law, sociology, politics, criminology, psychology, anthropology, education, health, social work, social policy, and gender studies, as well as contributions that are cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary.

Prof. Dr. Nigel Parton
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Child abuse
  • Child protection
  • Child maltreatment
  • Public protection
  • The role of state, family, and community
  • Family support
  • Social surveillance
  • Risk to children

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection: Some Introductory Comments
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(6), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9060102 - 15 Jun 2020
Viewed by 1541
Abstract
I would like to begin by thanking all of the authors who have contributed to this Social Sciences Special on “critical debates and developments in child protection” for their hard work and timely dedication in responding so positively to the requests and timelines [...] Read more.
I would like to begin by thanking all of the authors who have contributed to this Social Sciences Special on “critical debates and developments in child protection” for their hard work and timely dedication in responding so positively to the requests and timelines made of them [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)

Research

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Article
Participation of Children and Parents in the Swiss Child Protection System in the Past and Present: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(8), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9080148 - 18 Aug 2020
Viewed by 1895
Abstract
As in other European countries, the Swiss child protection system has gone through substantial changes in the course of the 20th century up to today. Increasingly, the needs as well as the participation of children and parents affected by child protection interventions have [...] Read more.
As in other European countries, the Swiss child protection system has gone through substantial changes in the course of the 20th century up to today. Increasingly, the needs as well as the participation of children and parents affected by child protection interventions have become a central concern. In Switzerland, critical debates around care-related detention of children and adults until 1981 have led to the launch of the National Research Program ‘Welfare and Coercion—Past, Present and Future’ (NRP 76), with the aim of understanding past and current welfare practices. This paper is based on our research project, which is part of this national program. We first discuss three overarching concepts—integrity, autonomy and participation—at the heart of a theoretical framework in order to understand the position of parents and children in child protection proceedings. Secondly, we critically analyze the historical and legal development of the child protection system in Switzerland and its effects on children and parents from 1912 until today. Thirdly, we give an insight into the current Swiss child protection system, with an investigation of hearings of parents and children conducted by the Child and Adult Protection Authorities (CAPA) based on participant observations. In particular, we show the importance of information exchanges and of signs of mutual recognition. Finally, in light of our findings, we discuss the interplay between socio-historical and legal developments in child protection and their consequences for the integrity, autonomy and participation of the people involved. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
Safeguarding Children in the Developing World—Beyond Intra-Organisational Policy and Self-Regulation
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(6), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9060098 - 08 Jun 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2128
Abstract
Safeguarding in the context of development and humanitarian assistance has received heightened international attention since 2018. Emerging literature has not yet investigated the extent to which responses are evolving in the best interests of the child, in line with the treaty-based rights of [...] Read more.
Safeguarding in the context of development and humanitarian assistance has received heightened international attention since 2018. Emerging literature has not yet investigated the extent to which responses are evolving in the best interests of the child, in line with the treaty-based rights of children. This article makes a unique contribution to scholarship by applying a child rights lens to safeguarding efforts in the aid sector with a focus on the least developed countries in Africa. The article first reviews the safeguarding landscape—providing a snapshot of self-regulatory and standard setting initiatives by non-government organisations (NGOs) and bilateral government donors. Next, the article examines the relevant standards in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and respective Committee observations to enrich the safeguarding discussion. Finally, the article discusses key dilemmas and remaining challenges for safeguarding children in the developing world. The article suggests that a rights-based approach provides for a more nuanced and contextualised response, avoiding the temptation of ‘tick-box’ exercises driven by reputational management and ‘programming siloes’ imposed by humanitarian and development actors. To support sustained and consistent progress, efforts should go beyond intra-organisational policy and sectoral self-regulation. Child rights law monitoring mechanisms can be leveraged to encourage effective government oversight of NGOs in contact with children, as part of national frameworks for child protection. Donor governments should also consider and increase investment in national and local child protection systems to address risk factors to child abuse and ensure appropriate responses for any child that experiences harm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
Comparing Reports of Child Sexual and Physical Abuse Using Child Welfare Agency Data in Two Jurisdictions with Different Mandatory Reporting Laws
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(5), 75; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9050075 - 11 May 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1860
Abstract
Empirical analysis has found that mandatory reporting legislation has positive effects on case identification of child sexual abuse both initially and over the long term. However, there is little analysis of the initial and ongoing impact on child protection systems of the rate [...] Read more.
