• Young people leaving care: plans, challenges and discourses

      Lamond, Catherine (2016-09)
      This small-scale study explored plans for four young people leaving care and the perspectives of twelve key adults supporting them. Using Fairclough’s model of critical discourse analysis, the rationale for this research was concern about the difference in outcomes between care leavers and young people in general. Aims were to explore if contradictions in plans and ideas contributed to problems for the young people, and to examine explanations and justifications made by the adult participants. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews from an opportunistic sample. Findings indicated that the established problem of young people having to leave care too early persists in spite of initiatives to prevent this happening. Theories drawn from the psychology of child development influence the professionals’ constructions of the young people, thereby limiting the responses which adults can offer. It is proposed that neoliberal discourses of individual responsibility and continuous self-improvement constrain systems which encourage young people to leave care before they are ready. Two concepts of chop (abrupt change, such as end of school phase) and churn (disruption, such as staff turnover) are used to examine how frequent disturbance in the life of a looked after child is exacerbated by points of rupture which are caused by the structures of children’s services. This study adds to calls for increased stability for young people, and recommends earlier planning for the future of young people in care. Implications for educational practice are presented, including the need to ensure that leaving mainstream education for segregated provision is not an irreversible decision. It is suggested that educators should consider critically the labelling of looked after children as having Special Educational Needs, as this can lead to practices which encourage compliance by young people, and pathologise resistance which could instead be re-framed as self-reliance.