New research unveils impacts of being in the care system for young people from minority backgrounds

Tuesday 23 January 2024

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Research by Coventry University is aiming to increase support for young people from minority backgrounds in the care system.

Coventry University researchers talked to people aged 14-19 of Black, Asian and mixed heritages to unravel how they perceive themselves and the ways in which their experiences in the care system have influenced their identities.

Professor Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor and Dr Kusha Anand from the Research Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, along with Dr Alison Halford from the Research Centre for Computational Science and Mathematical Modelling, relief on the voices and stories of young minoritised people in care to better understand the relationship between ethnicity, religion and identity, and how their identities evolved and changed as they navigated their way through the care system.

The research project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also examined young people’s interactions with social workers, foster carers and other support structures for help with navigating their identities.

Based on a report generated within the project, a secure and stable home that provides a sense of belonging serves as a vital space for young people from minority backgrounds in care to navigate the complexities of their situations and identities.

The research spurred the creation of a new framework named “Identities In-Flux” with the aim of improving guidelines for the support plans of young people and children in care.
The In-Flux model focuses on the interaction between socio-ethnic-religious factors, biological heritage, being in care and the agency of young people to broaden the conversation beyond singular aspects of identity and support inclusive policies and practices for children from diverse backgrounds entering care.

By acknowledging the constant flux in children’s understanding of their own identities and the profound impact of external influences, such as the care environment, the In-Flux model aims to guide social work professionals towards a better understanding of children’s identities.

The research highlights the importance of taking the time to understand each child's identity. It also encourages genuine curiosity and open conversations when considering transcultural placements, where a child is placed with a carer from a different race or ethnic group.

Each child or young person in care is unique. Our research findings insist that professionals and families involved in their care take time to talk to them, to listen to them and to understand their version of who they are.

Professor Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University

The research shows a mixed picture of children’s experiences of the care system often being determined by a misunderstanding of their identities and needs denying them agency in the decisions made about them. Accommodating the layered identities of children may appear daunting but this research shows that it needn’t be – using a child-led approach and simple acts of empathy and connection can create a positive space to support their complex journey of identity development.

Ash Patel, Programme Head Justice at the Nuffield Foundation

Find out more about the project.

Read the report.

three young people of ethnic minorities animation

Expressions of Self

Discover the insights into the expressions of self, race, religion, and representation of care-experienced children and young people though the animation.


The Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University showcases the institution's enduring dedication to impactful research benefiting global society. It has garnered acclaim for its comprehensive exploration of integrated peacebuilding, trust dynamics, and social and community relations.

About Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation.