Continuities and discontinuities: issues concerning the establishment of a persistent sense of self amongst care leavers

2014-09-17T10:24:11Z (GMT) by Harriet Ward
Research in a number of countries has demonstrated the importance of developing a sense of belonging and connectedness as key factors that facilitate the move towards independence for young people leaving care (see Stein, 2008). This paper utilises findings from a longitudinal study of looked after children (including interviews with care leavers) to explore how the evidence from Canadian research into the significance of perceptions of self continuity for identity formation can improve our understanding of care leavers' experiences and the factors that may act as barriers to their making a smooth transition.The findings demonstrate the extent of disruption and instability that care leavers may experience both before, during and after the care episode. This lack of continuity is exemplified for many young people by the loss of treasured possessions such as mementoes of parents and photographs of previous homes and carers. Constant experience of transience may act as a barrier to the establishment of a sense of self continuity. This may increase the likelihood of leaving care becoming a transitional flashpoint during which difficulties in moving on to adulthood increase the propensity for young people to lose sight of the thread that connects their past to their future, and engage in self-destructive behaviours. Premature, compressed and accelerated transitions may increase the chances of this happening. The paper argues that greater attention to the preservation of possessions that have a symbolic value might be a simple means of helping care leavers develop a stronger sense of connectedness.