Making the hidden seen: A narrative analysis of the experiences of Assumption of Care at birth

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Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2019, 32 (1), pp. e1 - e11
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© 2018 Background: Being involved in any child protection system is complex and multifaceted and none more so than in non-voluntary Assumption of Care which occurs in New South Wales when, for child protection concerns, the Department of Family and Community Services removes a newborn baby from her/his mother. Objective: This research studied childbearing women's and professionals’ experiences of Assumption of Care at birth to increase understanding of individual participants’ stories, how they made sense of meanings and how these experiences framed their lives. Method: A narrative inquiry framework guided interviews with four groups: childbearing women, midwives, social workers and Family and Community Services case managers. Holistic form was used for reading, interpreting and analysing the narratives. Findings: This research found unwanted emotional (isolation, shame, guilt, loss, disenfranchised grief) and physical consequences (depression, substance abuse complications) for women experiencing an Assumption of Care at the time of birth. There were also conflicting ethical and moral positions for the professionals involved. The use/abuse of power, concealment of facts and disenfranchised grief were identified as intertwined plots that caused or increased tensions. Discussion: Both the women and the professionals felt pressure from trying to achieve competing and overlapping roles. The unwanted effects of Assumption of Care are exacerbated by the current child protection and maternity care systems. Conclusion: To address the tensions raised in this study, we suggest a two-fold change to maternity care for women at risk of an Assumption of Care: a therapeutic justice model of maternity care and continuity of midwifery care with a dedicated midwife. Introducing these changes could increase women's and children's safety and wellbeing.
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