Monica Dickens' novel opens in a juvenile court in London. One of the young offenders is a 16-year-old girl, Kate, who is described as being in need of care and protection. In the court is a girl only slightly older, Emma, daughter of the magistrate. From her experience of going around with a social worker on his calls she knows that adolescents and, more important, small children are daily subjected to neglect and brutality and that "care and protection" cannot be prescribed like National Health aspirin.
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