My interest in child welfare and children’s rights is as a practitioner involved in the development of policy and operational programmes for especially disadvantaged children in the poor countries of the South (Note 1). Among other things, the work entails the assessment of both governmental and non-governmental responses to issues of childhood such as labour, homelessness and maltreatment

The extension of welfare services to the most needy sectors of the population is seen as the benchmark of the successful nation state in the modern world. And, to an extent, the function of people like myself has been to encourage this process wherever possible by informing and collaborating with governments. However, my involvement in research and programme evaluation in a number of countries has caused me to have growing misgivings about the conception of childhood and children’s rights used in much social planning. My unease is focused in particular on the solutions to the special problems of childhood that are widely adopted.