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  • Author or Editor: Jennifer Skattebol x
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It is now accepted that high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) can bring lasting benefits to children from disadvantaged contexts. However, a significant number of families with young children who are disadvantaged find it difficult to take up resources in the ECEC system. As governments all over the world heed arguments that ECEC is a prudent social investment, it is useful to consider the service system from the perspective of the families targeted by these logics. Outside of the United Kingdom, the question of how families make moral and practical decisions about their use of ECEC has received relatively little attention. This article draws on an Australian study, which explored how families who were disadvantaged imagined strong childrearing environments and then used services to progress this vision. These perspectives complicate and challenge social investment approaches that predominantly focus on the provision of childcare or preschool subsidies and places as a way of redressing social disadvantage. Many participants wanted to establish family stability and adequate material and social resources before participating in early years education. Investment in community development is an important mechanism for addressing service exclusion.

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When young women who have grown up in contact with child protection become mothers, they shift from being regarded as a child ‘at risk’ by the child protection system, to posing ‘a risk’ to their baby. In contrast to their peers, young care leavers transition to adulthood with very few resources and little support; they typically continue to experience the economic and related adversities of their childhoods. This article draws on biographical narrative interviews with young Australian mothers to understand how they navigate child protection as new mothers. We argue that, while inequalities endure, new understandings of the system can be acquired and dispositions can adapt to function more effectively in the field of child protection. We draw on Bourdieu’s notions of capital, habitus and field to analyse young mothers' adaptations, with additional insights from Hester’s analogy of separate planets to explore their experiences of the field of child protection.

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