Child and Family Policies: Struggles, Strategies and Options


232 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-895686-60-1
DDC 362.82'8'0971




Edited by Jane Pulkingham and Gordon Ternowetsky
Reviewed by Elaine G. Porter

Elaine Porter is an associate professor of sociology at Laurentian


Having dismantled many of the pillars of the welfare state, federal
government officials have been proclaiming the eradication of child
poverty as the major new social-welfare initiative. The five chapters in
this book that discuss government anti-poverty policies and policy
lobbying efforts were presented at the 1995 Conference on Social Welfare
Policy. Presenters Hay, Baker, and McGrath advocate coalition building
as a means to combat the neoliberal agenda. The editors, however, found
that the actual policy pronouncements that emerged in 1997 met minimal
expectations. Their critique clearly demonstrates that the combined tax
benefits and income supplements would serve only to create new
categories of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor children.
Kerstetter’s data show that parental work supplements can overcome
work disincentives in social assistance payment levels, but he argues
that income supplements cannot be effective without general labor-market
solutions. Lochhead’s conclusion, that minimum-wage policies would not
benefit the poorest of the poor also argues against there being any
single answer.

Six chapters address more traditional social- welfare concerns: the
impact of social services on women and children left in the wake of the
receding welfare state. As the editors point out, residualist state
policies rely heavily on the caring labor of women. Media portrayals of
a mother convicted of child abuse (Verna Vaudreuil) and social casework
reports of mothers of sexually abused children illustrate the editors’
point that motherwork is more judged than supported with services.
Individual chapters by Schmidt, Gray-Withers, and McKenzie shed light on
the contradictions between intervention and private solutions that are
played out in even more complex interrelationships in First Nations
child and family policies and services. Clear arguments are made for
Native self-government that includes women in the decision-making
process and that is not based merely on government offloading of
financial responsibilities.

The overarching theme of these closely argued papers is that mere
mending is not enough to restore a safety net that has been torn


“Child and Family Policies: Struggles, Strategies and Options,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,