This chapter traces the history of attempts to improve the way families look after children using the UK system as an exemplar. As part of an increasingly residual role, the child protection system has become narrowly focused on an atomised child, severed from family, relationships, and social circumstances: a precarious object of ‘prevention’, or rescue. As its categories and definitions have gradually grown, the gap between child protection services and family support has widened. This has a number of antecedents. First, with the exception of a few decades of the 20th century, history shows a strong tendency towards individual social engineering to produce model citizens, with parenting practices the primary focus of state attention. Second, the post-war welfare consensus has withered in the face of market enchantment and a burgeoning commissioning paradigm.
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