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Thank you for asking this question. I think we need to move beyond a dichotomised or default understanding of children’s rights vs parents’ rights and the ongoing assumption that we need to choose between either including families or upholding children’s rights. Family inclusion is not about giving or even maintaining parents’ rights over their children. Family inclusion is a children’s rights approach especially children’s rights to see, know and have relationships with their families. In your question you seem to be describing people having different views from each other. It is normal and reasonable for parents to have views and opinions about their children and what their children need and these views may differ from ours. Sometimes parents or other family will hold views that, if followed through, will result in harm to children and in that case we should not support them. Being family inclusive doesn’t mean parents get what they want or what they think is best. However, being family inclusive does mean an ongoing process of listening, exploring and forming better relationships between and among all stakeholders, especially families and children. This is much better done in a context where power relationships are more equal and by applying the other elements I have described. It’s important that the system focus on children’s best interests and make them paramount, but we also need to remember that what is in children’s interests is often highly contested. The system and the law, and we child welfare workers, don’t always succeed in putting children’s needs first, despite our very best intentions. Family inclusion and the 6 elements and three innovations I have described are consistent with a legislative framework that requires children’s safety and wellbeing to be our paramount concern. I would argue they make it far more likely that children’s interests will be paramount.
Jessica Cocks