Beyond participation: Parent activism in child protection as a path to transformative change

Yuval Saar-Heiman, Anna Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In light of calls for reform in child protection systems in various countries, including the UK, there has been a growing interest in involving parents who have lived experience of these systems at both the individual case and broader organizational levels. However, critics have argued that these activities are tokenistic and claimed they perpetuate the status quo. This article aims to conceptualize contemporary parental activism within the context of child protection in the UK, differentiating it from mere participation and exploring its potential to facilitate transformative change. Through a content and thematic analysis of in-depth qualitative interviews with parent activists (n = 28), we identified three key features of parental activism: embracing a critical consciousness and aspiring for change, challenging power and oppression, and developing community agency. By employing a political lens to examine various forms of activism, whether in collaboration with or independently of professional allies and systems, we argue that they enable opportunities for achieving transformative change to arise, leading to new, justice-based social arrangements and structures that enhance children's and families’ welfare and well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107443
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Child protection
  • Parent advocacy
  • Participation
  • Social activism
  • Transformative change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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