A child's disclosure of sexual abuse can wreak havoc in many lives, especially that of the child's mother. Julia Krane offers a first-hand look into everyday protection practices of child welfare from the perspective of mothers of sexually abused children and their female social workers, charting women's complex, contradictory, and often costly relations with the child welfare arm of the Canadian state
Drawing on interviews with social workers and mothers of sexually abused children, examinations of client files and court documents, and reviews of training and procedural manuals, Krane argues that child welfare procedures designed to protect children and help parents instead end up scrutinizing mothers for their inadequacies, transforming them into a protective labour force expected to safeguard their children. Protection practices, she contends, essentially reproduce legacies of mother blame and responsibility for the child's sexual abuse, relieving the abuser and the state of all liability.
In conclusion, Krane uses her analysis to identify areas with potential for change, such as creating practice environments that render explicit the gendered nature of protection, offering support to women in their protective efforts, and allowing opportunities for women to explore and reflect on the context of maternal care and protection. This study lays bare another layer of gender in relation to child sexual abuse, and locates child welfare practice in feminist scholarly debates about women and the welfare state.
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Julia Krane is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at McGill University.
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