By employing the principles and standards of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (crc), this paper explores the significance and implications of children’s rights for child welfare, with a specific focus on theoretical paradigms of practice. Reform discussions in child welfare scholarship often have centred on deficiencies in the Anglo-American child protection paradigm associated with liberal welfare states. Alternative paradigms are contrasted, most notably the family service approach to child welfare generally found in Nordic, social democratic welfare states. Whilst the crc supports a family service paradigm, the paper highlights disturbing tendencies in reform discussions that are traceable to theoretical roots in the widely adopted and referenced Esping-Andersen/Gilbert classifications of cultures and child welfare paradigms. Whilst the classifications have proven to be useful, the paper explores the need for a more nuanced and complex characterisation of cultures and paradigms, to avoid misunderstandings and conceptual confusion. In particular, children’s rights often are associated only with liberal welfare states and child protection paradigms, and therefore adopting a family service paradigm is conceptualised as moving away from a children’s rights or child protection focus. In fact, a children’s rights framework for child welfare would establish provision, protection and participation as equal and interrelated priorities, whilst still emphasising the importance of a child-centred analysis.
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