Child First Justice: The research evidence base

Published by Loughborough University, this report presents the research evidence-base for adopting the ‘Child First’ strategic objective to guide the work of the Youth Justice System (YJS) of England and Wales.

The report begins with an overview of the evolution of the YJB’s Child First strategic objective from a principle developed in Wales into a set of evidence-based tenets that underpin a complete model of practice. It outlines the origins of Child First in international children’s rights instruments (e.g. the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989), tracing its evolution and development in scholarship, research and government strategy, leading into its recent formalisation in the strategy and national standards of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

For the purposes of clear and accessible discussion, the Child First principle is unpacked into four ‘tenets’, each of which includes a range of components.

1 See children as children: Prioritise the best interests of children, recognising their particular needs, capacities, rights and potential. All work is child-focused, developmentally informed, acknowledges structural barriers and meets responsibilities towards children.

2 Develop pro-social identity for positive child outcomes: Promote children’s individual strengths and capacities to develop their pro-social identity for sustainable desistance, leading to safer communities and fewer victims. All work is constructive and future-focused, built on supportive relationships that empower children to fulfil their potential and make positive contributions to society.

3 Collaboration with children: Encourage children’s active participation, engagement and wider social inclusion. All work is a meaningful collaboration with children and their carers.

4 Promote diversion: Promote a childhood removed from the justice system, using preemptive prevention, diversion and minimal intervention. All work minimises criminogenic stigma from contact with the system.

The full report is available via Loughborough University’s website.

Loughborough Publications