Empirical analysis has found that mandatory reporting legislation has positive effects on case identification of child sexual abuse both initially and over the long term. However, there is little analysis of the initial and ongoing impact on child protection systems of the rate of reports that are made if a reporting duty for child sexual abuse is introduced, especially when compared with rates of reports for other kinds of child maltreatment. This research analysed government administrative data at the unique child level over a seven-year period to examine trends in reports of child sexual abuse, compared with child physical abuse, in two Australian states having different socio-legal dimensions. Data mining generated descriptive statistics and rates per 100,000 children involved in reports per annum, and time trend sequences in the seven-year period. The first state, Western Australia, introduced the legislative reporting duty in the middle of the seven-year period, and only for sexual abuse. The second state, Victoria, had possessed mandatory reporting duties for both sexual and physical abuse for over a decade. Our analysis identified substantial intra-state increases in the reporting of child sexual abuse attributable to the introduction of a new legislative reporting duty, and heightened public awareness resulting from major social events. Victoria experienced nearly three times as many reports of physical abuse as Western Australia. The relative burden on the child protection system was most clearly different in Victoria, where reports of physical abuse were relatively stable and two and a half times higher than for sexual abuse. Rates of children in reports, even at their single year peak, indicate sustainable levels of reporting for child welfare agencies. Substantial proportions of reports were made by both legislatively mandated reporters, and non-mandated community members, suggesting that government agencies would benefit from engaging with communities and professions to enhance a desirable reporting practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
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Article
Kenya’s Over-Reliance on Institutionalization as a Child Care and Child Protection Model: A Root-Cause Approach
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040057 - 22 Apr 2020
Viewed by 3016
Abstract
Institutionalization of children who are deprived of parental care is a thriving phenomenon in the global South, and has generated considerable concern both nationally and internationally, in the last two decades. In Kenya, the number of children growing up in live-in care institutions [...] Read more.
Institutionalization of children who are deprived of parental care is a thriving phenomenon in the global South, and has generated considerable concern both nationally and internationally, in the last two decades. In Kenya, the number of children growing up in live-in care institutions has been growing ever since the country’s early post-independence years. Although legislative and regulatory measures aimed at child protection have been in place for a number of years now, and the national government appears to be standing by the commitment it expressed in recent times to implement care reform which encompasses de-institutionalization, the national child protection system remains very dependent on institutional care. Against the backdrop of a global and national movement towards de-institutionalization of child care and child protection, in this paper we tease out the range of factors reinforcing Kenya’s over-reliance on live-in institutions as a child care and child protection model. Numerous factors—structural, political, economic, socio-cultural, and legal—contribute to the complexity of the issue. We highlight this complexity, bringing together different angles, while pointing out the interests of the different stakeholders in reinforcing institutional care. We argue that the sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness of the intended change from institutional care to alternative family-based care requires that a root-cause approach be adopted in addressing the underlying child care and child protection issues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
‘Warm Eyes’, ‘Warm Breath’, ‘Heart Warmth’: Using Aroha (Love) and Warmth to Reconceptualise and Work towards Best Interests in Child Protection
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040054 - 17 Apr 2020
Viewed by 1955
Abstract
The attributes ‘warm eyes’, ‘breathe warm air’, ‘heart warmth’ and aroha (love) guide our work in child protection. These quotes are from a young person from the Change Factory 2020, a MFAMILY student in 2020 and Jan Erik Henricksen Key Note at the [...] Read more.
