Client participation, mental health system, mental retardation systems, social construction theory, child welfare, parent advocacy


This article presents a comparative analysis of client participation (CP) in child welfare and mental health and mental retardation systems. It identifies three rationales for client participation (philosophical, pragmatic, and political), along with the limitations surrounding each rationale. It uses social construction theory to examine the historical and ideological underpinnings of organized, institutionally-sanctioned client involvement inside and outside government. In order to enhance the capacity of clients to influence service and benefit systems, their role must evolve through the mutual efforts of government-strengthening client participation policies and independent organizing from the bottom up through community development and advocacy programs.

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