Julia Wren is the parent advocate in the Parent Project of the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. She supports parents with intellectual disability involved in Care and Protection proceedings and advocates alongside them with child protection and hospitals and supports them to access health, housing, Centrelink and other services.
Using arts-based methods to hear the voices of birth mothers about experiences of contact (Poster presentation)
Introduction: Parents with children in out-of-home-care have often experienced lifelong adversity and disadvantage. Contact can help parents and children to maintain a connection and cope with removal. Grief, stigma and identity loss can undermine parents’ ability to make contact work. We needed to understand what engages parents in contact but their voices are often absent in research. Arts-based methods help to explore sensitive topics with marginalised groups.
Method: Twelve mothers participated in body mapping which was co-facilitated by a researcher and a parent advocate. Mothers populated a life-size body outline with images in response to a guided interview. Maps were photographed and a written key was created to describe images, locations and meanings, and a written summary of the mother’s views of contact was created. Visual and textual data were coded to generate themes.
Results: Bodymapping enabled mothers to express difficult emotions non-verbally and to depict their future hopes and fears. Child removal was a pivotal life event and encounters with child protection, including in childhood, cast a long shadow over current contact experiences. Images revealed that experiences of child removal and supervised contact were stored in the body, explaining how they can impact on present interactions. Reunification hopes could coexist with acceptance of placement when mothers were supported to connect meaningfully with children and carers.
Implications: Arts based methods can provide important insights into how to address issues for vulnerable groups. This study contributes to knowledge about what helps or undermines positive contact for parents with children in out-of-home-care.