Accepted paper:

Narratives of (mis)appropriation, a paediatric hospital and the cultural logic of the child protection unit


Cynthia Hunter (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the process of the narrative as it is utilised by a Child Protection Unit clinical team of a tertiary level paediatric hospital that handles child patients who have been (mis) appropriated by adults. The cultural logic thus underpinned enhances the quality of care provided.

Paper long abstract:

Co-auhor:Dimitra Tzioumi

Each year children present to Child Protection Units in tertiary level paediatric hospitals because their childhood has been irrupted. They are children whose lives and bodies have been (mis)appropriated by adults - adults in the children's lives or in the community. The nature of child protection work within a paediatric hospital focuses on restoring health to child victims and their families after psychosocial trauma. Physical and sexual abuse, and neglect of children may be present. Physical abuse and neglect by definition are perpetrated by people who have responsibility of the child, i.e. 'by the people who care for them'. The clinical team of a CPU includes staff specialists, trainee specialists (registrars and fellows) and therapists who are clinical psychologists and social workers. A consulting child psychiatrist provides the team with external clinical consultation. Other government agencies and NGO agencies are involved in the provision of services to families. Confidentiality is highly respected.

This paper, based in ethnographic fieldwork, analyses the process and focuses on the narrative (the incident or story) after the (mis)appropriation is disclosed by the child or young adult to friends, family or responsible adult/s who notify or present at medical services. The narrative form is well known in diagnostic clinical consultations (Mattingly and Garro; Cox). We argue that the telling and retelling of the story by child protection clinicians in their everyday work practices underpins the cultural logic that facilitates the handling and management of children in need of child protection and enhances the quality of care provided.

panel P05
Appropriating childhood: the current state of play