'She has saved my life on many occasions': Care-experienced young women’s reflections on the significance of pets and the impact of loss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article highlights the significance of pets for five young women with care experience, examining the impact of disruptions to those relationships when moving into or between care settings. Findings show that pets support the transition to independent living and mental health. Participants’ reflections also reveal how pets are a source of comfort and stability for children growing up in families experiencing difficult circumstances. Loss is therefore traumatic because of the support pets provided and the context surrounding loss. Despite their significance, pets were largely absent from discussions and processes associated with managing care transitions. Adults and perceived constraints in residential care dictated what happened with respect to pets. Neither consulted nor supported, children were left to cope on their own. Attention to pets should be an integral part of the process of managing care transitions and it is imperative that the impact of pet loss (at any stage of children's lives) is understood and supported. Otherwise the system may inadvertently foster a perpetual loop of mistrust and relational losses. We consider how some local authorities are starting to manage this process (considering pets in the family or foster carers’ homes), and existing guidance on introducing animals in residential care.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdoption & Fostering
Volume48
Issue number1
Early online date21 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • care-experienced
  • child-animal interaction
  • foster care
  • looked after children
  • loss
  • mental health
  • pets
  • relationships
  • social workers
  • transitions
  • attachment
  • care leavers
  • children in care

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