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Session Overview
JS_RN04_RN13_05: Meanings of 'child welfare' and 'good parenting'
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Ellie Jane Lee, University of Kent
Location: GM.333
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Social Investment in Childhood: Arguments in the Academic and Institutional Arenas

Claude Martin

CNRS, France

Social investment is one of the last emergent concepts in the “Welfare modeling business” at the international level. The main argument is the following: earlier this preventive investment during childhood, bigger will be the “dividend”, in terms of avoided costs when children reach adulthood. Since the beginning of the century, some academics are supporting its use at the EU level (Esping-Andersen, Hemerijck, Palier) and a lot of publications are discussing its pertinence. This concept also received a strong echo in the French institutional arenas. In our presentation we propose to synthesize this current debate around social investment, its main hypothesis and arguments but also its limits before presenting the way this notion is adopted in French recent official reports to give a background to the parenting support policy. We argue that it seems more a concept oriented to avoid cost in the future than to support children well-being in the present. It is also a notion which gives place to many quiproquos among family and children professionals.

“Good Parents” and “Beloved Children”: Child Welfare Services, State Intervention and Intensive Parenting

Alexandra Szőke

Institute for Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

Parenting is one of the most private intra-family relationships, yet it has increasingly become the target of professional and state intervention. In Hungary, child welfare professionals are primarily responsible for ensuring that parents fulfill their responsibility of looking after the well-being of their children. They are expected to act “in the child’s best interest”, which in practice often leads to enhanced monitoring of family life, financial punishment or the removal of children from families. Up until recently, these were particularly directed towards poor, uneducated (often Roma) parents, considered to lack parental skills. My paper examines how the new trend of “intensive parenting” influences the work of these professionals and their relationship to families. Based on a year-long ethnographic research, the paper shows how the new parenting culture have significantly changed what professionals consider ideal parenting. While earlier neglect was assessed mostly in physical terms, currently a strong emotional parent-child relationship is promoted. Increasingly the ultimate judgment of parenting ability has become parental “love” and a “strong” parent-child bond. However, as my research shows, these are extremely subjective and fluid notions that are often used to reinforce personal convictions and dominant values about parenting, deservedness and social belonging. At the same time, professionals often find intensive parenting practices problematic and, in its extreme cases, just as endangering to the well-being of children as neglect (formerly linked to low education and poverty). The paper reveals the ways the new parenting culture is changing child welfare professionals’ understanding about what is “good” parenting and an ideal childhood, as well as the ways this is reflected in their relation and practices towards both well-to-do, educated and poor, uneducated families.

Children’s Perspectives and Interaction as Starting Points for Reflections on ‘Child well-being’ and ‘Parenting’

Aytüre Türkyilmaz1, Lars Alberth2

1Wuppertal University, Germany; 2Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

Childhood sociology has established an empirically based approach to research into growing up: Historical developments and globally varying conditions of childhoods are taken into account and interpreted as central components of social ordering. In recent years, ‘child well-being’ has become an important keyword for the discussion of socialization and its contexts within the field of childhood studies as well as in (inter)national social reporting. However, child well-being does not represent a consistent theoretical concept. Rather, it is a broad term for a large number of indicators which, taken together, are intended to reflect the qualities and differences of growing up. Furthermore, the search for conditions of well-being clearly reveals a politically motivated future-orientation and is mainly approached ex-negative, i.e., based on the deficits of disadvantaged classes. This also applies to the term ‘parenting’, which receives a similar amount of attention in political debates. In this way, indicators do not only document the varying empirical realities of children's lives, but are themselves expressions of an understanding of ‘good childhood’. On the basis of qualitative data from studies on educational inequalities and child protection, we take an interactionist point of view, thus going beyond a one-sided approach that focuses on structural dimensions and adult actions. Instead, we argue to take both the children’s perspectives and their relevance for contexts of socialization into account, aiming for a process-oriented framework for research on the inequalities in growing up.

Casas de Pensamiento Indígena (CPI): Being an Indigenous Children in Bogota

Carmen María Sanchez caro

Université Paris 13, France

This proposal aims to present a few tensions and contradictions when it comes to question global policies and local interpretations related to indigenous children and ECEC services. What it means to attend to young children from indigenous communities in Bogota. Could early childhood education and care (ECEC) services be reduced to ethnic backgrounds, as is the case of Casas de Pensamiento Indígena (CPI)—indigenous childcare services. Therefore, this presentation highlights how indigenous caregivers, parents and children face an institutional script that asks them to perform indigenism. This means they spend the day enacting authenticity or an indigenism as a means to assure their rights and protect their cultural identity. The question is what cultural identity are they defending? The one institutionalized by others? When thinking about indigenous affiliations, the notion of “edges” in Rancière’s (1998) helps to theorize and question the idea of wellbeing or diversity as a way to limit oneself in differentiating oneself. Where does the indigenous category begin and where does the children category stop? Where does the ECEC services script begin and where does the family discourses stop? The first results, show some different ways of being in society, like to be a child, to be indigenous, and to be a citizen in a place where young children are cared for in Bogotá.

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