According to the principles of parent support programmes as upheld by the French family benefit fund (Caisses d’allocations familiales – CAF), parents should be the main actors in these programmes and participate voluntarily, or even have proactive roles, with social advisers adopting a welcoming and non-judgmental stance towards them. Discourses in the political and media arenas, among social advisers and even families themselves, describe certain immigrant families as living in normative worlds that are supposedly different from the French mainstream. This raises questions as to how they adapt, in practice, to the action that is offered to them and to the context of interaction with social advisers and other families. To answer this question, different qualitative methods were combined in a survey on different sites. Twenty-seven ethnographic observations of parent support programmes were carried out in 2018, in parent-toddler support spaces (LAEP), parenting support networks (REAAP), and local school support programmes (CLAS). Along with these observations, semi-structured interviews were held with stakeholders (92 interviews with social advisers, parents, and social workers) in three départements. It thus emerged that immigrant parents’ attendance at, and ability to find their place in these programmes depend on how their own life context fits in with the organizational modalities of the actions (understood in the broad sense, that is, accounting for the institutional framework, the organization of the action, and social advisers’ attitudes). The way in which social actors’ respective positions in the interaction intersects with families’ degree of freedom is what impacts parents’ agency. We were therefore able to define four types of capacities for action, depending on parent’s perception of these schemes and of the more or less restrictive nature of the interactions between parents and social advisers: Adherence, co-construction, participation and parental opposition.
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