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Investigating ‘care leaver’ identity: A narrative analysis of personal experience stories

Craig Evans

2019

People who spent time in public care as children are often represented as ‘care leavers’. This paper investigates how ‘care leaver’ is discursively constructed as a group identity, by analyzing 18 written personal experience stories from several charity websites by people identified or who self-identify as care leavers. Several approaches to narrative analysis are used: a clause-level analysis based on Labovʼs code scheme; the identification of turning points; an analysis of ‘identity work’; and an analysis of subject positions relative to ‘master narratives’. The findings from each of the methods are then combined to reveal how intertextual, narrative-structural, and contextual factors combine to constitute a common care leaver discourse. This forms the basis for a characterization of ‘care leaver’ group identity as ‘survivors of the system’. The findings also reveal how ‘care leaver’ as type, including stereotype, influences how identity is constructed in the personal experience narratives.