Care Leavers and Children's Services: Exploring the utility of Communities of Practice in theorising transition

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This article considers the application of Communities of Practice theory to understand transition into, through and out of care, arguing that a sense of belonging and identity emerges from participation in supportive communities. We consider the influence of community on looked after children and care leavers’ sense of identity, engagement and well- being in transition. We also focus on the ways in which service policy and provision shapes professional practice. In doing so, we move beyond the argument for supportive relationships to examine some of the practices which mediate the interpersonal and reflect on the need to understand the meanings of disengagement. We discuss some of the ways practices within and across different communities affect young people’s trajectories and professionals’ responses, such as developing resilience, preparation for leaving care and achieving independence. Whilst current policy and provision focuses on preparation for independence, the article claims that resilience emerges through community and considers the importance of developing supportive social ecologies for cared for children to sustain them in their transition from care. It also calls for an examination of assumptions of accountability and measurement in policy and the importance of hearing the voices of professionals and developing dynamic and responsive practices.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Early online date3 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Oct 2019


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