Working the system: re-thinking the role of parents and the reduction of 'risk' in child protection work




Brown, Debra J

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This thesis examines how the British Columbia child protection system permeates the lives of the mothers it investigates. Dorothy Smith’s generous notion of work (1986) and Arlie Hochschild’s emotion work (1983) were combined to explicate the unpaid labour mothers contribute to the child protection process. Smith’s textually mediated relations of ruling (1987) revealed how a contracted child protection agency uses various texts to organize these women’s everyday activities. These texts are linked to others in work locations representing the institutional priorities of government and professional bodies, which uphold societal expectations of mothering. Ten interviews and a focus group with mothers revealed the ‘core competencies’ necessary to successfully navigate the child protection system. Mothers also identified risks inherent in the system with the potential to negatively impact their children, themselves and their family’s resiliency. Interviewing an experienced child protection counselor informed a textual analysis of the requisite paperwork within contracted agencies.



mothers, child welfare, British Columbia, government policy