The attributes ‘warm eyes’, ‘breathe warm air’, ‘heart warmth’ and aroha (love) guide our work in child protection. These quotes are from a young person from the Change Factory 2020, a MFAMILY student in 2020 and Jan Erik Henricksen Key Note at the 4th International Indigenous Voices in Social Work Conference, Alta, Norway 2017 respectively, to describe the way young people and families want workers to be. We reflect on the child rights and family inclusion provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC), and the Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ) legislation Children, Young Persons and their Families Act (1989), in contributing to the best interests of the child. We examine current events in our locations, Aotearoa New Zealand, Norway and Western Australia, as demonstrating that these joint principles are far from universally used in child protection practice. The sole use of Article 3 of the UNCRoC, in particular, often results in excluding families as legitimate stakeholders. In seeking to achieve the best interests of the child, we apply a practice framework to example vignettes. Here, we have added micro-practices to address the identified gaps in relationship building, engagement and enabling practices in working towards the practice of best interests. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
The TACL Model: A Framework for Safeguarding Children with a Disability in Sport
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040048 - 10 Apr 2020
Viewed by 1689
Abstract
This study represents the first investigation of how children with a disability can be safeguarded in Rugby Union. In study 1, a questionnaire containing quantitative questions was completed by 389 safeguarding volunteers regarding their experiences of working with a child with a disability [...] Read more.
This study represents the first investigation of how children with a disability can be safeguarded in Rugby Union. In study 1, a questionnaire containing quantitative questions was completed by 389 safeguarding volunteers regarding their experiences of working with a child with a disability in their role. Descriptive statistics revealed that 76% of this sample had worked with a child with a disability in Rugby Union and that 28% continue to do so on a weekly basis. In study 2, a qualitative survey was completed by 329 safeguarding volunteers and interviews were conducted with a geographically representative sample of 14 Safeguarding Officers. This study focused on developing a model of promising practice with respect to safeguarding children with a disability in Rugby Union. Based on an inductive thematic analysis of the qualitative survey and interview data, the TACL model was developed: Trigger (creating a system that sensitively identifies children with a disability), Action Plan (creating an individualized approach such that the child is effectively included and protected), Communicate (ensuring that all key stakeholders are informed about the plan) and Learn (ensuring that cases of good practice are identified and disseminated). The name TACL (pronounced tackle) was chosen to promote proactive strategies and to provide a label relevant to the language of Rugby Union. These strategies are proposed as the basis for the safeguarding of children with a disability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
Professional Values Challenged by Case Management—Theorizing Practice in Child Protection with Reflexive Practitioners
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040044 - 08 Apr 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1678
Abstract
In this article, we theorize and reflect based on former research into professional practice and discretion as well as use some results from working together with practitioners in child protection services to explore the phenomenon of non-performing. Regulation lies at the heart of [...] Read more.
In this article, we theorize and reflect based on former research into professional practice and discretion as well as use some results from working together with practitioners in child protection services to explore the phenomenon of non-performing. Regulation lies at the heart of the contemporary child protection discourse. On the one hand we have seen a trend towards systematization of assessment content and procedures, on the other hand it is assumed that rational management approaches can secure consistency of performance. Social workers may be weary of the constraints all this imposes, but seem generally content to comply. Our reasoning was that social workers in child protection should be helped to get to grips with modifications to practice so that multi-challenged families could be accorded priority. These changes would include a reframing of assessment to take account of family needs as well as the needs of children. Follow-up would also require much more attention. Additionally, the choice of help provided for children and families would have to come into better focus, despite the limitations often experienced in practice. The question we asked was whether these types of reframing could be fostered within local child welfare units. We conducted a field trial in which child protection units were encouraged to reframe their practices, with the support of an expert group. The idea was to enhance and enable innovation through the combination of a more thorough dialogue with the families involved, as well as critical reflection based on available knowledge related to the identified challenges. We do a critical discussion of the work and the results from this in order to enhance knowledge on innovation in child protection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
A Framework to Inform Protective Support and Supportive Protection in Child Protection and Welfare Practice and Supervision
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040043 - 07 Apr 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2274
Abstract
In this article, our intention is to provide an in-depth framework to inform the management of the inevitable complexity of day-to-day practice and supervision in child protection and welfare. It is based on what is now well evidenced about child protection and welfare [...] Read more.
