Key findings

Feelings of belonging:

  • are complex, often ambivalent and undermined by frequent moves
  • may be moulded by experiences of noisy residential homes or draw on networks of inside and outside places and as such may not reflect conventional ideas of home.
  • are strongest in places which incorporate reminders of important people and memories and support the possibility of imagination, creativity.

Feelings of belonging and self-identity are carried through multiple placements by the presence (and often visibility) of personal items. These are associated with good relationships, memories and imagination and may include:

  • biographical items connected to important peopleand places the young people may not always beable to contact or see (photos, cuddly toys, brokenclocks, old bike helmets and various other unlikely objects)
  • comforting items which provide comfort through physical texture and smell (cuddly toys, perfume)
  • social items which provide access to music, film, you tube, computer games and virtual worlds (interactive gaming and facebook), to contact with friends and socialising at a distance, and to storing photos and music (mobile phones, computers)
  • reflective items allowing reflection on personal experience (books, music)
  • escapist items allowing escape from difficult thoughts (books, gaming, music)

Feelings of belonging to a place are supported by diverse factors including:

  • access to private spaces in which to be alone and work through difficult emotions
  • being able to personalise own places (involvement in decoration, displaying personal pictures and items)
  • feeling integrated within, and able to contribute to, communal activities
  • a sense of security (provided for some by locks on doors, for others by open doors)
  • animals (associated with physical contact, affection and security)

The transition to independent living is difficult, and requires extended support.

Certain agencies, particularly the police, are perceived by many as unsupportive and hostile.

The severe financial pressure experienced by many excellent agencies supporting looked after young people seems to be having an adverse effect on them.

Participative, creative, sensory methods can help young people to discuss difficult issues.