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Families Under “Supervision”

Béatrice Jacques

Research Framework: This article assesses the results of a survey (IRESP-INSERM funding in 2010-2013) whose main question was access to reproductive health care for « at-risk » and / or migrant women in France.

Objectives: We show how mothers integrate institutional arrangements and then analyze the categorization methods for the resulting families produced by these professionals.

Methodology: For the sociological aspect of the survey, we conducted 57 semi-directive interviews with medical professionals, social workers and women in at-risk situations and made observations at the patients’ homes and with professionals in the health and social systems.

Results: We begin by showing that the women being followed by maternal and child protective services are identified according to “qualitative” indicators of good parenting. We then examine the « techniques of introduction » used to introduce the professionals into these families and show that the recipients of this help often discover that they do not exactly correspond to the model expected by the institution.

Conclusions: This work betters our understanding of the way in which at risk parents are supported through the development of a trusting relationship which camouflages the reality of social monitoring. The monitoring of these women also reveals gender and class relations. We also noted that standardized practices are more widely applied to the fields of family, work, housing and even affect the most private of all aspects, self-respect.

Contribution: By studying health professionals, we are looking into the similarity of practices that support parenting as described by authors and social workers.