Embracing children’s voices: Transforming Youth Justice practice through co-production and Child First participation

Samantha Burns , SEAN CREANEY*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


A radical change to youth justice practice has taken place, through which Child First is quickly becoming orthodox and dominant. In this chapter, the authors document its rise at the point of service delivery. This chapter evaluates the efficacy of Child First methods of practice in youth justice, by examining how and why children’s participation is a fundamental feature of Positive Youth Justice. We review the extent and nature of children’s participation in decision-making in youth justice and present opportunities for promoting Child First ways of working with children. Core themes include – but are not limited to - children’s experiences of supervision and shared decision making, peer-led approaches, children’s ‘untapped’ potential as ‘knowers’ or ‘experts’, and non-hierarchical empathic relationship building. The authors critically reflect upon the enablers and constraints to Child First participation including potential resistance to change amongst the youth justice workforce, the perception that children pose a ‘threat’ to society, the credibility of children’s knowledge and capabilities, and the continuation of a ‘risk’ led deficit-based practice. The authors problematise the partial continuation of a managerialist and bureaucratic risk-led ‘system’ and expose the further need to disrupt these disempowering adult-led practices. It also exposes how and why Child First experiential peer support can be empowering, liberating and transformational for those in receipt of interventions, and will contribute to the continued development of co-production practices in the field. The chapter ends by reiterating children’s participatory right to influence the decision-making process, their ability to exercise agency and meaningfully contribute to policy and practice developments and transformation of youth justice services.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChild First: Developing a New Youth Justice System
EditorsStephen Case, Neal Hazel
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9783031192715
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2023


  • Youth Justice


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