This paper adds to the limited evidence base around documentary representation of the wishes, feelings and views of children and young people involved in the child protection system. It presents the findings of a critical discourse analysis of 114 documents relating to 28 children and young people in the North of England who were the subject of a child protection conference (CPC) due to having experienced significant harm or the high likelihood of significant harm occurring. Three dominant and interlayering discourses were identified: a discourse of childhood, a discourse of participation and a discourse of professional social work practice. While some children and young people came to life in the reports and were afforded a unique identity, others were invisible and their views were marginalized. The findings support a dominant discourse of the unseen and unheard child, with participation normally mediated by power relationships between adults and children, and which marginalizes the experiences of children through a structurally constructed lens of risk and vulnerability. The findings signify the need to establish assessment practices and case reporting systems in which children are heard themselves as well as reported on by others.