In this article, our intention is to provide an in-depth framework to inform the management of the inevitable complexity of day-to-day practice and supervision in child protection and welfare. It is based on what is now well evidenced about child protection and welfare literature in relation to risk, relationships, family support, supervision, and professional development. Using Ireland as a case example for illustration and application, we introduce an emerging framework based on a dualism of ‘protective support and supportive protection’ developed in previous work. We avail of Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological framework and network theories to progress this ongoing ‘work in progress’ to inform social work and social care practice and supervision in a global context as and where appropriate. We emphasize the importance of context specific approaches, the relevance of range of actors, practitioner and supervisor expertise through experience, and proactive partnership based engagement with children, families, and relevant communities in all aspects of service delivery, including evaluation. We reflect on the challenges and possible obstacles to how such a framework can inform practice and supervision. We argue that practitioners can best activate and apply the framework using a practice research approach. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
Watching over or Working with? Understanding Social Work Innovation in Response to Extra-Familial Harm
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(4), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040037 - 01 Apr 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2625
Abstract
This paper critically reflects on the role of surveillance and trusted relationships in social work in England and Wales. It explores the characteristics of relationships of trust and relationships of surveillance and asks how these approaches apply to emerging policy and practices responses [...] Read more.
This paper critically reflects on the role of surveillance and trusted relationships in social work in England and Wales. It explores the characteristics of relationships of trust and relationships of surveillance and asks how these approaches apply to emerging policy and practices responses to extra-familial forms of harm (EFH). Five bodies of research that explore safeguarding responses across a range of public bodies are drawn on to present an analytical framework that explores elements of safeguarding responses, constituting relationships of trust or relationships of surveillance and control. This analytic framework is applied to two case studies, each of which detail a recent practice innovation in response to EFH studied by the authors, as part of a larger body of work under the Contextual Safeguarding programme. The application of this framework signals a number of critical issues related to the focus/rationale, methods and impact of interventions into EFH that should be considered in future work to address EFH, to ensure young people’s rights to privacy and participation are upheld. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
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Article
“If I’m Here, It’s Because I Do Not Have Anyone”: Social Support for the Biological Family during the Foster Care Process
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(3), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9030031 - 20 Mar 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2283
Abstract
Social support is a crucial element for families in vulnerable situations, especially for those with children in foster care processes. This support is key to the acceptance of the protection measure in the initial moments and to laying the foundations for collaboration towards [...] Read more.
Social support is a crucial element for families in vulnerable situations, especially for those with children in foster care processes. This support is key to the acceptance of the protection measure in the initial moments and to laying the foundations for collaboration towards reunification. However, the social support of these families is limited, and families’ use of support elements is strongly related to their attitude towards them. The aims of this article were to identify the types and characteristics of social support and to analyze what elements influence families’ attitudes towards these supports. The qualitative study research was carried out in Spain through focus groups and interviews with 135 participants: 63 professionals from child protection services, 42 parents, and 30 children and adolescents who had been in foster care measures. Results show the diversity of social support resources available to families and demonstrate that families make unequal use of such resources depending on factors such as their experiences in the process of formalization and communication of the protection measure or their predisposition to receive support, among others. The important role played by social support resources in the promotion of factors that allow for successful reception and reunification is highlighted. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
Article
Algorithmic Justice in Child Protection: Statistical Fairness, Social Justice and the Implications for Practice
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(10), 281; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8100281 - 08 Oct 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3708
Abstract
Algorithmic tools are increasingly used in child protection decision-making. Fairness considerations of algorithmic tools usually focus on statistical fairness, but there are broader justice implications relating to the data used to construct source databases, and how algorithms are incorporated into complex sociotechnical decision-making [...] Read more.
