Care experiences of looked-after, dual heritage young
University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences,
This thesis explores the care experiences of looked-after, dual heritage young people
with one white and one black African Caribbean parent. These young people have a
history of spending longer periods in care than others and the assumption is that they
experience identity confusion because they are neither white nor black. Given that very
little is actually known in this domain, it has been necessary to examine their care
experiences in order to unpack the myths and assumptions surrounding them.
Perspectives from their carers, practitioners and, in some cases, the young people’s files
informed this thesis. The term dual heritage has been used throughout to refer to this
group except when making reference to other people’s work.
When considering placements for all children and young people, Section 22 (5) (c) of
the Children Act 1989 stresses the importance of taking into account their religion, race,
language and cultural background. In addition to these factors, I found that practitioners
also took into account the placement family’s ability to support dual heritage young
people in coping with racism. In most cases, this resulted in the young people being
placed in black families. Thus, the implementation of Section 22 (5) (c) can result in the
neglect of dual heritage young people’s ‘white heritage’.
This qualitative study used in-depth, semi-structured interviews involving sixteen
young people, carers, practitioners, and case files. The stories told by the young people
highlighted respect as the most important factor in placement and the need to be seen as
individuals with different personalities rather than labelled purely on the basis of their
skin colour. Like all looked-after individuals, these young people need to be listened to,
loved and cared for at all times.
This thesis found that looked-after, dual heritage young people are a heterogeneous
group with diverse needs and for them; the ethnicity of their practitioners or carers is
irrelevant. Although they used different terms to identify themselves, these young
people were all comfortable with their dual heritage identity. They reported experiences
of racism from black and white people, institutional racism, as well as racism within the
family. Perhaps, given the diverse groups of vulnerable children and young people in
Britain today, the time has come to re-examine practitioners’ interpretation of the ‘best
interest’ of the dual heritage young person or child under Section 22 (5) (c) of the
Children Act 1989.
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