The investigated programmes sail under the flag of the advancement of women, specifically to enhancing the qualification opportunities of their female participants. They are aimed at women's emancipation, that is, the attainment of professional qualifications by young single mothers. These target objectives create the space for learning processes and personality development for the duration of the programme. At the same time, they presuppose that the women are categorized as unfinished in the development for their emancipation and transition to adulthood. As immigrant women, their individualization suffers from shortfalls, and as young women lacking any initial training they have not yet reached adulthood, because they have not yet completed the partial transition to economic independence.
This configuration of single mothers is the starting point for a large number of so-called remedial programmes. Using creative methods from social work, adult education and the women's movement, these programmes strive to promote personality development, self-assurance and interpersonal skills. Depending on the programme, the primary objective is to become an emancipated woman or to take a hitherto missing step into adulthood. In either case, social workers are responsible for defining the target horizon of such programmes, for identifying developmental shortcomings and for guiding participants toward independent adulthood. Here, surprising parallels between a paternalistic orientation on the one hand, and an emancipatory one on the other, emerge. The open scope of these programmes, be it the breaking of gender roles or the adoption of a moratorium perspective, is not explicitly deem to carry its own weight in terms of social work. For staff members, the creative learning processes function in particular as a prerequisite for their clients' employability on the primary labour market. Ultimately, the social work concepts and those promoting the advancement of women are geared toward the economic objective of removing participants off the welfare roll as quickly as possible. Although the aim of social work to support its clients in gaining autonomy and educational opportunities is not abandoned, in the context of such programmes it is declared an intermediate step and made to serve integration into professional life.
Neither of the programmes studied here acknowledges unpaid care work at home as a type of work capable of effecting social integration. Managing life with a child is considered an achievement, but the labour market considers the
emotional dependencies and allegiances resulting from childcare an obstacle. This impediment needs to be overcome. For this reason, the programmes strive to educate the women to distance themselves to a certain extent from their caregiving duties. For instance, they must learn to place their children in day care facilities.
In this conception, the required 'detachment' from social welfare presupposes the mother's 'detachment' for her child. This marks an interesting reversal of the youth-specific issue of the need to separate from one's parents. In the force field between the self-concepts of 'intensive mothering' and 'new independence' (Daly 2011), the programmes orient themselves toward the latter. As Daly also suggests, their aim is to surmount 'old dependencies', in order to meet prevailing labour market constraints on flexibility as far as possible. Here, significant changes in social work conceptions become evident. The great emphasis placed on the mother–child relationship in educational theory is ousted by a conception of the mother who, because she cares for her child's welfare, jeopardizes both her own independence and her child's. Such a conception, moreover, leads to a failure to assess caregiving skills as productive in relation to employability.
As shown, the starting point for the measures adopted by the programmes is the figure of the unemployed, single mother. The ordering of the differences within this social category varies between the programmes. One programme focuses on the young age of its participants, the other foregrounds their gender and immigrant background. The women are addressed differently, depending on the configuration. Interestingly, the simultaneity of differences and their reciprocal influence (as is presumed in the debate on intersectionality; see Walgenbach 2007) is hardly reflected in the everyday practice of either programme. Thus, the social workers address the young women either as youths or as mothers. In our research, we observed that the inconsistent nature of both roles makes it difficult for staff members to handle both at the same time. To this day, neither social work nor society at large is particularly aware of the historical and social specifics of young single mothers as a particular configuration.
Strikingly, poverty is a dimension largely absent from client categorizations. Programme participants are welfare recipients and thus live on the margin of subsistence. Many have debts or must be very careful with money. Their lowincome backgrounds heighten the discrimination suffered by these women as single, poorly educated mothers. In most cases, they have access only to low-pay employment. The function of the programmes is to accommodate the women to the conditions of badly paid jobs that barely provide enough income to secure their livelihoods. They implement the adult worker model in a social stratum in which the search for employment and the division of tasks between caregiving and gainful employment offers precious little variation and choice.
History and theoretical debate, like a foreign culture, allow us to observe phenomena from a certain distance. Contradictions become even more obvious. A theoretical and historical framework enables us to raise critical questions about present practices. However, feminist social work aiming to empower the women participating in labour-integration programmes is not without contradictions. To operate between the labour market and social welfare means becoming involved in a challenging force field. Being mindful of theoretical debates and of history raises our awareness of the contradiction between the interests of the labour market and the professional standards of social work. If we are to avoid losing our way in the service of the new paradigms of social and labour market policy in the field of labour market integration, then we must maintain this contradiction and continue subjecting it to critical reflection.