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Tending the Gardens of Citizenship

Tending the Gardens of Citizenship: Child Saving in Toronto, 1880s-1920s

Xiaobei Chen
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    Tending the Gardens of Citizenship
    Book Description:

    At the threshold of the ‘social’ era (1880s?1920s) in Canada, the idea of ‘child saving’ emerged within the framework of building national citizenship, aimed at ensuring that children – the ‘future citizens’ – would grow up to be useful, self-controlled, Christian adults. Child saving work connected the conduct of individuals with issues of societal importance and attempted to install a desirable mode of power in child rearing and child saving that can best be described as ‘the gardening governmentality.’

    Tending the Gardens of Citizenshiptakes a Foucauldian approach to child saving work during the beginning of the social era in Toronto and demonstrates the difference between the positions of children in citizenship politics at that time and today. Xiaobei Chen breaks new ground with her critical observation of current canonical ideas and practices centred around ‘keeping kids safe.’ She demonstrates that the protection of children from parental abuse and neglect is best understood as an interest that has undergone radical historical transformations, depending on the political and social projects of the day. This book marks a serious advancement in the study of Canadian social history, critical analysis of child welfare, and governmentality studies in social work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8045-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    In this book I show that the protection of children from violence, abuse, and neglect, especially mistreatment by their parents, is best understood not as part of some essential human morality or a transhistorical ethic, but rather as an interest that has undergone radical historical transformations, depending on the political and social projects within which it was articulated. Child protection, also known as child saving in its early history, emerged in the midst of social and moral reform in urban English-speaking Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. At the time child saving was part of a citizenship project....

  6. Chapter 1 The Emergence of Child Saving: Influence of the Christian Mission and the Prison-Reform Movements
    (pp. 19-30)

    For most of the nineteenth century some public and voluntary measures for certain groups of children existed in Ontario. Like Britain and the United States, Ontario had been concerned mainly with orphans, children who lost their fathers in the War of 1812, children of unmarried mothers, deaf and blind children, and mentally ill children. Measures took the form of institutional care, apprenticeships, war pensions, regulation of guardianship, and stipulations on the support for illegitimate children.¹ Evidently, formal care and support was restricted primarily to the general category of children who did not have a ‘normal’ family with two parents. Most...

  7. Chapter 2 The Evil Twins of Cruelty and Neglect: Seeds of Moral and Social Problems
    (pp. 31-45)

    This chapter elaborates on how child saving was thought of and deliberated among the child savers when it emerged in the late nineteenth century. The main argument is that the theme of moral progress largely framed the English-Canadian discussion of child saving in the period from the 1880s to the 1920s. Child-saving initiatives were undertaken to ensure the proper making of ‘future citizens.’ Experiences of violence, deprivation, and freedom were made intelligible in a conceptual framework that by and large corresponded to the dominating concern of moral progress. However, then, as now, the perspectives of the subjects of these experiences,...

  8. Chapter 3 ‘Cultivate Children as You Would Valuable Plants:’ The Gardening Governmentality of Parenting and Child Saving
    (pp. 46-69)

    Cruelty to and neglect of children in the late nineteenth century were problematizations from the standpoint of producing good adult citizens. Reformers at the time believed that both the use of excessive force on children (cruelty) and the lack of discipline (neglect) would hamper and damage the development of children’s character, which would then lead to persistent social and moral problems in the society. How, then, should a parent raise a child so that she would ‘develop into an honest, useful and industrious citizen?’² And more importantly to the child savers, what should be done when parents failed in doing...

  9. Chapter 4 Reports, Visits, and Case Records: Processes of Establishing Power/Knowledge
    (pp. 70-78)

    In this chapter and the following ones, I turn to child-saving technologies that were supposed to implement the ‘gardening’ strategies and thus connect authorities and subjects in ways that by and large resembled the relation between the gardener and plants and weeds. These mainly included the reporting mechanism, record-keeping, visits, the shelter, the detention room, and foster care, which embodied strategies of guidance, supervision, investigation, classification, separation, and dispersion. Foucault commented that ‘the exercise of power is not a naked fact, an institutional right, nor is it a structure which holds out or is smashed: it is elaborated, transformed, organized;...

  10. Chapter 5 The Shelter: A Locus of Organizing and Transforming Power Relations
    (pp. 79-101)

    This chapter and the following one focus on the operation of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society’s shelter and the detention room. The detailed examination is made possible by the relatively richer information on the shelter, but also encouraged by the Foucauldian notion of strategic, critical, and effective histories. The historical accounts of the shelter and the detention room privilege certain dimensions of the past that I consider most relevant and useful for ‘an illumination of present reality.’¹ For example, the shelter chapter brings into focus historical contestation about the purpose of the shelter – whether it was intended to help parents...

  11. Chapter 6 The Detention Room: A Jail under Children’s Aid Auspices?
    (pp. 102-118)

    In Toronto, the detention room¹ was opened in 1894 as a custody facility for juvenile delinquents who were on arrest or on remand from the court. As a custody facility exclusively for children, the detention room resembled the reformatories and industrial schools established three or four decades earlier, in that it was intended to implement the principle of separating juvenile delinquents from adult criminals. Reformatories and industrial schools segregated children from adults after court processes; detention rooms segregated them prior to and during court hearings.

    When the Toronto city council was pressured by child welfare lobbyists to find a way...

  12. Chapter 7 Foster Care: Technology for Applying Proper Parental Power
    (pp. 119-129)

    In English Canada, the United States, and Britain, foster care is now generally accepted as the backbone of the child protection system and the best method to care for children who for various reasons are no longer connected to their parents. It has thus received considerable emphasis by many scholars from different stances.¹ Little has been said, though, about the ironic fact that foster care descended from the indenture system, which was often a menace to children’s well-being.² Indenture usually took the form of apprenticeship to a trade. In early modern Europe and colonial North America, many parents entered agreements...

  13. Chapter 8 Child Protection at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century: ‘Keeping Kids Safe’
    (pp. 130-150)

    At the end of twentieth century, sparked by several cases of well-reported child deaths, Ontario’s Child Welfare Reform from 1996 to 1999 resulted in a restructuring of the child-protection system. The focus of the Ontario reform on individual cases of child deaths followed a trend across Britain, the United States, Europe, and Australia since the mid-1980s, in which child deaths have emerged as the entry point for public scrutiny of and political deliberation about the child-protection system.¹ In Canada, the province of British Columbia’s well-publicized Gove Inquiry into Child Protection (1995) was the first example of initiating restructuring of policy...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 151-176)
  15. References
    (pp. 177-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-197)