Friday 14 April 2023
16.30 - 18.30
Parental and Residential Care; Children's Experiences and State Governance
Frank Golding :
That's not my Child: a Family at War
This is an extended case study of a family entangled with the welfare system over five generations involving more than 30 children who were placed in 16 different institutions in Australia in the period 1865 to the 1970s. The paper interrogates previously unattainable sources, both within and outside conventional archives, ... (Show more)
This is an extended case study of a family entangled with the welfare system over five generations involving more than 30 children who were placed in 16 different institutions in Australia in the period 1865 to the 1970s. The paper interrogates previously unattainable sources, both within and outside conventional archives, and demonstrates that autoethnographic and insider approaches to the interpretation of evidence can produce a multi-layered and authentic narrative about the relations between the state and families in crisis.
From this study, it is argued that fractured families enmeshed in the welfare system over the generations are too easily ‘read’ as malfunctional or defective, when they are better understood in the broader context of politico-economic drivers such as grinding poverty, unemployment, unstable accommodation, and the enduring physical and psychological impact of war. These features, in turn, often led to family stress and violence, mental disorders, substance abuse, desertion, and divorce.
The very existence of a system of ‘care’ might also have encouraged some parents to use they system as an option during a crisis, but this was not always a simple matter of choice. Parents often made heart-breaking decisions about their children, but authorities were quick to pass judgment. Their contempt for families doing it tough was deeply embedded in the punitive language and culture of the system. Children were often stigmatised in the process, being charged as neglected, convicted, committed and finally when they aged out, discharged.
The institutional system itself was often morally confused—and some children became worse off after being removed from families. In practice, the legal distinction between ‘neglected’ and ‘criminal’ children—needs versus deeds—was often blurred. Once being scooped up by the Welfare, it was easy for a young person to cross the fuzzy line from one status to the other, thereafter receiving less protection and more correction. Many children were deemed to have committed a status offence, a perceived act of a non-criminal nature, such as being in the company of undesirables, being in moral danger, considered to be lapsing into a life of vice or crime, or being uncontrollable. These ‘offences’ point to the deeply embedded class-based and gendered nature of the child and family welfare system. It was not abstract ‘circumstances’ that forced a young mother to give up her child; it was lack of support for the woman who was often castigated and branded as ‘fallen’—in a completely different sense to the fallen soldier. Framing the ‘promiscuous’ female as the problem allowed philandering males to slip away without carrying any responsibility. It would take many decades for serious consideration to be given to the rights of mothers and their children to stay together and to be provided with practical support.
The abundant evidence of a substantial betrayal of trust through neglect and criminal maltreatment of institutionalised children speaks to the lack of accountability and inadequate resources in a state function that was regarded as inferior because it dealt with children, and ‘rubbish’ children at that. (Show less)
Jiayun Hu :
The Debate about the Residential Child Care at the End of the 1920s and the End of 1960s in Germany – A Comparative Study
Since the beginning of this century, the problems regarding the quality of life and the rights of the children placed in out-of-home care have aroused particular attention in many western countries. The over-year researches show that the children who, due to various reasons, were being sent to the state or ... (Show more)
Since the beginning of this century, the problems regarding the quality of life and the rights of the children placed in out-of-home care have aroused particular attention in many western countries. The over-year researches show that the children who, due to various reasons, were being sent to the state or church-owned residential houses have suffered from physical and spiritual abuse. In parallel with the redress of the victims of historical child abuse in out-of-home care from the government and from the church, the life tragedies of the children have also been disclosed through the mass media. This trigger the current debate about the issues of the child care in the welfare state.
However, the debate about the children in out-of-home care has almost covered throughout the whole twentieth century in Germany and reached twice its peak, one was during the last period of the Weimar Republic, and the other was shortly after the student movement in West Germany. The outbreak of the crisis in the residential child care was not only being influenced by the social-economic circumstance, but also being instrumentalized in the political movements. Compared to the great contributions made to the case studies in recent years, an analysis of the multi-perspective debate about residential child care has been largely neglected. To know better whether the everlasting problems in child care are structure or surroundings determined, it is necessary to take a look at the prehistory of the outbreak of its scandal in the past century. Although the outbreak of the scandal in residential child care did not actually solve the problems, it serves as a mirror image of social renovation that regularly questions the boundary between state power and the private sphere in the construction of the social-democratic welfare state.
By analyzing the discourses about the children in out-of-home care in periodicals, investigative reports, academic literature, and autobiography, my proposed presentation will compare the criticisms of the two crises in the historical context. In addition, the role of the mass media, which exposed the scandal in child care to the public sphere, is also to be examined. Furthermore, in presenting the debates between different groups of people, I want to discuss how these discourses were shaped by social movements, both internal and external, and how these two scandals drawn into political and class struggles. (Show less)
Lukas Schretter :
Nazi Eugenics, Unmarried Mothers, and the Lebensborn Program: Childbirth in the Maternity Home Wienerwald, 1938-1945
The Lebensborn program (literally: "source of life") was founded in 1935 by Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler to increase Nazi Germany’s declining birth-rate. The program was originally intended to provide pregnant women deemed “racially valuable” with a series of maternity homes where they could give birth. It also offered financial assistance, ... (Show more)
The Lebensborn program (literally: "source of life") was founded in 1935 by Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler to increase Nazi Germany’s declining birth-rate. The program was originally intended to provide pregnant women deemed “racially valuable” with a series of maternity homes where they could give birth. It also offered financial assistance, and, if necessary, adoption services. The Lebensborn program furthermore made it possible for women to give birth under medical supervision and without the knowledge of their social environment, if they wanted to keep their pregnancy a secret. The outbreak of World War II threatened to undo all the efforts the regime had made so far to increase the birth-rate, and Himmler wanted to use the Lebensborn program to ensure a constant "supply" of soldiers for the Wehrmacht. Some additional maternity homes were established in the territories occupied by the Nazi Germany, especially in Norway, after women there had become pregnant by German SS, military, and civilian personnel. Beginning in 1942, the Lebensborn program was also involved in the abduction and “germanization” of thousands of children, primarily from Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Throughout its existence until 1945, the Lebensborn program closely reflected the Nazi regime’s racial ideology and theories of eugenics.
The paper presents the results of a three-year research project on Nazi racial and population policies, illegitimacy in the Third Reich, and the Lebensborn program, using the maternity home “Wienerwald” near Vienna as an example. Conducted between 2020 and 2023, the project followed a mixed methods approach. Although a large part of the sources was destroyed at the end of the war, the analysis of files of the maternity home's registry office, medical correspondence, and Lebensborn birth lists allowed to draw representative conclusions about the nearly 1200 women who gave birth in the home, and about their children. The results include the age structure of the Lebensborn mothers, their social and family background, the care of the mothers by the Lebensborn program and its influence on the child's well-being, but also the multifaceted relationships of the Lebensborn mothers to the fathers of their children. In addition, interviews with one Lebensborn mother, more than 30 Lebensborn children, now aged between 77 and 84, other family members of Lebensborn children, as well as employees and residents in the immediate vicinity of the former maternity home have been collected. Based on the interview narratives, the paper explores the effects of being considered “Aryan” elite. Several interviewees only learned about their birth in a Lebensborn home in adulthood and by chance. Some had felt that "something is wrong" because after 1945 the circumstances of their birth had been kept secret in the families. In other families, the fact that the mother had given birth in a Lebensborn home was known but received no further attention. The interview narratives also reflect to what extent and how the circumstances of their own birth and in some cases the involvement of their parents in the Nazi regime influenced the identities of Lebensborn children well into adulthood. (Show less)