FROM IDEA TO REALITY: THE EVOLUTION OF NEW BEGINNINGS
New Beginnings is a concept which was initially inspired by the Flemish organisation 'Stobbe' and later developed through the work of sociologist Imogen Tyler (2013a; 2013b). Comparative research carried out by Leigh (2013; 2014; 2017) into the way in which services are provided in Flanders, Belgium and England, found that in Flanders residential centres are effective in providing better outcomes for children and parents. The findings showed that once parents were separated from the issues they faced, they were able to see their situation differently. The classes they attended provided parents with the space they were needed to develop their own emotional resilience and improve their parenting abilities. However, Imogen Tyler (2013a; 2013b) found that when women have, in multiple historical and social contexts, come together as part of a maternal commons, they work collectively to resist their classification as ‘waste populations’. An intrinsic part of New Beginnings is to deepen the mothers understanding into who they are and who they have been through the telling and sharing of personal histories. This method is rooted in the recognition that if change is to occur in parenting practices, then individuals need to be able to articulate their perspectives on what has happened to them, be heard and also listened to.
In relational activism, maternal commons can be understood as providing a common space for individuals to come together, share words, deeds and accomplish transformational beginnings (Tyler, 2013a) or materialise the hidden but constitutive grounds of biopolitical protest (Tyler, 2013b). As Tyler and Baraitser (2013: 6) contend, from birth onwards we are fundamentally dependant on others for our life story and hence our changing understanding of ‘who’ we ‘are’. In short, our fundamental sense of ourselves is always already narrative, relational and subject to change.
The History of Stobbe
Stobbe means the stump of a tree and signifies ‘new beginning’ for families. It opened in 1990. It was originally a homeless hostel for women with one or more children and for women who were fleeing from domestic violence. Stobbe was aware that there were often issues between the mother and their children who were staying at the centre and these could not be resolved by working with the parents alone. In 1998, they developed an agreement with families who came to Stobbe, one which focused on working with children AND their parents. The support included financial support; finding a home and all other child in need issues. However, they mainly focused on relationships between the mother and the child. They also realised that if there was a father present who was living with the family, or having a relationship with the child, then he should be able to join them so that Stobbe could work holistically with the family as a unit. If there was no partner, or only one parent, then they would continue to work with the single parent and the children. They also worked with same sex couples. Stobbe is driven by the belief that parents and children need to be together to learn how to function well as a family. Stobbe is not driven by performance indicators or cost-effective measures. It is part of a social welfare ideology which believes that everyone who wants a chance of turning things around should be given one.