Preserving and memorialising relationships: exploring young people’s experiences of foster care through the lens of social capital

Justin Rogers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper presents findings from a doctoral research project undertaken with young people growing up in foster care in the United Kingdom (UK). The sociological concept of social capital underpinned the study’s theoretical framework. Social capital is a concept of particular relevance for young people in foster care, as they have experienced disruption to their social networks. The study adopted a qualitative approach in order to explore how the young people managed their relationships in their social networks and subsequently their access to social capital. To achieve this visual research methods were utilised across two in-depth interviews with ten participants, which included drawing eco maps with the young people as well as photo-elicitation.

Findings demonstrate that despite the apparent disruption to their social networks, the young people in this study worked hard, often against the odds, to maintain their relationships, networks and access to their social capital. They achieved this in two key ways. Firstly, participants maintained their present relationships with their family and friends, often through what could be seen as ordinary practices but in the extraordinary circumstance of being in foster care. Secondly, these young people demonstrated their agency by being able to preserve relationships that had been in ended or limited due to their experience of care. They often achieved this preservation through practices of memorialisation.

The paper will highlight implications for policy and practice, which include the need to recognise the value of young people’s personal possessions as they enabled young people to engage in practices to memorialise lost relationships that were important to them. Findings also reinforce the need to, wherever possible, support young people in their attempts to preserve relationships across their networks, as this allows them to access social capital.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventEUSARF 2016 XIV International Conference: Shaping the future - University of Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain
Duration: 13 Sept 201616 Sept 2016


ConferenceEUSARF 2016 XIV International Conference


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