Broken Circles to a Different Identity: An exploration of identity for children in out-of-home care in Queensland Australia

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Child protection manuals and literature emphasise that developing a sense of identity is one of the most important elements in achieving good outcomes for children in out of home care. Yet, the very issue of identity raises questions that many child protection workers are ill equipped to answer. In practice, Life Story Book work based on developmental theories has been utilised by child protection workers and foster carers as a response to a sense of “lost identity” for children in out of home care. However, Indigenous and psychological concepts of identity may be completely opposite.

Current theories of identity development in children lack evidence from the children and young people themselves in informing these notions, which have been criticised as adult-centric. Developmental theories may also be problematic for children from non-western cultural groups. This research was undertaken in a regional area of Queensland Australia where the majority of children in the child protection system who are identified as Indigenous come from two or more cultural backgrounds. The research presented in this paper surveys the formation of identity for children and young people in foster care, using narrative art therapy, with a particular emphasis on inter-racial( hybrid) and Indigenous children and young people. The completed first stage of this research provides insight into the images created by children and young people and explores identity, hybridity, culture and sense of self from their own perspective. The second part of the research views identity from the perspective of professionals working child protection and out-of-home care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-321
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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