Impossible Expectations? A study of Abused Mothers in the Child Protection System
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Abused mothers involved in the child protection system are faced with many expectations which are placed upon them by the various professionals who are assigned to their “case”. Quite often these expectations are conflicting, making it unrealistic for the mother to fulfil all of them. For example, while private family law expects mothers to facilitate an ongoing relationship between their children and the children’s father, social workers may expect a mother to move away and break decisively with an abusive father in order to protect her children. The mother is expected to exercise autonomy in order to navigate these relationships and make life decisions which will affect her and her child. However, the mother’s abusive relationship has systematically chipped away at her autonomy; undermining her capacity to make decisions independently. The mother’s ability to think and act autonomously is vital in order for her to free herself from the control of the abuser, whilst also giving an account of herself throughout the child protection process. The relationships she has within the child protection process should therefore encourage her autonomy. By better understanding how to promote an abused mother’s autonomy, professionals can craft their practices in a way which supports the mother to think and act for herself. These practices would empower the mother to make changes which are sustainable, and not forced upon her. I have applied the framework of relational autonomy, to examine the relationships between the mother and her abuser, her domestic abuse advocate, her social worker, the police, the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and the family law system, to gain an understanding of what makes a supportive relationship which fosters rather than undermines the mother’s autonomy.
AuthorsTHOMPSON, LIZA; Queen Mary University of London
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