Vulnerable Adolescents Ethonographies

Several pieces of ethnographic research were undertaken to inform service redesign. The following portraits highlight the lived experience of three young people in care facilities, with a myriad of issues including mental health, family disconnect and disengagement with education. Identities have been anonymised.


SS is a 17 year old female who is currently living in a mental health hospital. She has a diagnosis of emerging emotionally unstable personality disorder. She has had many instances of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. SS (along with her two brothers) has lived with her grandmother since she was 2.Her mum has drug and alcohol problems and her dad has mental health issues. A significant event for SS was when one of her brothers was taken into care. The mental health facility that SS lives in is in the South East of England and a significant distance away from Doncaster. SS feels isolated from her family and is desperate to return home.


JB is a young 16 year old male living in a small residential care facility with one other young male (also being cared for). The residential care facility where he lives is a significant distance away from his home in Doncaster. On the day on which the interview for this research was due to take place JB had left the home angry at the care staff. He had thought that he was seeing his mum, the care staff said they didn’t know why he’d thought that. The staff spent a lot of time trying to track him down at spots that he often goes to like the supermarket and train station.


LB is a 14 year old male who has narrowly avoided an out of area placement. LB has grown up with his mother and younger brother. He was recently taken into hospital following incidents of self-harm and a suicide attempt. He briefly moved in with his father upon discharge, but is now being looked after by foster carers. At the time of the interview, LB has been living with the foster family for just over a week and has settled in relatively well, although there are concerns around ‘friends’ living nearby who are a negative influence upon him and his apparent suspicion towards his foster carer (he contracted stomach bug and is now convinced that his foster carer has tried to poison him).

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