Child Protection Vocabulary in the Children Act 1989: Power, Ambiguity and Heterogeneity

Panagiotis Pentaris, Abiola Oresanya


Regardless the few decades that an established legislative framework in Child Protection has been in effect, the responsibility of the Law and the Child Protection System is to continuously explore social needs, as they change, transform or new ones are introduced to adapt to the circumstances in the attempts to safeguard and protect children. This paper is not focusing on those adaptations; it draws on this responsibility to argue that in an ever-changing world, wherein needs and demands are shifting, Child Protection Vocabulary needs to be more explicit and adaptive to those changes. Vocabulary like ‘best interest’, ‘resilience’, ‘power’, and ‘vulnerability’ are commonplace in child protection legislation, regulation, policy and practice. That said, the question of interpretation is always of concern; how are the varied agencies, stakeholders, authorities, groups, and individuals approaching safeguarding and child protection when the heterogeneity of the language used is ever-increasing? This paper provides a conceptual content analysis of Child Protection Vocabulary found in the Children Act 1989. The analysis will be drawing on the amendments in Children Act 2004, as well as the Children and Social Work Act 2017, but will preserve its focus on the Children Act 1989 as the foundation for the contemporary Child Protection System. Implications of the findings are provided at the end.


child protection; Children Act 1989; child protection vocabulary; safeguarding; welfare

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