What's Mother Got to do with it?

What's Mother Got to do with it?: Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

JULIA KRANE
Copyright Date: 2003
DOI: 10.3138/9781442683303
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442683303
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  • Book Info
    What's Mother Got to do with it?
    Book Description:

    A child's disclosure of sexual abuse can wreak havoc in many lives, especially that of the child's mother. Julia Krane offers a first-hand look into everyday protection practices of child welfare from the perspective of mothers of sexually abused children and their female social workers, charting women's complex, contradictory, and often costly relations with the child welfare arm of the Canadian state

    Drawing on interviews with social workers and mothers of sexually abused children, examinations of client files and court documents, and reviews of training and procedural manuals, Krane argues that child welfare procedures designed to protect children and help parents instead end up scrutinizing mothers for their inadequacies, transforming them into a protective labour force expected to safeguard their children. Protection practices, she contends, essentially reproduce legacies of mother blame and responsibility for the child's sexual abuse, relieving the abuser and the state of all liability.

    In conclusion, Krane uses her analysis to identify areas with potential for change, such as creating practice environments that render explicit the gendered nature of protection, offering support to women in their protective efforts, and allowing opportunities for women to explore and reflect on the context of maternal care and protection. This study lays bare another layer of gender in relation to child sexual abuse, and locates child welfare practice in feminist scholarly debates about women and the welfare state.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8330-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    This book is concerned with the social relations that lie hidden beneath child welfare practices pertaining to the protection of children from sexual abuse. In this book, I examine social work practice in cases of child sexual abuse from the perspectives of mothers of child victims and their female workers in order to investigate how and why the legacies of mother blame and responsibility are reproduced through these practices, and thereby to uncover the workings of the child welfare arm of the state.

    Fifteen-year-old Tonya Kline kept getting into trouble with the law. Charged with truancy, shoplifting, and breaking into...

  5. 2 Women and the Welfare State
    (pp. 17-37)

    To ask ʹHow does the state protect children from sexual abuse?ʹ raises questions about the very conceptualization of the state. As noted by Ng, Walker, and Muller (1990), definitions of the concept and nature of the state, and the way in which they are employed, have yielded little consensus among analysts. Though often equated with government, the state is a term frequently used to refer to decision-making bodies and bureaucracies normally associated with governments, to the judiciary, and to government-funded institutions such as schools, hospitals, daycare centres, and childrenʹs aid societies (Armstrong & Armstrong, 1990).

    According to Adamson, Briskin, and McPhail...

  6. 3 Family Ties: Child Welfare and the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse
    (pp. 38-57)

    Across Canada, adult children are successfully suing their parents for the abuses they endured in their childhood years. Such lawsuits target not only the parent directly involved in the alleged offence but also the parent who is seen to have breached her or his ʹfiduciary duty.ʹ In a newspaper article entitled ʹWoman sues mother for not preventing sex abuse by father,ʹ¹ an Ottawa woman claimed that her mother ʹknewʹ of the physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child, that her mother ʹdid nothing to stop the assaults,ʹ and thus failed in her ʹobligation to protect.ʹ ʹParents have a...

  7. 4 Understanding Child Sexual Abuse: Highlighting the Inadequacies of Women
    (pp. 58-82)

    At 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, 20 January 1994, Lorraine Dutil drove her 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, to a friendʹs apartment to babysit the friendʹs children. The following morning, when Sarahʹs 16-year-old boyfriend arrived at the apartment to pick her up, he was told that Sarah was no longer there. Having apprised the girlʹs mother of this situation, Lorraine made a missing persons report to the police and began a foot search through the neighbourhood where Sarah had last been seen. She found her daughterʹs body in a dumpster on Friday, 21 January.

    The next day, Saturday, 22 January 1994, the following...

  8. 5 Shifting the Focus in Practice: Womenʹs Deficiencies as Wives and Mothers
    (pp. 83-104)

    As discussed in previous chapters, researchers and practitioners alike have come to appreciate the multifaceted nature of the sexual abuse of children. Though the dominant discourse has constructed sexual abuse as a complex individual, family, and social problem, interviews with workers reveal how the mother has become the focus of attention rather than the offender. This shift in focus, I will suggest, is an integral part of the process of transforming mother into protector.

    Discussions about cases of child sexual abuse, despite their individual particularities, revealed that workers invariably located the problem in the context of family dynamics. As one...

  9. 6 Transforming Women into Mother Protectors: The Investigation and Its Aftermath
    (pp. 105-128)

    In the last chapter, I showed how womenʹs inadequacies were featured in the conceptual framework of child sexual abuse. I also exposed assumptions made about women as mothers, not the least of which was that they knew or should have known of the abuse and should have protected their children accordingly.

    The extent to which the women knew of the abuse prior to its exposure in the public domain and the nature of their initial responses to their childrenʹs disclosures are important because intervention in these cases seems to be all about women as protectors. In this chapter and continuing...

  10. 7 Enforcing, Reinforcing, and Maintaining Mother Protector
    (pp. 129-154)

    Child protection investigations into allegations of maltreatment and the ensuing interventions reflect the principles of child welfare legislation. In Ontario the chief principle concerns the childʹs well-being. Respect for the autonomy of families, consent, and use of the least-intrusive course of action also guide practice. As seen in Chapter 6, separating the offender and victim and garnering maternal support for the child are central features of intervention. These practices represent the least intrusion in protecting children from sexual maltreatment. Also apparent in the last chapter was the expectation of women to separate and support the child. As Fay Winters so...

  11. 8 Critical Reflections: Workersʹ and Mothersʹ Thoughts on Mother Protector
    (pp. 155-175)

    This chapter presents workersʹ and mothersʹ critiques of intervention as well as their impressions of each other. As will be apparent in the pages that follow, the relationship between worker and mother is often experienced as conflict: intervention appears to work against the very women needed to secure protection.

    The characterization of child protection work as ʹcritical, complex, fast-paced, risky, solitary, invisible, contradictory, and potentially divisiveʹ (Callahan, 1993a, p. 73) coincides with the struggles identified by workers in this study. In response to questions about their responsibilities and practices, social workers spoke about the significance of their work in relation...

  12. 9 Protection as Gendered and En/Gendering: Implications for Theory, Practice, and Research
    (pp. 176-196)

    There exists in many parts of Canada a more or less comprehensive and coordinated network of institutions that function to respond to the sexual abuse of children. The child welfare system, the focus of attention here, is entrusted with promoting the best interests and protection of children from actual or suspected sexual (and other) abuse. The activities entailed in protection include investigation of allegations of abuse, assessment of risk, determination of required actions, and provision of guidance, counselling, or other services to families to support their efforts to protect children and to prevent those circumstances that may require more intrusive...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-200)
  14. References
    (pp. 201-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-218)