Parents at war: A positioning analysis of how parents negotiate their loss after experiencing child removal by the state
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionOtterlei, M.T., Engebretsen, E. (2021) Parents at war: A positioning analysis of how parents negotiate their loss after experiencing child removal by the state. Qualitative Social Work. 10.1177/14733250211048546
This study explores how parents involved in care order processes in Norway perceive being positioned by Child Welfare Services (CWS) in this process, how they negotiate these positions and whether their loss is perceived as legitimate or illegitimate in the face of societal expectations of parenthood. The data consist of qualitative interviews with 13 parents who have experienced child removals initiated by CWS. Drawing on positioning theory, the article provides an analysis of parental experiences of being positioned by CWS and investigates how cultural notions may affect their perceptions. The analysis showed that parents experienced being at war against a highly powerful CWS, which they felt dehumanised them and positioned them as failing. Moreover, parents challenged such positions by introducing alternative explanations that presented themselves as victims. However, the analysis also showed that parents would adopt positions of becoming their own judge and internalising the stigma. Parents experienced disenfranchisement of their grief due to the perception of their loss as illegitimate. Nonetheless, several parents launched a position of becoming a renewed parental figure by turning their prior parental failure into a storyline of growth and prosperity. The article concludes that parents, through language, challenge stigmatising positions to negotiate parental failure, which could be interpreted as valuation work of their identities and parenthood.