‘Different’ and ‘Devalued’: managing the stigma of foster care with the benefit of peer support

Justin Rogers

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This paper presents findings from a study that explored the experiences of young people living in foster care in the United Kingdom (UK). Previous research highlights that children and young people in foster care experience stigma. Qualitative methods were chosen to explore how the young people in this study experience and manage stigma in their day to day lives.

Findings provide valuable insights into how the participants cope with the challenges of stigma. There were two key ways they did this; 1) by carefully managing the disclosure of their ‘in care’ status; 2) by drawing support from their social relationships. Furthermore, the participants particularly valued support from their peers who were also living in foster care, as it enabled them to form an in-group, which presented them with a valuable sense of belonging.

These findings have implications for practice and this paper proposes two ways to better support young people in foster care to cope with stigma. Firstly, by valuing the importance of friendship groups and enabling young people to maintain their existing friendships. Secondly, by developing more opportunities that bring fostered young people together, which enables them to interact with their peers without the pressure of managing stigma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078–1093
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


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