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This chapter examines strategies for addressing power imbalances, bias and disempowerment in the research process from the perspective of both care-experienced and non-care-experienced researchers. Also, this chapter reflects on practical advice for those engaging with care-experienced people in research and doing so can create more authentic, empowering and meaningful experiences for care-experienced participants in ways that reduce fear of shame, stigma, tokenism and re-traumatisation.

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Street-involved children are recognised as a social concern worldwide. In South Africa, there are an estimated 250,000 street-involved children, living mostly in the larger centres of the country. Street-involved children’s lives are characterised by hardship and stigmatisation; they live on the very edges of society. However, street-involved children demonstrate considerable resilience in their daily lives as they navigate and negotiate their way to accessing resources necessary for their daily lives and future goals. This study entailed qualitative interviews with nine young adults who had lived on the streets prior to coming into care, and then been taken up into the residential care of a children’s home and had since aged out of care. The study examined the accounts of the resilience of these nine care-leavers while living on the streets. The findings show that, while on the streets, participants demonstrated resilience in building family-like connections, networking people for resources and reflecting on their learning through life experiences. The authors argue that recognising and celebrating these resilience factors when working with former street-involved children in care will enable them to incorporate these resilience processes into a repertoire of resilience enablers for life.

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This book has aimed to conduct research about edgy facets of leaving care – understudied groups of care-leavers, and fresh methodological approaches and innovative theories. In this concluding chapter, we draw together key findings regarding these three facets, highlighting what has been learned collectively through this project. The research has been conducted and chapters written by authors from all over the world who are, mostly, on the edge, transitioning between postgraduate student and scholar. Spring-boarding from their new insights, the chapter attempts to imagine what leaving-care research will look like in the future and where the new edges might be. It will draw attention to the many gaps and edges that remain and suggest possibilities for ongoing research that pushes the boundaries yet further forward.

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To assist care-leavers in navigating transitional challenges, developmental and environmental resources are essential. Additionally, informal support is pivotal to the transition of care-leavers into adulthood. A small qualitative study conducted from 2016 to 2019 in Victoria, Australia, provides the basis for this chapter. The research used an analytical framework based on the core concepts of social capital and social support. It helped explore how social support actions and social capital functions interact to allow young people to harness and access developmental and environmental resources to help meet their transitional needs. Social support and capital have been found to contribute to meaningful relationships, normative social experiences, resilience, positive self-identity and progressive responsibility. Policy and practice implications are also discussed in the chapter.

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A solid foundation of knowledge about care-leaving processes and outcomes has been laid, albeit largely in a few Global North countries. This knowledge foundation has edges that have been neglected, even overlooked. Young people leaving care are, in many ways, ‘on the edge’, as they transition between childhood and adulthood, care and independence, school and work. Thus, this book discusses and reflects on hitherto little considered, forward-looking questions and research approaches, rather than keeping to the mainstream research topics. The title also describes the backgrounds of the authors who themselves are ‘on the edge’ as well – emerging from their postgraduate studies around the globe. This book aims to conduct research about edgy facets of leaving care – understudied groups of care-leavers, fresh methodological approaches and innovative theories. It draws together key findings regarding these three facets, highlighting what has been learned collectively. All chapters attempt to imagine how leaving-care research will look in the future and where the new edges might be. Finally, the editors draw attention to the many gaps and edges that remain and suggest possibilities for ongoing research that pushes the boundaries yet further forward.

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Leaving care involves a dynamic tension between a young person’s individual agency and the institutional processes comprising a wide range of service organisations. However, research on leaving care still tends to focus on either the individual or the institution. By contrast ‘institutional ethnography’ offers a method that can analyse the key organising concepts of leaving care and their relationship to one another by shedding light on the meeting place, ‘the edge’, that links individual agency and institutional processes that together drive care-leaving as a lived experience. Institutional ethnography begins with individual, local, lived experiences and then analyses the translocal institutional factors contributing to those experiences. It not only explicates how institutional processes shape individuals’ experiences but also how individual agency activates the institutional context. The chapter draws on two studies of leaving care in Norway – one focused on social work decisions and the other on the experiences of disabled care-leavers – to illustrate how institutional ethnography can be used as a method to understand care-leaving as the relationship between individual agency and institutional processes.

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A solid foundation of knowledge about care-leaving processes and outcomes has been laid, albeit largely in a few Global North countries. This knowledge foundation has edges that have been neglected, even overlooked. Young people leaving care are, in many ways, ‘on the edge’, as they transition between childhood and adulthood, care and independence, school and work. This aims to introduce these aspects and to edgy topics in the book regarding specific groups of care-leavers, methods and theories, rather than keeping to the mainstream research topics. Further, it describes the backgrounds of the authors who themselves are ‘on the edge’ as well – emerging from their postgraduate studies around the globe.

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LGBTQIA+-identified youth are over-represented in foster care and must overcome added challenges due to ongoing exposure to discrimination and mistreatment associated with their sexuality, gender identity and/or expression. As a result of these challenges, LGBTQIA+ care leavers are likely to experience disparities in health and wellbeing when compared to their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. This chapter begins by providing an overview of the literature regarding LGBTQIA+ youth exiting foster care with a specific focus on shifting from risk-based research to studies that highlight the ways in which LGBTQIA+ youth are resilient to these challenges. Next, several theories are discussed to help frame the experiences of LGBTQIA+ care leavers and to assist in the development of research, policy and practice that is theoretically grounded in strengths-based perspectives. The chapter concludes by highlighting the need to integrate critically based practice with inclusive structural approaches to promote more equitable and affirming care and increase the health and wellbeing of these youth.

Open access

This chapter explores facets of instability in the lives of young care-leavers. Care-leavers are often highlighted as living unstable lives and making ad hoc and short-term choices that limit their possibilities for long-term and life course planning. Theoretically, the chapter is informed by the concept of a habitus of instability which stresses that actions causing unstable patterns in the present are based on uncertain and unstable circumstances while growing up. Methodologically, the chapter draws on a qualitative longitudinal study with interviews being conducted with eight care-leavers approximately every six months over two years. Generally, the young people emphasised a habitus of instability as being the fundamental condition of life. However, the findings point to different ways they position themselves in relation to experiences of instability, as when they change their educational status, living arrangements and circle of friends. The chapter concludes by discussing the possible consequences of a habitus of instability in the lives of care-leavers.

Open access
Innovative Research on Leaving Care and Transitions to Adulthood

EPDF and EPUB available Open Access under CC-BY licence.

Young people transitioning out of care towards independence, work and adulthood are on the edge of these phases of life. Considering previously neglected groups of care leavers such as unaccompanied migrants, street youth, those leaving residential care, young parents and those with a disability, this book presents cutting-edge research from emerging global scholars.

The collection addresses the precarity experienced by many care leavers, who often lack the social capital and resources to transition into stable education, employment and family life. Including the voices of care leavers throughout, it makes research relevant to practitioners and policymakers aiming to enable, rather than label, vulnerable groups.

Open access