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11 - Dysfunctions in French Child Protection

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2021

Judith Masson
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Nigel Parton
Affiliation:
University of Huddersfield
Tarja Pösö
Affiliation:
University of Tampere, Finland
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Summary

Introduction

The child protection system in France has experienced successive dysfunctions since the 1990s, translated into poor quality protection and even children's deaths. These have led to large-scale administrative and legislative reforms. Most of the time, the element that triggers the reforms has been media coverage of the dysfunction: a particular event (often a death) moves public opinion and the authorities have to provide a response almost immediately. Occasionally, the media focus on situations of distress and suffering, often alerted by the results of research that have made them visible and understandable. Whatever the situations, users’ defence associations have also played a key role in this function of alerting public opinion and proposing reforms.

Following a presentation of the child protection system in France, we will analyse the way in which the term dysfunction (disfonctionnement) seems most suitable to understand the situation in the country, as the terms error (erreur) and failure (faute), used less frequently, do not account for the cases found. Our analysis will focus on major dysfunctions that have moved public opinion (cases that have led to deaths), or that have been gradually revealed by researchers and users’ associations (lack of participation by parents, difficulties in making the transition to adulthood due to lack of support) and led to reforms or proposals for reform. Our study considers situations classified as dysfunctions in the child protection system from the 1980s onwards, a period in which children's rights have become a priority for French society.

The child protection system in France

In France, child protection is a public policy based on a substantial body of legislation, established originally by legislation in 1889 and largely reformed by Acts in 2007 and 2016. This system of child protection, including all prevention and protection measures, is now heavily decentralised by the state to the 101 departments (départements, administrative and political divisions) that make up the territory of France. It is therefore managed and funded by departments via their child welfare service (Aide sociale à l’enfance) (Gabriel et al, 2013; Bolter and Séraphin, 2018).

The child protection system is based on the principle of subsidiarity between an administrative authority and a judicial authority. The administrative authority is held by the President of the Department Council.

Type
Chapter
Information
Errors and Mistakes in Child Protection
International Discourses, Approaches and Strategies
, pp. 193 - 214
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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