Failure to Protect

Moving Beyond Gendered Responses

Edited by Rosemary Carlton, Julia Krane, Simon Lapierre, Cathy Richardson and Susan Strega  

Paperback $28.00

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Failure-to-protect policies and practices are intended to better ensure the safety and protection of children. But as this book demonstrates, these policies actually increase danger for children – and for their mothers. While failure to protect is not always encoded in policy documents, practices that engage mothers and hold them responsible for violence in the home, while excusing or ignoring the male offender, are common. Moreover, these actions most often play out on the shoulders of marginalized and already oppressed women and, in a cruel twist, place blame on mothers because they are “unable” to protect their children from factors beyond their control, such as poverty, racism, intimate partner violence and inadequate housing.

In this book, writers from Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia explain how the concept of failure to protect emerged and how it differentially impacts child welfare clients by virtue of their gender, race and class positions. Chapters dedicated to child sexual abuse and intimate partner abuse, for example, illustrate just how ineffective failure-to-protect policies are at protecting both women and children. Beyond a critique of child protection systems, the book proposes innovative and effective alternatives to policies and practices informed by failure to protect. This edited collection compels us to think critically about knowledge that is taken for granted and opens up possibilities for practices that are not only grounded in social justice but fulfill the mandate of child welfare to effectively protect children.

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  • “G-d Couldn’t be Everywhere So He Created Mothers”: The Impossible Mandate of Maternal Protection in Child Welfare (Julia Krane, Susan Strega & Rosemary Carlton)
  • Neither Shaken Nor Stirred: The Persistence of Maternal Failure to Protect in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse (Rosemary Carlton & Julia Krane)
  • Asking the Impossible of Mothers: Child Protection Systems and Intimate Partner Violence (Susan Strega & Caitlin Janzen)
  • What do we Really Know About Maternal Failure to Protect in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse? (Rebecca Bolen & Julia Krane)
  • Take a Chance on Me: Rethinking Risk and Maternal Failure to Protect in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse (Rosemary Carlton & Julia Krane)
  • Black Feminist Thinking, Black Mothers, and Child Sexual Abuse (Claudia Bernard)
  • Double Jeopardy: Racialized Families and Failure to Protect (Sarah Maiter, Ramona Alaggia & Baldev Mutta)
  • Creating Islands of Safety: Contesting Failure to Protect and Mother-Blaming in Child Protection Cases of Paternal Violence Against Children and Mothers (Cathy Richardson & Allan Wade)
  • Child Protection Policy and Indigenous Intimate Partner Violence: Whose Failure to Protect? (Kendra Nixon & Kyllie Cripps)


  • Rosemary Carlton

    Rosemary Carlton is an assistant professor in the École de service social, Université de Montréal.

  • Julia Krane

    Julia Krane is an associate professor in the School of Social Work, McGill University.

  • Simon Lapierre

    Simon Lapierre teaches in the School of Social Work, University of Ottawa.

  • Cathy Richardson

    Cathy Richardson is an assistant professor in the Indigenous Specialization, School of Social Work, University of Victoria.

  • Susan Strega

    University of Victoria

    Susan Strega is a Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Victoria. Susan’s areas of teaching specialization and interest include: anti-oppressive/anti-racist practice, research methodologies, discourse analysis, feminist methods, post-structural approaches and violence against women.

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