Starkey (2003) presented the notion
of voice as a way of enabling children to be aware of theirs’s choices, to
apply choices and to have chances to voice dissatisfaction (Bell 2011).
In this essay, I will explore how
children’s voices began to be heard by society, how parent started seeing
theirs’s children with values and wishes, also professionals working with them
started excepting them as individuals with rights. I will start by explaining a
tiny bit of Bandura’ Social Learning theory and then I will focus more on how
the parliament started changing children’s lives by accepting new laws and
improving them in (–by the time?) time.
Finally, I will explore the idea of
the right way of communication which is led to understanding children’s wishes,
views, and rights in the better way.
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
emphasises that children are learning through ‘observational learning’ which is
part of a child’s development. Children can learn by observing adult behavior
and later they can perform responses from what they see. For example, in 1800s
children were seen as mini-adults working just like their parents, because the
income was not enough for meeting basic needs. During this period of time,
parents thought of children as income, and the more children they had the
bigger the income would be. However, the children’s positions in society have
changed in 1889 with the first act issued by the parliament which stated that
cruelty and abuse need to be prevented and the state can intervene in a
relationship between child and parents (Bell 2011). Also, the act includes the
rules on the employment of children. The changes continued and in 1894 the
parliament decided to extend and amend the act as children can give evidence in
court, children with mental capacity who were abused were protected and sick
children were allowed to seek medical attention (Bell 2011).
In 1986 Gillick’s’ case was the one
that brought the idea that there should be a balance between parents’ and
children’s rights (Bell 2011). The case brought parents debating that doctors
cannot prescribe contraception to young people under 16 without parent
agreement. The issue was that parents wanted to have control over their children
medications, however, the court stated that sometimes parent does not have the
power to veto treatment (Bell 2011). Lord Scarman stated that children’s
medical treatments could be consented by a child if they fully understood the
consequences and the treatment and for this, the Gillick test of competence was
designed to measure a child’s intelligence and understanding (Bell 2011). The
child is supposed to understand that sex may lead to pregnancy, and what
responsibilities and consequences are after that. Indeed, Scarman claimed that
children need to be involved and have an appreciation of the ‘family and moral’
questions (Archard 2015). In the same way, in 1989 the Children Act was
introduced to protect children from abuse and exploitation, and gives a right
to safeguard children’s welfare. The principals of the act include that the
children views, feeling, and wishes need to be considered and they can attend
any meetings as long as it is keeping them informed about their future. Also,
options and rights to involve in decisions and statutory processes in court
started to be available for them.
The United National Convention on
the Right of the Child UNCRC (1991) brought the idea of two international
agreements which are, children had particular human rights which had been
identified by UNCRC, and second that these rights are acknowledged and
maintained by the policy and legislation of everyone signed up to the UNCRC.
The UNCRC had categorised the child’s needs by; rights to defense, rights to
development, right to live and rights to participation (Beaty 2011). However,
while the Act gives children a right to take decisions regarding their welfare,
Lyon and Parton (1995) say that children versus adult’s views lack clarity need
to be specified (Bell 2011). For example, in the process about who is going to
look after a child, parents have the same entitled responsibility to choose,
the same as a child. Likewise, in the court proceeding, the judge has the final
decision to say. Also, Family Law Act (1996) extended to private and public
law, children’s wishes and feelings (Bell 2011).
In 2004 the Children act was improved as far
as possible to ensure that a child’s wishes are taken into account when actions
affect them in relation to services provided to them (Bell 2011). Awareness of
the government is to ensure that all services are working together to promote
safety to children and to encourage people working with them to take into
account their views and interests. Also, Children Trusts were designed by the
government to help agencies working with children to work together (Bell 2011).
The Children Trusts have three core features; long-term objectives considering
the Every Child Matters outcome, children’s services Director is in charge to
deliver the outcome and planning and commissioning functions organised by
pooled budgets (Brayne and Carr 2008).
Working effectively and finding the
right way to improve children lives is to communicate with them in the right
way, for this all professionals need to work on competence and theory. One of
this is the social approach, which is seeing children as a social actor who has
the rights to take part and design their own lives. This starts with support
from Giddens (1991), who used the term ‘individualisation’, as this allows to
see a child as an individual with rights and responsibilities (Bell 2011). The
idea of the Sociological theory of childhood and children’s rights is to help
children’s voice be heard and their choices and wishes to be considered when
decisions are taken about their future and threated them as an individual.
However, in some situations, there should be a balance between a child’s wishes
and rights, as safety needs to be put in first place, especially when a child
is at risk.
Effective communication is part of
every professional work because recognition of a child’s vulnerability and
needs is important, especially due to serious cases inquiry increasing.
Professionals should consider their age and maturity, as communication and
discussions can be done through games and play which can be more productive.
For example, puppets can be an effective way of communicating with young
children, whilst computers can be more appropriate for older children.
Likewise, listening and talking to children professionals can prove to them
that their views are important and their voices are heard. Sinclair, Wilson,
and Gibbs (2004) argued that the nature of particular activities will vary
widely, as will children and young people involved in it. Practitioners need to
consider children’s competence not just by their age, they also need to
consider children’s culture and physical and mental ability. For example,
cultural differences can be reflected in lack of language understanding and
gender preferences in communication.
In conclusion, the children voice
and position in society have been changed intensely in recent time as theirs’s
voice, wishes, needs, and rights are taken into account. Today all children have an opportunity to enjoy
a better quality of life provided by their parent, society, and services
working with them. Also, they are put in a position to make decisions about
their future studies, family holidays, they are encouraged to speak out about
theirs’s feelings, etc. This day, children are teaching in a school that there
are different services available helping them in difficult situations as for
example, neglect, sexual abuse, bullying, etc.