Sociology Gold: The sociology research of Goldsmiths, University of London

PhD project: Who Cares About Mixed Race? Care experiences of young people in an inner city borough


Candidate: Dr. Fiona Peters

Growing up as a child of the State and having corporate parents, in the form of foster carers, is an enduring feature among the mixed race population. Mixed race is a factor of disadvantage in the Children’s Social Care system, who despite being only 3% of the population make up 9% of children in care (DfE). The exponential population growth of Mixed and its young age structure (50% under sixteen years) requires further theorisation beyond the dominant psychologising notions of identity. This research examines the mixed classification and its embodiment, within fostering, through narratives of young people currently in foster care. The scope of the project offers young people the opportunity to talk outside of the remit of care to offer rich, insightful knowledge about their lives. The lack of empirical sociological knowledge of young people’s lived experience of mixedness in foster care makes this project unique and adds significantly to existing gaps in the literature.

The content of the project introduces a number of key concerns in relation to how mixed race families are understood though a sociological analysis of class, gender, geographical location and sexuality. It further explores how social care processes act upon the care trajectory of mixed race young people during care admission, short term fostering, long term fostering and care leaving.

The scope of the research explores mixed as a classification with ambiguous and uncertain ethnic, cultural and racial boundaries, which leads to inconsistent decision-making among practitioners in relation to foster placements. The content is organised around a fairly typical care trajectory beginning with care admission in which race, culture and ethnic belonging are significant in planning appropriate placements. Moving onto short-term foster care, in which ideas about belonging through these distinct racial, ethnic and cultural categories can lead to transience and instability. Moving onto long-term foster care, when decisions about permanence can be hampered by social care policy and guidelines in relation to an emphasis on appropriate ethnic matching. Finally, through a discussion of the support system available to care leavers it demonstrates that mixed race as a social location when linked to gender and geographical location can lead to increased sexual exploitation and vulnerability for female care leavers. The research examines how mixedness both impacts and informs the lived experiences of foster care.

The overall aim of the research is to bring new sociological knowledge to bear on mixed race childhoods lived in foster care, through compelling narrative interviews and careful analysis. The research Theoretically relies on poststructuralist understandings of the constitution of subjectivity, race, gender  and sexuality. the project sits at the intersection of two fields of knowledge not often brought together; being critical race studies and the growing sub-area of studies into mixedness as identity, social positioning and discourse and the concerns of social policy and practice communities regarding racialised identities and cultural values and practices especially in relation to parenting.

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