Wednesday, 13 July 2011

24. Leslie Brown et al; 2008, Manufacturing ghost fathers: the paradox of father presence and absence in child welfare

Although this paper identifies the problem in 2008, the effective discrimination against fathers by UK social service and court welfare departments seems to continue, with organisations such as CAFCASS given no effective training in their three principal areas of concern when engaging with non resident parents (1) how much contact? (2) under what circumstances? (3) how soon?

Quotes from this paper:
1. “The results of our research (see Note 1) along with the work of others (Stanley 1997; Scourfield 2001), suggest that ghost fathers are consistently manufactured in the child welfare system through a series of interlocking policies and practices.”

2. “Fathers exist in the lives of women and children involved with child welfare authorities, and yet, they are rarely seen by child welfare. This invisibility exists whether or not fathers are deemed as risks or as assets to their families. In failing to work with fathers, child welfare ignores potential risks and assets for both mothers and children. The idea that it is ‘cool’ to be a dad has not yet penetrated child welfare thinking.
There is another paradox. Within child welfare, fathers are not just discounted, they are often not seen at all even when they are present.”

3. “In previous studies conducted by the authors focusing on the experience of families in child welfare (Rutman et al. 2002; Callahan et al. 2004, 2005; Strega 2006), the active
presence of fathers was evident within the family but unacknowledged by child welfare. Fathers exist in the lives of women and children in child welfare. Yet, fathers are rarely seen by child welfare, even when present.

4. “I am not a ghost. . . . I did go back to school. I did have a girlfriend. . . . We did become engaged. . . . We had a child. . . . I haven’t seen her for two months.”
(Frank, a father in child welfare)

5. “…….new managerialism has a strong focus on the market rather than on society or community, a concern with efficiency rather than effectiveness, and a practice where money and contracts define relationships rather than care and concern, thus, subordinating professional knowledge to managerial knowledge.The emphasis on standardization and efficiency inveighs against father inclusion…..

6. “Under these circumstances, finding and contacting fathers and developing relationships can be viewed as inefficient.”

7. “For a myriad of reasons, mothers sometimes want to keep fathers invisible to the system and control the story about fathering that is told to workers.”

8. “…….‘the man’s identity is constructed by professionals, sometimes in collaboration with family members, without any direct reference to the man himself’ (p. 15). Social workers manage mothers, and in turn, mothers manage fathers…….”

9. “Some ghost fathers are ostracized by the children as they take on the views of fathers as dangerous and non-contributing. Other ghost fathers seem to be romanticized through their absence, as the unknown father becomes the hero by whom the children wait to be rescued.”

10. “Families involved with child welfare are not always poor, but are disproportionately drawn from those who live in poverty. Poverty brings with it a host of policies and programmes that increase the chances that mothers will deny the existence of fathers in their households. Welfare provision and social housing frequently make it difficult for women to identify fathers in their households for fear of jeopardizing their and their children’s benefits, or eligibility for housing. As one father noted when talking about his girlfriend filling out her form for income assistance, ‘She put zero, zero, zero’ when asked about income and his presence, even though he was living in the home and bringing in wages.”