"We've always had drugs": Addiction Iconography and the Politics of Child Welfare Reform in Kentucky

EB Saldaña, Anthropology

Wed, 11/18/2020 - 12:00pm
via Zoom
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

To RSVP, please email jrivkin@princeton.edu

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract:  "In 1990, the United States Children’s Bureau created the National Child Abuse and Neglect Database to collect and distribute individual state data about child abuse and neglect rates. Since the inception of the database, Kentucky has been the only state that has consistently been among the ten worst states and has been ranked first in the country in child abuse rates since 2018. In this dissertation chapter, I examine these numbers and the accompanying policy narratives about how Kentucky got to this point. Drawing on ethnographic participant observation with social services officials, child welfare advocates, local journalism, archival research, and conversations with former foster youth, I describe and analyze the key talking points and policy solutions proposed to solve child abuse in the commonwealth. These proposed solutions emphasize substance use treatment and prevention and reunification services. I argue that although the reconfiguration of child welfare systems is admirable, the proposed prevention approaches often depend upon and reproduce addiction iconography that limit the political possibilities for child welfare transformation, while exacerbating harms associated with state surveillance and visibility."

EB Saldaña