AbstractChild protection manuals and literature emphasise that developing a sense of identity is one of the most important elements in achieving good outcomes for children and young people in out of home care. Yet, the very issue of identity raises questions that many child protection workers are ill equipped to answer. 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 adultcentric. Essentially this research is about placing the narratives of children and young people in care to the forefront, whilst exploring what this means in practice by contextualising these narratives within the systemic paradigms that impinge upon their lived experience.
The research presented in this paper surveys the formation of identity for children and young people in out of home care, using narrative art therapy, with a particular emphasis on multi-cultural and Indigenous children and young people. The research provides insight into the images created by children and young people and explores identity, culture and sense of self from their own perspective.
The 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. Hence, the unique racial mix of the research site also provides insight into multi-cultural identity. Only two participants in the research were from only one culture and only one of these was Anglo Australian. Unlike other studies, which have focused on children who are from two cultures with one of these cultures being Anglo, the children in this study represented children from up to five cultures, ensuring a unique opportunity to explore how children negotiate several cultural identities simultaneously. As a consequence the research offers insights into the implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, whilst exploring the issues that arise as both a consequence of adherence to the principle and practice that informs its implementation.
The second part of the research views identity from the perspective of professionals working in child protection and out of home care. The narratives within the research highlight the depth and complexity of working with children and identity in child protection, particularly for Indigenous workers. What becomes apparent as a consequence is the disempowerment experienced by the Indigenous workers along with the disparity in belief systems between those that underpin Indigenous identity and those embedded in child protection practice. As explored in this research, Indigenous identity is linked to the spirit and the spirit is intrinsic to healing. This thesis explores this question particularly as it pertains to Indigenous children in out of home care. This research proposes a new working paradigm that acknowledges non-western notions of identity as a way forward in developing alternative ways of working with Indigenous children in out of home care.
|Date of Award||2012|