Dissertation Abstracts

Queer(y)ing Care: Queer Families and In-Home Child Care Arrangements

Author: Kathryn M Hinchey, k.hinchey@gmail.com
Department: Graduate School of Social Sciences
University: University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Supervisor: Christian Broer
Year of completion: 2019
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: LGBTQ , SOGIE , Domestic Work , Resilience
Areas of Research: Family Research , Youth , Childhood


This thesis research project explores the experiences of and interactions between queer families and care workers in home-based contexts. Existing research explores lived experiences of care workers and queer families through the lenses of symbolic interactionism, queer, and intersectionality theories, this study applies a similar theoretical framework to in-home childcare relationships. Drawing on 78 open ended survey responses and 20 semi-structured interviews with queer parents and care workers, my mixed-methods research builds on the existing literature on queer family life. This research sought to answer the questions, What kind of “home-based” childcare arrangements do queer families and care workers use? What risk and protective factors are experienced and under which conditions they can thrive given adversity? My participants used a diverse set of arrangements that I classified into three categories: 1. Paid In Home Care, 2. Alternative In-Home Care Partnerships, and 3. In Home Day Care Centers. The factors structuring these arrangements were also diverse and I found that queer families in the US stand at the intersection of many forms of vulnerability. Risk factors included political contexts, access to resources, and the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. Due to the lack of consistent legislation from state to state and even city to city, queer families are subjected to many levels of policy that most US families are able to take for granted. The consequences of this patchwork include exposure to stigmatization and unequal access to resources like legal protections or queer communities. Protective factors were also a condition for resilient queer families. In order to enhance personal and family well-being, I observed intentional and unintentional protection processes. Parents screen for affirming care intentionally through disclosure in ads, specific interview questions, and community references that they assume establish shared values. My participants thrived when connected to a community of support, online and in person. One element of this project has been the development of a 230 member closed Facebook group, ‘Unicorn Families and Allies’ where carers can connect and share resources. I found that my participants thrive through a dynamic process of adaptation to their circumstances and the needs of the children in their care. I believe that the combination of these processes produces family and individual resilience, affirming care arrangements, and egalitarian work environments for carers. While looking to define a “unicorn family”, this work considers what can be learned when domestic lives of queer families and their care workers challenges the heteronormativity prevalent in dominant discourses of care work and family life. My participants experiences of how queer parents and their care workers divide and arrange their caregiving roles and relationships contributes a much needed window into the homes of some of America’s most resilient families.