Single mothers’ experiences with Department of Human Services (Child Support): The absence and necessity of recognition, respect and responsiveness

Date 12:00 PM 29 October 2015 - 13:00 PM 29 October 2015
Location Father Tucker's Room, 67 Brunswick Street Fitzroy

Presenters: Dr Kay Cook and Associate Professor Kristin Natalier.

What helps and what hinders single mothers seeking the payment of full, timely and meaningful child support? This question lies at the heart of on-going personal and policy challenges embedded in Australia’s Child Support Scheme and post-separation parenting more generally. However, it has not been the subject of a dedicated research focus that takes seriously the needs and experiences of single mothers.

In this presentation, we answer the question through a focus lies on the logic and practices of DHS–CS (formerly, the Child Support Agency), as they were negotiated by 37 single mothers. Data from semi-structured, in-depth interviews suggest that for these women, DHS–CS formal processes and on the ground practices were largely ineffective in calculating and administering child support agreements and assessments, and may exacerbate financial precarity and control by former partners.

We argue that any meaningful reform will necessitate taking seriously the relational and interactional dimensions of DHS–CS. For many single mothers, DHS–CS not only (imperfectly) administers child support, it is central to the lived experience of vulnerability, disrespect and disempowerment that can arise in contexts where child support is not paid in full, on time and in financially meaningful amounts.

She undertakes conceptually innovative work exploring the relationship between money, identity and power evident child support payments between parents, and child support policy. Kris has also published on young people’s experiences of marginal housing and homelessness. Kris is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Family Studies and Treasurer of The Australian Sociological Association.

Download the presentation » (PDF file, 1.1 MB).

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