Supporting Children’s Participation in Decision Making: A Systematic Literature Review Exploring the Effectiveness of Participatory Processes

In this article, the term ‘participation’ refers to the right of the child to express their views in matters affecting them and for their views to be acted upon as appropriate. While there is a growing emphasis in social work practice on a child’s right to participate, less attention has been given to how best to support children’s participation. A systematic review and narrative synthesis of twenty studies with varying methods explores how effective processes, commonly used in social work practice, are in supporting children’s participation in decisions concerning their personal welfare, protection and care. The review explores the effectiveness of the following processes: the use of advocates; a child’s attendance at an assessment, planning or review meeting; Family Welfare Conferences; and recording a child’s views in writing. There is indicative evidence that the use of advocates is an effective means of supporting children’s participation. Findings in relation to the other processes reviewed are mixed. A key factor influencing how effective these processes are in supporting children’s participation is the quality of the relationship with the child and his or her caseworker.