Algorithmic tools are increasingly used in child protection decision-making. Fairness considerations of algorithmic tools usually focus on statistical fairness, but there are broader justice implications relating to the data used to construct source databases, and how algorithms are incorporated into complex sociotechnical decision-making contexts. This article explores how data that inform child protection algorithms are produced and relates this production to both traditional notions of statistical fairness and broader justice concepts. Predictive tools have a number of challenging problems in the child protection context, as the data that predictive tools draw on do not represent child abuse incidence across the population and child abuse itself is difficult to define, making key decisions that become data variable and subjective. Algorithms using these data have distorted feedback loops and can contain inequalities and biases. The challenge to justice concepts is that individual and group rights to non-discrimination become threatened as the algorithm itself becomes skewed, leading to inaccurate risk predictions drawing on spurious correlations. The right to be treated as an individual is threatened when statistical risk is based on a group categorisation, and the rights of families to understand and participate in the decisions made about them is difficult when they have not consented to data linkage, and the function of the algorithm is obscured by its complexity. The use of uninterpretable algorithmic tools may create ‘moral crumple zones’, where practitioners are held responsible for decisions even when they are partially determined by an algorithm. Many of these criticisms can also be levelled at human decision makers in the child protection system, but the reification of these processes within algorithms render their articulation even more difficult, and can diminish other important relational and ethical aims of social work practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)

Review

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Review
The Potential of Networks for Families in the Child Protection System: A Systematic Review
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(5), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9050070 - 06 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1977
Abstract
There has recently been increased interest in the potential for formal and informal networks to aid interventions with biologic families in helping them achieve reunification in the context of the child protection system. When group support is provided to families, the creation of [...] Read more.
There has recently been increased interest in the potential for formal and informal networks to aid interventions with biologic families in helping them achieve reunification in the context of the child protection system. When group support is provided to families, the creation of a network of social support seems to be a consequence. The article analyzes the conceptualization of social support in order to create social support networks and the benefits on the intervention with families in the framework of the child protection system through a systematic review. From a wide search 4348 documents, finally 14 articles were included in the reviews. Results show that social support is considered a process by which social resources are provided from formal (professional services and programs associated with those services in any off the protection, health of educational systems) and informal (extended family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances) networks, allowing the families to confront daily moments as well as in crisis situations. This social support is related to emotional, psychological, physical, instrumental, material and information support that allow families to face their difficulties. Formal and informal networks of child protection systems contribute to social support, resilience, consolidation of learning and the assistance of families to social intervention programs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
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Review
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Struggle for Child Protection in Canadian Sport
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(5), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9050068 - 02 May 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2066
Abstract
Millions of children and adolescents around the world participate in organized sport for holistic health and developmental benefits. However, for some, sport participation is characterized by experiences of maltreatment, including forms of abuse and neglect. In Canada, efforts to address and prevent maltreatment [...] Read more.
Millions of children and adolescents around the world participate in organized sport for holistic health and developmental benefits. However, for some, sport participation is characterized by experiences of maltreatment, including forms of abuse and neglect. In Canada, efforts to address and prevent maltreatment in sport have been characterized by recurring cycles of crisis, public attention, policy response, sluggish implementation, and active resistance, with very little observable change. These cycles continue to this day. Achieving progress in child protection in Canadian sport has been hindered by the self-regulating nature of sport, funding models that prioritize performance outcomes, structures that deter athletes from reporting experiences of maltreatment, and inadequate attention to athletes’ recommendations and preventative initiatives. The culture of control that characterizes organized sport underpins these challenges to advancing child protection in sport. We propose that the establishment of a national independent body to provide safeguards against maltreatment in Canadian sport and to address this culture of control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Debates and Developments in Child Protection)
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