Exploring and Working to Resist the Gendered, Colonial Risk-Thinking Mechanisms Within and Between the Child Welfare and Healthcare Systems
This paper critically examines the experiences of new mothers connected to both the child welfare and healthcare systems in a mid-sized city in Ontario, Canada. An anonymized practice exemplar illustrates the oppressive, traumatic nature of hospital perinatal care experiences for many new mothers. Drawing on Foucault’s work, as well as risk theory, post-structural feminism and critical race theory, this scenario is analyzed in order to highlight the problematic gendered, neoliberal and colonial disciplinary discourses upheld within and between the child welfare and healthcare systems related to risk and “good” motherhood; the unquestioned power and paternalistic nature of the medical system; and how these power relations, practices and discourses play out in the lives and experiences of certain women in very harmful and oppressive ways. Ultimately, the paper argues that disciplinary discourses related to risk, and privileged Eurowestern ideals around “good” mothering upheld within and between the child welfare and healthcare systems impact on the lives, bodies and subjectivities of Indigenous mothers in particularly harmful ways. The paper concludes by discussing a feminist anti-carceral social work framework, as well as the concept of cultural humility. It argues that for white settler child welfare workers in particular, engaging in practice with these frameworks in mind is one way that child welfare workers can begin to combat the harmful practices and discourses that exist within and between their system of practice and other State institutions.
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