The stigma of being ‘in care’: Ambivalent feelings of exclusion and belonging

J M Rogers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper presents findings from my doctoral research that explores the social networks of young people in foster care, within the United Kingdom (UK). The research was qualitative and it draws on the theory of social capital as well as Goffman’s seminal work on stigma.

In the UK being ‘in care’ is a commonly used term to describe children and young people living in foster care or residential care arrangements. For the young people interviewed in this study being ascribed the status of ‘in care’ resulted in feelings of ambivalence. For example, the findings highlight how this status carried the negative consequences of stigmatization, with some participants being bullied for being ‘in care’. However, by contrast on occasion being ‘in care’ also afforded the participants’ positive self-protective factors, which often came from the support of close relationships with their peers who were also ‘in care’.

The findings highlight the potential importance of providing opportunities for young people ‘in care’ to access support from their ‘in care’ peers. This paper acknowledges that access to peer support may not necessarily lessen the ambivalent feelings of stigma, as the potential exclusion from the dominant in group remains. However, findings suggest that peer support is potentially beneficial as it seems to offer young people a critical way to maximize self- protective factors and to develop a sense of belonging.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2014
EventGlobal Social Science Conference - Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Apr 201413 Apr 2014


ConferenceGlobal Social Science Conference
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom
CityHong Kong


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