Book Talk! System Kids: Adolescent Mothers and the Politics of Regulation

Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 12:00pm
Amado Recital Hall, Irvine 110
Author: Lauren Silver, Associate Professor of Childhood Studies, Rutgers - Camden

Discussant: John Jackson, Richard Perry University Professor, Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, Dean School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania

Co-Sponsored with SP2


System Kids: Adolescent Mothers and the Politics of Regulation explores the frustrations and ingenuity of youth in child welfare (and their caseworkers) illuminating the ways restrictive public policies and confusing urban bureaucracies perpetuate poverty, violence, and racial segregation.  Based on two years of feminist ethnography and also informed by my prior practice as a social worker, System Kids explores young mothers’ identity work, as they negotiate services to meet the needs of their children and themselves in a large, urban, U.S., child welfare system. In order to understand the relationship between identities and urban systems, I accompanied youth across the city—moving across court hearings, child welfare agencies, housing agencies, health clinics, schools, job-training sites, and childcare facilities.

I strive to bridge a gap between urban studies and youth studies.  Urban studies tend to focus on large-scale changes in the economies, politics, and socio-demographics of cities while youth studies tend to focus on the social construction of young people through everyday settings (Hansen 2008).  In this talk, I engage with urban space and policy as more than a setting or backdrop to the strenuous practice of identity work.  Instead, I draw upon passages from System Kids to show how the urban enlivens a complex matrix of gender, race, class, and age divisions through which youth negotiate and shift their identities.