Recognition and Justice? Conceptualizing Support for Women Whose Children Are in Care or Adopted
‘Understanding the wounds of stigma as social and political injuries can assist in the forging of networks of care and solidarity’. (p. 29)
‘As a condition of beginning this voluntary programme, women agree to use the most effective reversible methods of contraception; […] Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) so they have the opportunity to reflect and focus on their own needs, often for the first time in their lives.’
‘When […] institutionalized patterns of cultural value constitute some actors as inferior, excluded, wholly other or simply invisible, hence as less than full partners in social interaction, then we should speak of misrecognition and status subordination’. (p. 24)
‘I may feel that without some recognizability I cannot live. But I may also feel that the terms by which I am recognized make life unlivable.’
- How women’s rights and needs can be obscured in the politicized intersection between their stigmatizing construction as mothers, as women, and as costs to society; and
- The relevance of concepts of recognition and redistribution—encompassing love, care (and fun); acknowledging human rights and political and economic injustice; and identifying strengths and social contributions—to understanding women’s experiences of working with Pause and of change in their lives.
3.1. Recognition and Redistribution in Rights to Health and Welfare
‘at the heart of [feminist] politics lie questions like, what do various groups of women really need, and whose interpretations of women’s needs should be authoritative.’ (p. 104)
‘They gave me no points even though I’ve got chronic [physical health condition] and got mental health issues as well. […] So, it’s just like I’ve got a doctor’s note still, so I’ve done the Universal Credit application and I’m going for an appointment on Thursday […] they’re not going to give me any extra money but if I’m still getting signed off they can’t say, my doctor says I’m not fit for work, so. […] I’ve got an appointment on Thursday so hopefully they’ll be able to tell me when I can get some money off them. […] I mean because they’re not even paying my rent.’
‘That would be my boyfriend. He gets a decent amount of money from his job at [workplace] so with me staying with him until the flat’s sorted […] he sort of provides for both of us food-wise and otherwise. He basically buys food and keeps us both stable and in good living condition. […] Thank goodness I have a lovely boyfriend.’
‘It’s disgusting but I share a bathroom and a toilet and the people here, I don’t want to judge, they’re very filthy, they’re nothing like me. […] I had a really bad incident in the past which sort of broke me, like the guy showed his thing down there.’
‘used to be a social worker with my family and [...] and there was a bit of tension between me and that social worker and now she’s the manager and cos she’s the manager it’s like they’re not helping me […] She made it aware to everybody that I have to leave because I’m going to be turning 21.’
Yeah, but now they’ve also said [I will be here] six months, and [Pause practitioner]’s like, “Well, she has been there six months. Do you want to look up her actual name?” So yeah, [practioner]’s just trying to dig her heels in.
I was literally thinking […] I don’t think this is ever going to fucking happen […] At that point, last time I spoke to you, they still hadn’t agreed. But [practitioner] was like a dog with a bone. She would not let it go. She was, like, she’s been waiting 14 years… She’s been on the list since she was 16, so even though you took her off [the housing list] without her knowledge or her say so […] [Practitioner] wouldn’t let it go, and I’m so glad because literally I’ve got a really nice flat in [neighbourhood], it’s massive.
It was hard before but they recently sorted my benefit out for me, I was on really bad money before for quite a while. […] I’m on Universal Credit, I’m now on the ESA component which is new style ESA and I also claim carer’s allowance for [relative] so my financial situation at the moment, I’m managing at the moment whereas before it was really hard before I sorted out the ESA part of my benefit. It was just Universal Credit. […] And that was 170 to 190 on average a month. I know, it was really like is this for real? I couldn’t believe it was right but it’s ‘cause they didn’t realize I was sick at that point, like, had mental health problems and after a while dealing with me they kind of clocked on and was like, you need to apply for this part of the benefit so yeah. That’s sorted now, yeah. […] [Pause practitioner] did give me a lot of help with that to be honest. […] Especially if you’re already depressed and whatever you can’t be bothered, you think, I’ll just leave it unless you’ve got someone actually to help you to fill them forms up.
They turned me down, because I had tried to do it before and I ended up feeling worse and getting told no and feeling really down […] and then I got to a point where I felt like no, I am appealing it, I am unwell, I’m not scamming the system, I’m not well, my doctors agree with me so I’m entitled to it. And I fought and they said, “Alright, you can have it.”
I don’t get any sleep, so when I haven’t got it I don’t sleep, but when I do have it I can get some sleep. So we’ve contacted the mental health team. They’re saying, “Oh no, you’ve got to be abstinent from it for six months.” I’m like, “No, that’s not going to help me,” […] [Pause practitioner]’s saying, “No, that’s not realistic. She’s using this as a coping mechanism till she’s got support there.” […] I don’t want to have to smoke, but it is the only thing that is helping me right now. They won’t give me sleeping tablets because I’ll overdose on them. I can’t take antidepressants because I’ll overdose.
3.2. Recognizing Motherhood
‘If we stay with the sense of loss, are we left feeling only passive and powerless, as some fear? Or are we, rather, returned to a sense of human vulnerability, to our collective responsibility for the physical lives of one another?’. (p. 23)
They’ve started to be like helping me out a bit more with my kids wise because I worry about my kids 24/7. I worry about what they’re eating, what they’re doing, anything. I keep telling Pause and that they’re like, well we can’t do nothing yet, but if it carries on and you still don’t feel happy and what’s the word, satisfied the way that your children are being treated we’ll go somewhere.
I’d understand if I was a surrogate mother called a Tummy Mummy, because that’s all I am. But […] he’s my child, so why are they calling me a Tummy Mummy? That doesn’t seem right to me.
