Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

Part I

Parents on trial

There are now a growing number of people who require the approval of others to be allowed to become, or to remain, parents. Over the past century, the state has been drawn increasingly, but somewhat reluctantly, into family life, driven by the public's conscience to protect children's right to minimum care but also by the economic expediency of trying to prevent delinquency, crime and adult ill health. As more children become the responsibility of the state, a body of welfare professionals has developed-notably doctors, social workers, health visitors, child psychiatrists and court welfare officers. These act as a buffer zone between the state and the family, carrying out family intervention under the state's legal and political guidance, but largely defining their own guidelines.

One of their key roles has become that of assessing families, in particular whether certain adults are able to provide the right sort of parenting to their existing children or to children in the future. In Part I, I will examine the four key situations in which the assessment of parents takes place: child protection, adoption, childcare after the break-up of the parental relationship, and the provision of treatment for medically assisted reproduction. These four areas may be likened to the four facets of a pyramid-like edifice, constructed piecemeal by the state to regulate parenthood, at least to the extent of protecting some children. I would like to examine the exposed faces of this pyramid but also try and uncover any common ideological base on which it rests. Thus in each of these four 'practical' areas, I will examine who carries out the assessment of parents, what criteria they use and what they tell us about the expectations of all parents. The aim is to see how much consensus exists about who is fit to be a parent and to see how consistently and effectively the assessment processes safeguard the interests of children-and their parents.

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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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