Genealogy of Resilience in the Ontario Looking After Children System




Latour, Laurie-Carol

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Resiliency has become common in child welfare parlance in recent decades and producing resilient youth is touted as the panacea to improving notoriously poor outcomes for youth in care, when compared to youth not in the care of the state. The Looking After Children (LAC) system emerged in the U.K out of neoliberal and managerial policies of the 1990s. The LAC system, and its corresponding Assessment and Action Record (AAR), was subsequently imported to Canada and has been heralded to foster resilience in youth in care. The AAR is composed of hundreds of tick box questions posed to young people in care, child welfare workers, and foster parents; these questions are pedagogical and the mined data from the AAR is aggregated to inform child welfare policy. The Looking After Children: A Practitioner’s Guide (Lemay & Ghazal, 2007) instructs workers how to administer the AAR, Second Canadian adaptation (AAR- C2), and it informs workers how to do their job. The notion of resilience in the Practitioner's Guide and the AAR-C2 are based in normative development and day to day experiences (Lemay & Ghazal, 2007). My interest in the LAC system emerges out of my experiences as a child welfare worker and my experience of being a youth in care. I wondered how it was, given the oppressive track record of child welfare in Canada, that the state could initiate a system to produce normal youth. This was a particularly salient question given the massive over- representation of Indigenous youth in foster care. With this critical curiosity as a point of departure I employed a Foucauldian inspired discourse analysis of the Looking After Children: A Practitioner’s Guide (2007, University of Ottawa Press), and three versions of its corresponding Assessment and Action Record, Second Canadian adaptation (AAR- C2) (2006, 2010, 2016, University of Ottawa). My analysis asked the question: How have we come to this ideal of resiliency? What were the contingencies and complex set of practices that enabled this specific notion of resilience to emerge in child welfare? What are the material outcomes of this notion of resilience? My findings suggest that: Youth in care are produced as deviant and outside of normal development, versus the desired resilient youth; youth in care and foster parents are responsibilized to produce resilient outcomes, which can never actually be achieved; the AAR-C2 acts as a surveillance system to enable to production of neoliberal subjects; the LAC system and the AAR-C2 are a method of colonization of Indigenous youth in care.



Resilience, Ontario Looking After Children (OnLAC), Neoliberalism, Genealogy, Foucault Genealogy, Indigenous, Children In Care, foster care, Colonialism, Feminist Poststructuralism, Assessment and Action Record Canadian Adaptation (AAR-C2), Normalization, Discourse Analysis, Child Welfare