Society treats children in conflict with the law and the youth justice system in ‘special’ ways, but often with a negative focus, in relation to the perceived threat they present and the problems they may cause others, rather than offering children support and protection due to their vulnerability, lack of maturity and relative lack of power in society. In response to this situation, we have asserted a principled, progressive and positive model of youth justice that can shape the ‘special treatment’ of children in conflict with the law and the youth justice system by adhering to the tenets/touchstones of diversion, inclusion, evidence-based partnership, legitimacy, systems management, partnership with the state and responsibilising adults. Accordingly, this book has laid out the Children First, Offenders Second (CFOS) approach to positive youth justice.
In the opening two chapters we outlined the thinking that underpins the approach and the fundamental elements of CFOS. We argued that CFOS positive youth justice is a modern, economicnormative paradigm driven by a series of principles that sustain and promote child-friendly and child-appropriate policy and practice. As such, CFOS is both reactionary against the negative, correctionalist, reductionist, interventionist and stigmatising approaches that have dominated youth justice and progressive in offering a distinctive, positive youth justice that prioritises the normalisation of childhood behaviour, children's access to their universal entitlements and children's achievement of positive behaviours and outcomes.
In Chapter Three we explored the complex and contentious differences and divergences between Wales and England in terms of their social policy for children generally and in the youth justice arena in particular. We argued that from the end of the 1990s, youth justice policy in England took a neoliberalist, offender-first, punitive turn, predicated on notions of risk and responsibilisation. In contrast, the Welsh government has sought to enshrine a rights- and entitlements-based social policy for children and has placed those children in conflict with the law and the youth justice system at the heart of this approach. While noting that youth justice is not a matter of devolved responsibility – remaining the province of the Westminster government and the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales – we pointed out that many of those employed to provide youth justice services in Wales are employed within organisations for whom the Welsh government does have devolved responsibility.