Mothers, who have a criminal record and who have already gone through the care system, may face negative judgments and excessive scrutiny because of being ‘known’ by the authorities.
This is the conclusion of new research led by Lancaster University working with Manchester Metropolitan University, Liverpool John Moores University, and the University of Bristol.
“Dealing with Intergenerational Harm: Care Experience, Motherhood and Criminal Justice Involvement” was published in British Journal of Criminology.
The study focused on mothers with “dual system contact,” that is, incarcerated women who are in care (such as foster care or children’s homes), women who have experience in caregiving and young women in the community, and the professionals who work with them.
Key findings include: a desire to break cycles of stigma and engage in social care across generations; lack of support and fear of seeking help, and the careless approach to pregnancy and motherhood that can be faced in prison and beyond.
As an interviewee, 26-year-old Hannah, said, “But it is also used against you that you are in care, and there is not a good support network around me because I am in – care.”
The study links insights from across criminology and social work to explore messages from research and argues for more productive dialogue across disciplinary boundaries and practice.
It emphasizes the long-term consequences of surveillance and any subsequent removal/separation of the child which can include intense feelings of guilt, shame, anger, loss and distress, while at the system level the immediate focus act to protect the unborn child or infant.
“While few would argue against the importance of protecting children, the problem with this relatively short-term concern is that the needs of mothers who experience caregiving, sometimes as children themselves, can be dismissed as harmful cycles of social care (and criminal justice) involvement are built over generations,” the research says.
“Progress in this context is not easy but we can start by challenging the stigma and negative labeling associated with mothers who take care of the law.”
This involves identifying the power structures they must navigate as they encounter, and seek to resist and survive, various aspects of social harm.
Addressing the stigma created by dual-system contact highlights the need to consider cumulative disadvantage—and reveals the need to move beyond understanding discrimination and categorizing struggles as singular issues.
For others, negative gender and racialized judgments may create overlapping layers of disadvantage for those who do not fit social expectations of the ‘mother woman’ and combine moral judgments of ‘ young’ motherhood.
Practitioners who have been able to support women and girls in pregnancy and mothers to resist and endure such judgments are undoubtedly appreciated, says the research. Yet everyone should be given time to develop such relationships, with girls and women offering more opportunities to turn to for support and access flexible services because of their understandable fear of asking. help
“From social workers to prison and probation officers to health care workers, it is important that professionals not only reject individuals who ‘fail to participate’ but know how caregiving and contact with the justice system may perpetuate past trauma and intensify distrust of authority,” the study added.
“Within this context, the focus moves from blaming individuals to placing responsibility on professionals and systems to create spaces where individuals feel safe enough to trust and connect with workers.”
Yet creating safe spaces and developing trust takes time, especially for those who have every reason not to trust.
A 19-year-old mother, Kelsey, said, “I feel like I can’t say anything, I’ll hide everything from everyone… because I don’t want to do anything to lose him… me every time I will do something wrong, it will harm you from doing it [son].”
Meanwhile, for pregnant women in prison, the challenges are enormous in institutions that are ultimately designed to punish and control—and where control can have deadly consequences.
“Against the backdrop of the dramatic reduction in the number of all women in prison, there must be a greater commitment to prevent pregnant women from being imprisoned everywhere,” warns the study.
Dealing with the intergenerational harms created by incarceration will enable greater recognition of the profound impact of incarceration across generations, especially for mothers who have caregiving experience.
As one probation officer interviewed said, “Going into custody…and your kids going into care and then having to fight to get them back when you don’t have any resources…almost impossible.”
For those already incarcerated, the role of prison social workers can be crucial in ensuring that incarcerated mothers are better supported and benefit from family contact days where relevant.
Planning for the transition from prison to the community should take place at the earliest possible stage, supported by non-judgmental practitioners who are willing to look beyond the stigma that care and contact systems can create. justice.
Lead author Dr. Claire Fitzpatrick, of Lancaster University, says, “A system that calls itself a system of care, but fails to recognize the harm it can do, becomes a careless and possible neglect system for some. Finally, we need to shift our perspective on women and women who have experience of care as problematic parents and focus our lens on the state as problematic parent. This will give a very different perspective.”
Claire Fitzpatrick et al, Confronting Intergenerational Harm: Experiences of Caregiving, Motherhood and Criminal Justice Involvement, British Journal of Criminology (2023). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azad028
Provided by Lancaster University
Citation: Focusing on the state as the ‘problem parent’ instead of mothers with caregiving experience, says new research (2023, July 10) retrieved 10 July 2023 from https://phys. org/news/2023-07-focus-state-problem-parent-care-experienced.html
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