Project: Investigation of the experiences & identity development of LBGT young people in care & the support they receive

Funder: Economic and Social Research Council

Dates: November 2014 - October 2016

Research team: Dr Jeanette Cossar, Professor Gillian Schofield, Christine Cocker, Dr Jane Dodsworth, Dr Birgit Larsson, Dr Pippa Belderson


There have been no major published research studies on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) young people in care in the UK and the services that may be needed to support them. Even in the Care Planning Guidance (DfE 2010), sexual orientation is not mentioned as an issue that may need to be taken into account in ensuring the well-being of young people in care. This is a matter for concern when research suggests that both LGBT young people and young people in care are at risk of stigma, discrimination, bullying and mental health difficulties. There is the potential, therefore, for LGBT young people in care to be in double jeopardy. This is likely to be especially true in adolescence and when making the transition from care to adulthood, a period which in itself is known to present challenges in relation to identity formation and forming close relationships, in addition to the difficulties of finding housing and employment in the absence of a supportive family


This study aims to investigate how LGBT young people in care experience growing up in foster and residential care and how they negotiate their identities. Of particular interest is the exploration of the intersectional relationship between care and LGBT statuses, understood in the context of the multiplicity of other factors, such as ethnicity or experiences of abuse, separation and loss that also contribute to identity formation. The study will also explore the provision nationally of services and support for LGBT young people in care and investigate the experiences of foster carers and residential workers who care for and support them.


A group of young researchers who are LGBT and /or care-experienced will assist with designing recruitment materials, piloting interviews and helping with the analysis and dissemination / achieving impact.

The study will use a mixed methods, layered design.

– A scoping review of the UK and international published policy, research and practice literature relevant to young people in care who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender

– In-depth interviews with a sample of 40 LGBT young people currently or previously in care age 16-25. Narrative analysis of the interviews will be used to provide an in-depth and nuanced account.

– Interviews with 25 foster carers who have experience of caring for LGBT young people. These will be analysed thematically.

– A survey of local authority and independent agency policy, provision and practice to identify whether LGBT young people in care or leaving care are offered any additional support.

– Multi-agency focus groups with professionals to explore the issues emerging from the literature review, survey and qualitative interviews.


The findings from this study will be used to inform policy and practice. A Good Practice Guide and information for young people will be published in partnership with the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).