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This paper explores how an ostensibly child-centred system can fail to protect children. In some policy arenas, the Kenyan state is recognised as a leader in Africa for the care and protection of children at risk. Yet a case study of children’s experiences illuminates how, despite adherence to a legislated framework and series of protocols, the Kenyan state proves unable or unwilling to ensure children’s care and protection. The deployment of child-focused discourse and practice through bureaucratic documentation and judicial rulings camouflages (poorly) the state’s neglect of children’s perspectives and the fundamental risks to children, families, and communities.


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