“Caught” versus “Taught”: Ethnic identity and the ethnic socialization experiences of African American adolescents in kinship and non-kinship foster placementsedit
Theorists and researchers have long studied identity development among children, particularly during the period of adolescence, but most have focused on children residing with biological parents. Not only have identity issues facing foster children been little studied, but the effects of kinship foster care on identity, including ethnic identity, have received minimal attention. African American children are overrepresented in the child welfare system and specifically, in kinship placements. The growing practice of kinship foster care raises important questions regarding the benefits and challenges facing children in different placements. In particular, how do African American adolescents in kinship foster care differ in their sense of ethnic identity from African American adolescents in non-kinship foster care? This article explores this research question with a sample of 18 African American adolescents, residing in both kinship and non-kinship foster family placements. Using interview data, observations, and case records as well as results from a standardized measure of ethnic identity, findings are presented regarding differences in ethnic identity and ethnic socialization experiences, and implications for policy, practice, and future research are discussed.