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Ethnicity reflections in foster families

the complexity of transculturally placed foster youth’s ethnic identity and the way they are ethnically socialized by their primary carers
PhD ceremony:Ms C.J. (Clementine) Degener
When:November 25, 2021
Supervisor:prof. dr. H.W.E. (Hans) Grietens
Co-supervisor:prof. dr. D.D. (Diana) van Bergen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Ethnicity reflections in foster families

In the Netherlands, family foster care is considered a preferred setting for children removed from their homes compared to residential care. Because foster youth with ethnic minority backgrounds are overrepresented in the Dutch foster care system, and non-kinship foster parents with ethnic minority backgrounds are scarce, transcultural placements occur frequently in Dutch foster care. Using a qualitative approach, this dissertation investigated how being transculturally placed may influence foster youth’s ethnic identity from the perspective of both foster youth and their foster parents. Foster youth may receive different messages by foster parents, birth parents, and peers concerning ethnicity belonging. These messages could lead to ethnic identity confusion in the foster youth’s narratives. Some foster youth managed to switch between different cultural frames. Ethnic minority identity and the identity of being a foster child, two marginalized identities in society, could thereby intersect, and strengthen a sense of ‘otherness.’ This dissertation furthermore showed that although most foster parents valued ethnicity in their foster youth’s lives, their primary focus was to provide them a safe and stable foster home. For foster parents, ethnically socializing their foster youth can thereby be a complex act of balancing between belonging to each other as one family versus emphasizing ethnicity differences. This dissertation shows the urgency for Dutch foster care agencies to recognise and help ethnic minority youth discover who they are and to whom they belong in terms of ethnicity.