Intersections of Welfare and Child Welfare Systems and Single Mothers' Activism in the U.S.
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This study examines the lived experiences of single mothers involved with child welfare services and mothers activism against child welfare services, in order to more deeply understand the intersections between and meanings of the welfare and child welfare systems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the U.S. This study had two research questions: 1) how have the material and symbolic dimensions of change worked together in shaping the post-1990 restructuring of both areas of welfare services? And 2) how have mothers responded to these reforms? Specifically, what is the nature of mothers activisms against child welfare services given post-1990 welfare restructuring? This study used a theoretical framework that draws on scholarly understandings of governance, feminist theorizing of policy change, and anti-racist feminism and decolonizing theory. This qualitative study employed a mix of data collection and analysis strategies. The primary data was collected through in-depth, faceto-face semi-structured interviews with 16 study participants, who were parents (mostly mothers) involved with child welfare services and/or activism and their advocates. My analysis of the interviews was directed by strategies of critical discourse analysis and narrative analysis, based on feminist standpoint epistemology. The findings of this study reveal that the combination of two systems after welfare reform created the material and symbolic conditions that blame and punish single mothers for having children without resources. Enacting a neoliberal gender order that expects that women assume social reproduction privately, children can be removed from single mothers when they cannot uphold this expectation. This study also found that mothers activism against child welfare services showed their feminist struggle to demand welfare rights as social and economic justice. This study highlighted that patriarchal gender orders have been institutionalized through the implementation of social welfare policy, and mothers have organized activism to challenge such gender orders.