[Practitioner] would meet me at the contact afterwards, once I was finished there she would be outside waiting, I could guarantee it, ready to take me for a coffee and she was a shoulder to cry on, because the children would go and I would just break because my daughter would be sobbing and hanging on and, “Take me home, take me home.” And my son was like, “Mummy, I want you, I want you.” And [practitioner] was like literally holding me like through all of it.
[Practitioner] got these, I chose them, I told her what kind of cards they love, [daughter] likes, she likes sparkle and stuff. You know at first you don’t really know your kids and then you get better with them.
I think [child] is getting bullied, [child] keeps talking about how [they] don’t like [their] colour. I’m not being funny, they have taken a black kid basically and stuck [them] in the whitest place ever with a fully white family that doesn’t know how to maintain [their] skin, doesn’t know how to maintain [their] hair.
But I can kind of tell if people want to get to know me or if they’ve read about me, both; they look at me completely different when I start speaking and I’m like, “So you judged me on reading about me and you haven’t got to know me.”
I was meant to have it half-term week, they booked it for when the kids were at school and I didn’t want to take them out of school, but I didn’t want them to feel as if I was rejecting my contact because I wasn’t, it was the fact that they’re at school and their education is more important. And [Pause staff] did actually sort it out for me, but if I didn’t have them I don’t know what would have happened, would I be in the same boat or not. I have put in a complaint to Social Services anyway regarding that, because I feel as if I was being sort of penalized or isolated and stuff like that.
I’ve always said I will never give up on my children. And whatever, sort of … if they push me down, or whatever, I still pick myself up and still go ahead with it, because I’m a mother, you know?’.
‘because of having to have the rod [implant], I wouldn’t have had that rod and I’d have probably been pregnant or fighting for a kid again’.
This is how we decided, we decided this, right, it took long but me and [partner] decided not to have kids no more because we don’t want our third kid to go through the pain that [children] went through, taken away from their parents. So we decided … we was talking about the future, like not now, but we decided once we settle down we’d like to have kids but right now focus on getting out of here and settling down and focusing on my skills but maybe soon, not now maybe three years, two years later we’ll have a kid but not now.
3.3. Recognition as Praxis: Reciprocity, Care, Respect and Fun
‘recognition may not consist in mere words or symbolic expressions, but must be accompanied by actions that confirm these promises’. (p. 92)
Family: to me my family is Pause at the moment, they’re there where my family hasn’t been, so I don’t know if I can put Pause but it’s how I would say that because they’re my support network and they’re the closest I’ve got, I’ve got friends of course but then it’s mainly family and I don’t have my own family. […] I don’t have a family because they’re not supportive; they weren’t aware [child] had gone into foster care, they’ve never been to see [child]. So in terms like that when I need support, I don’t have family, whereas Pause… [interviewer: they’ve been more supportive?] I think Pause is my family.
When I go into a meeting with professionals and stuff, I feel like when I am in social services and other agencies I have had to work with, I feel like just another number on their books, you know on their caseload. But with Pause it is completely different because you have that time to build a relationship up with them and you become comfortable around them. Like, you see them a lot more than you would anyone else. Like, if they are passing they will just pop in like or if they are having days out as a group they will just call me, ‘Susie, what are you doing today, do you want picking up? Do you want to go to the cinema?’
We’ve been to [theme park] as a group which was a really good day out, and I got to meet most of the girls that came, some didn’t. And we’ve been to [town] and had fish and chips and ice cream and stuff. And they do things to help you switch off from thinking about what’s going on with social services, what’s going on with the children, all that sort of stuff, you can switch off from it for a bit and it’s all people that understand because they’ve all been through it and everything.
‘Transgression need not be some sort of grand statement; it may simply mean not really doing what you are supposed to or what you normally do’.
I don’t see her like she’s one of the, like, she’s a staff member, it’s more like she’s my older sister and I’m just going to rant at my elder sister because I’ve had a shit day or something. We’ve done loads of stuff, we’ve been to the cinema, we’ve been and had pedicures done. Like, they’ve helped me build on my confidence so much even as a woman. Like before, I would never have had the guts to go and have someone playing with my feet and doing my toenails.
I was [Pause practitioner’s] first client so we were both new to the situation, both just as nervous, and I don’t know, obviously, being open with [practitioner] and being able to go to [practitioner] and talk to [practitioner] about whatever’s bugging me at that time, it made it ten times easier. If she didn’t love her job and the staff at Pause didn’t love their jobs, you’d be able to see it and that’s the one thing that I have to give the women at Pause, you can tell that they adore their jobs, you can tell that they go home at night feeling like they’ve done something with their day whereas some, there are some people in that industry, they go home and they just cry themselves to sleep because they feel so bad.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
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In some cases, all interviews were face to face (for example, if women requested this); some were conducted predominantly over the phone (for example, if a woman was not available for a face-to-face arranged appointment on long-distance fieldwork, the rescheduled interview sometimes took place by phone).
Presumably, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman; see https://www.lgo.org.uk/.
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Boddy, J.; Wheeler, B. Recognition and Justice? Conceptualizing Support for Women Whose Children Are in Care or Adopted. Societies 2020, 10, 96. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040096
Boddy J, Wheeler B. Recognition and Justice? Conceptualizing Support for Women Whose Children Are in Care or Adopted. Societies. 2020; 10(4):96. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040096Chicago/Turabian Style
Boddy, Janet, and Bella Wheeler. 2020. "Recognition and Justice? Conceptualizing Support for Women Whose Children Are in Care or Adopted" Societies 10, no. 4: 96. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10040096