Loughborough University
79976 Child First Justice Report 7.pdf (1.88 MB)

The child first strategy implementation project: Realising the guiding principle for youth justice

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posted on 2021-10-08, 08:24 authored by Stephen CaseStephen Case, Ann BrowningAnn Browning
The Child First guiding principle and its components (see children as children, develop pro-social identity for positive child outcomes, collaboration with children, promote diversion) have an extensive evidence-base in international policy and research, yet remain relatively underdeveloped in practice. Consequently, the Child First ‘Strategy Implementation Project’ was designed to examine implementation of the guiding principle in practice, focusing on stakeholder perspectives of how Child First is understood, issues affecting its implementation (eg enablers, barriers, challenges, opportunities) and the support needs crucial to making Child First a strategic and practical reality.
The Child First ‘Strategy Implementation Project’ was underpinned by a series of workshops with key stakeholders from across the youth justice sector: policymakers, strategic leads, managers and practitioners working in the community, custody, inspectorate, research and strategic fields. Each workshop explored the central questions of how Child First is/ should be understood and operationalised (ie realised, made sense of) in practice and what implementation support is required. Stakeholder feedback consistently identified three key features (each with associated themes and sub- themes) as central to the implementation of Child First for all stakeholder groups:
• Child-centrism: Child-friendly and child-focused strategies for working with children focused on engagement, realising rights and entitlements, prioritising needs, positive intervention focus on developmental sensitivity;
• Professional relationships: components and practices of inter- and multi-agency working relationships, particularly philosophical and cultural differences, interagency partnership working, educating others and organisational identity;
• Cognisance: knowledge, understanding and information regarding Child First, underpinned by the themes of knowledge, development of understanding, guidance/information/support and incongruence.
Thematic analyses identified commonalities and differences within- and between-stakeholder groups in their reporting of each feature and the themes across different questions, all of which are explored further. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for the future implementation of the guiding principle in practice – recommendations focused on supporting and enhancing child-centrism, professional relationships and cognisance as vehicles to realising Child First.


Commissioned by: Loughborough University



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy

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The Child First Strategy Implementation Project: Realising the guiding principle for youth justice


Loughborough University


  • VoR (Version of Record)

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This report is available at https://www.lboro.ac.uk/subjects/social-policy-studies/research/child-first-justice/

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Prof Stephen Case. Deposit date: 7 October 2021

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