Journal Article

Willing but Unable: How Resources Help Low-Income Mothers Care for their Children and Minimise Child Protection Interventions

Published: 2022

Low-income mothers face disproportionately high risks of engaging with statutory child protection systems. Whilst this is often perceived as a result of poor or irresponsible parenting practices, an increasing body of scholarship foregrounds the role of structural issues—such as poverty and homelessness—that constrain mothers’ agency and impact their ability to care for their children. In this article, we examine Australia’s first permanent Supportive Housing for Families (SHF) programme, which offers low-income mothers practical resources to minimise the risk of statutory child protection intervention. Our research aims to understand low-income mothers’ willingness and ability to care for their children, and how mothers engaged with and made meaning of their experiences residing in SHF. Using a qualitative research design, we analyse interview data with programme mothers (n = 17), programme support workers (n = 10) and statutory child protection officers (n = 7). We find that the resources provided through the programme enabled mothers to care for their children in ways that aligned with their parenting beliefs and aspirations. We conclude that SHF programmes may be an effective means through which low-income mothers can overcome the structural barriers that keep them engaged with statutory child protection systems.

Kuskoff, E., Parsell, C., Plage, S., Ablaza, C., Perales, F., (2022) Willing but Unable: How Resources help low-income mothers cae for their children and minimise child protection interventions, The British Journal of Social Work, Published online 14 Feb 2022, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcac027