Parenting in Public: Family Shelter and Public Assistance

Parenting in Public: Family Shelter and Public Assistance

Parenting in Public: Family Shelter and Public Assistance

Parenting in Public: Family Shelter and Public Assistance

Synopsis

When parents must rely on public assistance and family shelters to provide for their children's most basic needs, they lose autonomy. Within a system of public assistance that already stigmatizes and isolates its beneficiaries, their family lives become subject to public scrutiny and criticism. They are parenting in public. This book is an in-depth examination of the realities of life for parents and their children in family shelters. The author uses the Massachusetts family shelter system to explore the impact of asset and deficit-oriented help-giving approaches as they are experienced by mothers and service providers. The format of the book is unique. Following each chapter are the "reflections" of a mother who has parented in a shelter, a front-line worker, and a shelter director. The author and contributors propose a "Power With" policy and practice framework that runs counter to the prevailing "Power Over" cultural policy trends. Contributors include Rosa Clark, Brenda Farrell, Deborah Gray, Michele Kahan, Margaret A. Leonard, Mary T. Lewis, Nancy Schwoyer, and Elizabeth Ward.

Excerpt

The scream started again today a slow silent scream of frustrated anger Today, I wailed at the wall of officialdom.

Smug, smiling, filing-cabinet face, closed to my unspoken entreaty, social justice is my right Don′t dole it out like charity.

Robbed of independence, dignity in danger I stood dead locked, mind locked. Helpless in his sightless one-dimension world

I walked away

My mind screamed a long sad chaoin (cry) for the us and damned their “social welfare.”

—Cathleen O′Neill in M. Daly

The most fundamental parenting task is to provide for children′s basic needs: safety, shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. When government intervention is needed to assist parents in fulfilling these most basic tasks, parents lose autonomy. Their family lives become subject to public scrutiny and criticism. the public stigmatizes these families for being poor, linking their poverty to personal deficits. They are parenting in public. Families who are homeless are desperate for public assistance and ostracized for their dire circumstances. With my eight coauthors I was motivated to write this book to counter these pejorative . . .

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