Participation in the Child Protection Assessment: Voices from Children in Estonia

Kadi Lauri, Karmen Toros & Rafaela Lehtme - Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal


This article explores children’s views and experiences of participation within the context of child protection assessment practice. The findings of this study enable child protection workers as well as other professionals to learn from children, what is needed to better engage children to participate in matters affecting them. A small-scale study included 14 children registered as children in need of assistance in child protective services from one region in Estonia through in-depth semi-structured interviews. Findings indicate that children’s experiences and memories of their first contact with the child protection worker varied extensively. Some of the children had no experience talking to a child protection worker personally, meaning their voices were not expressed, heard, or considered in the decision-making process. Communication was lacking in the dialogue, and no deep conversations about family life, interventions, children’s needs, wishes, or hopes were reported. A lack of communication tended to be mainly part of younger children’s experiences. Based on models of children’s participation from the literature, contextual elements are proposed to enhance the active child participation process in child protection—child-centredness and inclusiveness. Implications for practice and future research are discussed with a focus on meaningful child participation.