State mechanisms for interference with parental autonomy: Issues of intervention

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Devine, L.

The thesis examines the systems designed to protect children from abuse, and the adoption of children, and identifies discourses influential in procedure and practice in these areas. Both systems operate when the state considers that parents are unable or unwilling to care adequately for their children, and raise questions of the nature of the contact that families have with state agencies, before, during and after child abuse is suspected. The thesis considers these systems using Foucault and Donzelot's theories of control and bio-power. Child welfare has been examined from a variety of theoretical perspectives, and literature is available from medical, sociological and legal discourses. Existing research, policy and practice are examined, questioning whether enough is known about the effects of these systems on the subjects entered into them. Consideration is given to existing measures of 'success', and whether they provide adequate measures by which to evaluate the systems. In both areas consideration is given to how much is known about the number of people affected. It was found that inadequate data is available, and part of the methodology of this thesis constructs a method by which the nature of the subjects entered into the 'child protection' system can be measured. This approach moves away from the idea that subjects within the systems are a homogenous group, and suggests that the characteristics of individual subjects should be evaluated to consider whether the systems operate effectively. Comment is made on the lack of evaluation and adequate measure of success, lack of transparency and accountability, and it is argued that the justification of the systems operate upon non-universal assumptions and interpretations of success as opposed to an objectively agreed measure.
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