Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

Preface

The idea for this book came to me during a period when I was approached for advice in a succession of cases of parents with disabilities whose fitness to parent was being called into question. I had written a book on pregnancy and disability (Campion 1990) which had brought me into contact with hundreds of parents with disabilities, many of whom reported increased professional scrutiny and surveillance due to the fact of their disability. I began to wonder how professionals made their assessments of whether parents were fit to care for their own children or not and whether there existed a body of knowledge which objectively defined what comprises fit parenting.

As I began to explore the area it became apparent that there are many books on the practical aspects of caring for children which seem to take for granted that everyone knows the norm to which all parents should be aspiring. Aspects of parenthood have variously been researched and explored by sociologists, doctors and psychologists who have proposed certain models of what good parenting should contain. None seemed to have directly tackled the question of who is fit to be a parent. Yet this is a question that is becoming increasingly important in western societies. The notion of 'fitness' (as opposed to 'goodness') suggests selection criteria that have to be met before someone will pass the parenting test and be allowed to care for children. Who is allowed to adopt? Whose children are removed and taken into care? Who 'gets' the children after the parents split? Who is allowed fertility treatment? More and more professionals are exercising power when deciding who will be permitted to be a parent. So it seemed timely to examine what criteria different practitioners are using to assess fitness and to see whether a consensus view emerges that all parents should be aspiring to fulfil.

But it is not just professionals who determine who is considered fit to be a parent. The media, politicians and religious leaders regularly pass judgement on certain groups of people and assert that it is their unfitness as parents that is responsible for all of society's problems. Parents nowadays appear to be under siege both from their children's demands and from society at large. So it also seemed timely to examine exactly what it is that society expects parents to be doing.

This book is a chronological account of my own personal investigation which took in a wide swathe of opinion and ideas. In exploring the nature of what is deemed fit parenting and how it is assessed, I looked to the following sources:

-vii-

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Who's Fit to Be a Parent?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Parents on Trial 5
  • 1 - The State Versus Parents 7
  • 2 - Other People's Children 38
  • 3 - Parents Apart 63
  • 4 - Playing God 96
  • 5 - Key Themes from Part I 117
  • Part II - Parents on the Edge 129
  • 6 - Disabled Parents 133
  • 7 - Mentally Handicapped Parents 151
  • 8 - Drug Addicted Mothers 168
  • 9 - Gay Parents 177
  • 10 - Teenage Mothers 189
  • 11 - Older Mothers 197
  • 12 - Single Mothers 205
  • 13 - Lone Fathers 217
  • 14 - Working Mothers 225
  • 15 - Black Parents 239
  • 16 - Key Themes from Part II 261
  • Part III - The Job Description 269
  • 17 - The Ideal Model and the Actual Model of Fit Parenting 271
  • 18 - Implications of the Actual Model of Fit Parenting to Assessment 281
  • 19 - Looking Forward 300
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 309
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