Three: Building better people: policy aspirations and family life

This chapter discusses the residual, but strongly legitimised, role for the state in preventing damage to children, which carries high levels of criticism for those parents seen as failing to optimise their child’s developmental potential. The idea that childhood experiences are important and can be formative clearly has a common-sense truth to it and obviously, traumatic experiences in childhood will have lasting impacts. However, a vocabulary has emerged in which notions of toxic parenting and the quest for optimum developmental flourishing create new mandates for the state to act. The chapter then argues that these are necessary to explain the sharp rises in national rates of child removal, particularly the permanent removal of very small children, documented over the last decade. They also contribute to service fragmentation by privileging intervention in the early years in the form of ‘evidence-based’ parenting programmes.

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