Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
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Staying Put? An exploration of the decisions made by young people leaving foster care

posted on 2023-08-30, 20:10 authored by Sally Pritchard
This study focuses on the experience of decision-making by young people leaving care, specifically whether or not they remain with their foster carers under a Staying Put arrangement. The Staying Put duty was introduced to delay the premature transition from foster care, identified as a contributory factor to poorer life chances for young people leaving care (Department for Education, 2016). This qualitative study used a Foucauldian lens to explore the operation of power in two aspects of the care experience: the act of decision- making and transitioning out of foster care. Semi-structured interviews were carried out across two local authorities with ten young people to examine: how much influence does the young person feel they have in making the decision to stay put or not, which factors inform and influence this decision, and what are the young people’s thoughts and feelings about making this decision? Constructivist thematic analysis was employed to analyse the accounts of the young people. Whilst young people had varied experiences, three main themes were identified. First, how young people’s agency was situated depending on the type of decision and opportunity for participation, highlighting how social work practice shapes young people’s decision-making about Staying Put. The second theme reflected the misaligned relationships, information and support that impacted on the young person’s decision-making about Staying Put. Third, the study identified the impact of transforming familial relationships in foster care through the operation of Staying Put. Throughout, emphasis was placed on the way power operates in social work interactions using Foucault’s concepts of power, discourse and subject to explore decision-making in the application of the Staying Put duty. Recommendations include greater openness, empathy, and involvement by professionals to help young people navigate their decision-making and the importance of being supported by knowledgeable adults who explain future possibilities. The need to have discussions about leaving care earlier and in a more supportive way. Preparation for independence needs to be more comprehensive and social workers and foster carers should address Staying Put earlier, ensuring young people are provided with an explanation if they are not able to stay. In addition, a talking point is raised about the premise of Staying Put as a way to support young people. This study contributes to existing knowledge about young people’s decision-making, Staying Put and leaving care.



Anglia Ruskin University

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