December 2018

Who I Am, Where I Belong, and Where I’m Going: Promoting Positive Identity Development for Youth in Connecticut Foster Care

Stephanie Luczak, LMSW, Jessica Nelson, Lauren Ruth, Ph. D.

For most adolescents, developing their own identity is one of the central aspects of teenage life. In this report, we highlight the challenges that children and youth in state care face to understand, explore, and develop their racial, spiritual, and gender identities. The report examines that although the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has implemented some policies and practices to support teenage foster youth in their identity development, critical gaps remain.

Connecticut currently has close to 4,300 children in its foster care system; over 1,500 (more than a third) are ages 13 or older. Adolescents that grow up in the foster care system must respond to sometimes unstable nature derived from placement changes, the often-disruptive impact of trauma, and the negative bias associated with foster care. Because the family environment plays a crucial role in identity development, foster youth may also face the additional stress of moving and adapting to families with different beliefs and practices

In the report we provide:

  • A review of the current literature on identity formation for children and youth in foster care. 
  • Policies to support foster children regarding identity formation, including current DCF practice, as well as an overview of current policy gaps.
  • Policy recommendations to support identity development for youth in foster care: These include updating the Adolescent Bill of Rights and Expectations, bolstering protections for youth who identify as LGBTQ, including required training for DCF workers and caregivers, implementing new tools to assess adolescent identity development needs, recruiting a more diverse pool of foster parents, and improving information sharing prior to new placements.
Issue Area:
Child Welfare