Protecting children from maltreatment: Intervention strategies and decision-making by concerned kin.

Emily Beth Zimmerman, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Abstract

This study explores relatives' decision-making and strategies when dealing with perceived neglect or abuse occurring in their families. With increasingly voluntaristic ties between family members, it is up to individuals to make decisions about the appropriateness of intervention and their own willingness to provide help. Constructing intervention strategies requires decision-making and will, whose source derives from, or in opposition to, a complex array of factors. Based on intensive interviews, this study describes the ways in which family members monitor children's well-being and the situations that cause them to become concerned. It looks in detail at the changing nature of relatives' intervention strategies. The decision-making process is situated within the context of contemporary norms and expectations for family life, family dynamics and interpersonal relationships, and the particular needs, resources and circumstances that may motivate, delay or impel intervention. Finally, the study looks at how relatives' attempts to protect children are affected by their expectations for state involvement and the actions of child welfare agencies. The study's broader theoretical purpose is to explore the meaning of family boundaries, both in relation to the state and to the extended family, and how children's well-being is addressed within those contexts.