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Normative Paradoxes of Child Welfare Systems: An Analysis with a Focus on Germany

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
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Child welfare systems often have unintended and undesirable consequences for children and their social environments. They will be analysed by applying the concept of “normative paradoxes” (Honneth and Sutterlüty) and drawing mainly, but not exclusively, on Germany. The normative aim of child welfare legislation will be reconstructed and it will be argued that the law can be perceived as an institutionalisation of a single, albeit internally complex normative principle – i.e., the principle of the child’s autonomy or self-determination. Using this principle as a yardstick, three types of paradoxical effects will be identified. These counter-productive effects of the autonomy-centred welfare principle will be described as the “undermining”, the “subsumption”, and the “distortion” paradoxes. Because discourse in this field has always had some awareness of these paradoxes, legal developments can be interpreted as ongoing attempts to overcome them.

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