One: Introduction

This introductory chapter provides a background of child protection and its intersection with wider social policies and social trends. The modern child protection system emerged in the 1960s, rooted in a concern to stop babies dying or being ‘battered’ by parents who were considered to be suffering from a lack of empathic mothering in their own lives. Poverty, bad housing, and other social factors were screened out as holding helpful explanatory value in relation to why some babies were seriously harmed by their carers. From those beginnings, rooted in care for babies who were powerless and voiceless, and compassion for emotionally deprived parents, the system has expanded enormously in terms of remit, research base, influence, and power within a complex and changing society. The chapter then considers the core aspects and assumptions behind the welfare state and the emergence of a discourse around individual responsibility and risk that encompasses cause, consequence, and attribution.

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