Children’s voices in system reform - A case study on children and young people’s participation within the modernisation of Child, Youth and Family
Keywords:participation, children, children’s rights, state care, vulnerable children
INTRODUCTION: In 2015, an independent panel was appointed to overhaul Aotearoa New Zealand’s care, protection and youth justice systems. This article discusses the mechanisms used to involve children and young people in that review and evaluates the extent to which these mechanisms lived up to best practice.
METHOD: The article takes a case study approach: exploring the ways in which the Expert Panel enabled children and young people to have a meaningful role in the process. The author was a member of the Expert Panel Secretariat, which supported the Panel during the review. The impact that young people’s voices had on the process motivated this research in order to explore what made their input effective, and what could have been improved.
FINDINGS: The Expert Panel made young people’s participation in the review meaningful by valuing their lived experience and providing the necessary support to enable them to have their voices heard. Although more could have been done to reduce the risk of filtering and assumed representation, the Panel’s approach to involving children and young people in the design process was strongly in line with a childhood studies approach to children and young people’s participation.
CONCLUSIONS: The outcomes of this process challenge the assumption that giving young people decision-making power is what makes this type of process effective. It may be that decision-making influence, not decision-making power, is what makes young people’s participation meaningful. The lessons learned from this process should guide the next phase of system reform.
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