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Strangers and estrangement: Young people’s renegotiations of birth and foster family relationships as they transition out of care and the implications for the state as parent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-551
Number of pages13
JournalChildrens Geographies
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jan 2018
Accepted/In press19 Sep 2017
E-pub ahead of print4 Jan 2018
Published1 Sep 2019


King's Authors


Many young people ageing out of state care continue to experience very poor life outcomes. Based on research following 21 care leavers aged 15-18 over three years, this article charts how children’s experiences in troubled birth families are often compounded in care by multiple placement moves, the gradual disintegration of sibling units over time, and troubling relationships with the adults charged with their care. It considers the effects of living with strangers and of transient relationships with carers and professionals and explores young people’s feelings of rejection by, and responsibility for, their birth families. The capacity of the ‘corporate parent’ model to ensure adequate attention is paid to relationships in young people’s lives is questioned. Hollingsworth’s theory of foundational rights, incorporating considerations of relational autonomy, is utilized to reconsider the state’s obligations towards children for whom it has taken on the parental role, both during and beyond their legal minority.

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