Ready for ‘independence’? Transition biographies of foster care-experienced youth within England and Melbourne


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Cresswell, Caroline Lesley (2014). Ready for ‘independence’? Transition biographies of foster care-experienced youth within England and Melbourne. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Policy frames in England and Melbourne rely upon unrealistic understandings of young peoples’ transition experiences. Nebulous conflation of ‘youth’ with ‘transition’ insensitively infers a desired state of adult independence is an outcome of the capacity to follow correct transition paths. These understandings are consistent with a political interest in the individualised decision making competencies of young people. This is particularly relevant to ‘care leavers’, whose transitions are problematised, rendering their futures ‘risky’, and disregarding their perspectives.

The life stories of a sample of 20 foster care-experienced young people were supported through sensory ethnographic principles. The associated methods evoked narratives of past experience within care trajectories, tracing self-representations into the present, and sense making of independent futures. Participants’ transition biographies derived from a methodological and analytical orientation exploring the biographical-relational facets to transition. Metaphors of transition and independence were revealed, shaping development of a contemporary anthropological frame.

This thesis argues for a refocus upon the relational context to transition, and contests the contemporary significance of persistent debates regarding ‘structure’ or ‘agency’ as arbitrators of youths’ future. Supporting a sense of relatedness is crucial when ‘family’ is absent, particularly when moving forward to a desired future requires high degrees of affective recalibration.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Social Policy
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman


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