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‘Family doesn’t have to be mom and dad’: An exploration of the meaning of family for care-experienced young people

Rees, Alyson ORCID:, Roberts, Louise ORCID: and Taussig, Heather 2023. ‘Family doesn’t have to be mom and dad’: An exploration of the meaning of family for care-experienced young people. Families, Relationships and Societies 10.1332/20467435Y2023D000000002

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Young people who experience out-of-home care have typically encountered difficult and / or disrupted family relationships. This article reports on a survey undertaken in the USA with 215 young adults (aged 18 and 22) who experienced out-of-home care starting in preadolescence. The paper examines responses to an open-ended interview question, “How do you define family?”. The analysis highlighted that few young people define family as confined to blood relations. More commonly, young people adopted more flexible definitions, prioritising the ‘doing’ and ‘feeling’ of family, over biological connections. Moreover, the propensity for young people to reflect on their conceptions of family and attempt to “do family” differently from what they had experienced was also evident. The findings encourage consideration of the utility of family as an important concept for child welfare practice, as positive and flexible understandings of family were imbued with a sense of agency, identity, belonging and overall well-being. Key messages (if applicable): (Summarising the main messages from the paper in up to four bullet points) 1. Care experienced young people conceptualise family in different ways 2. Care experienced young people may have ambivalent feeling about birth family and may need help to work through this. 3. Care experienced young people need opportunities to make and deepen friendships. 4. Practitioners should actively destigmatise conceptualisations of family that differ from traditional notions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Policy Press
ISSN: 2200-0883
Funders: National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice., National Institute of Mental Health
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 25 September 2023
Date of Acceptance: 18 September 2023
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2023 08:18

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