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Digital Support for Young People in Out-of-Home Care

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Foster Youth in the Mediasphere


This chapter explores how the digital environment can foster the emergence of a young person’s sense of self and help display aspects of their lives that are separate from their out-of-home care identity. We consider how online worlds demonstrate the possibilities of how young people in out-of-home care can effectively tell their own stories while promoting positive identities. Technological advances are making participatory record-keeping practices an increasing reality, but like all advances in communication, the latest technology changes have been met with wariness, often due to legitimate issues around privacy and security. Helping young people to manage online environments safely and gain media literacy means being able to understand how young people engage with and navigate online space. If young people are more competent, and therefore more confident in these areas, they are more likely to be engaged when it comes to learning and connecting socially.

The type of support offered by social media and other technology can help combat the isolation that can be endemic to experiences of out-of-home care, and a growing body of research is showing how the effects of digital media on wellbeing are broadly positive, including the potential to support identity formation and community building.

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  1. 1.

    Diane Dansey, Danielle Shbero, and Mary John. “Keeping Secrets: How Children in Foster Care Manage Stigma”, Adoption and Fostering, 43.1 (2019): 35–45; 38.

  2. 2.

    Ibid., 38.

  3. 3.

    J. J. McDowall, Out-of-Home Care in Australia: Children and Young People’s Views after Five Years of National Standards (Sydney: CREATE Foundation, 2018), 110.

  4. 4.

    Amanda Third, Philippa Collin, Catharine Fleming, Benjamin Hanckel, Lilly Moody, Teresa Swist, and Georgina Theakstone. “Governance, Children’s Rights and Digital Health”, The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing Health Futures 2030: Growing up in a Digital World, The Lancet, 24 October 2021,

  5. 5.

    Margaret Kertesz, Cathy Humphreys, and Cathy Carnovale, “Reformulating Current Recordkeeping Practices in Out-of-Home Care: Recognising the Centrality of the Archive”, Archives and Manuscripts, 40:1 (2012): 42–53; 47, DOI:

  6. 6.

    Ibid. 47.

  7. 7.

    Philip Mendes, Jacqueline Z. Wilson, and Frank Golding, “Child Protection Hypothetical Case Studies for a Virtual Archive: Professional Perspectives Versus the Lived Experience and Expertise of Care Leavers in Victoria, Australia”, The British Journal of Social Work, 51.7 (2021): 2626–2644. p2640.

  8. 8.

    Ibid., 2642.

  9. 9.

    Frank Golding, “‘Problems with Records and Recordkeeping Practices Are Not Confined to the Past’: A Challenge from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse”, Archival Science, 20.1 (2019): 1–19; 8.

  10. 10.

    Ibid., 1.

  11. 11.

    Ibid., 7–8.

  12. 12.

    Mendes et al., “Child Protection”, 2642.

  13. 13.

    Leonard Reinecke and Sabine Trepte, “Authenticity and Well-being on Social Network Sites: A Two-wave Longitudinal Study on the Effects of Online Authenticity and the Positivity Bias in SNS Communication”, Computer Human Behvaiour, 30 (2014): 95-102; 95; Joanne Davila, Rachel Hershenberg, Brian A. Feinstein, Kaitlyn Gorman, Vickie Bhatia, and Lisa R. Starr, “Frequency and Quality of Social Networking Among Young Adults: Associations With Depressive Symptoms, Rumination, and Co-rumination”, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1.2 (2012): 72–86; 72.

  14. 14.

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  15. 15.

    Sonia Livingstone, “Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenager’s Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression”, New Media and Society, 10.3 (2008): 393–411; 396, 394–5.

  16. 16.

    danah boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (Harvard and London: Yale University Press, 2018), 11–13.

  17. 17.

    Alan Davis and Daniel Weinshenker, “Digital Storytelling and Authoring Identity” in Constructing the Self in a Digital World, ed. Cynthia Carter Ching and Brian J. Foley (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 50.

  18. 18.

    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report (AIHW). “Australia’s Children”.

  19. 19.

    Nora Gustavsson and Ann MacEachron. “Creating Foster Care Youth Biographies: A Role for the Internet”. Journal of Technology in Human Services 26, no.1 (2008): 45–55. p50.

  20. 20.

    T. Swist, P. Collin, J. McCormack, and A. Third, “Social Media and the Wellbeing of Children and Young People: A Literature Review”, prepared for the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Perth, Western Australia, 2015), 5.

  21. 21.

    “The Out-of-Home Care Sector”, Create Foundation,

  22. 22.

    “A parent responsibility contract is not a court order. It is a tool to support the attainment of a case plan goal and it specifies actions to be undertaken e.g. counselling or drug testing”, while the child is cared for by others. “Orders in Care and Protection Matters”, NSW Government, Communities and Justice,

  23. 23.

    “The Out-of-Home Care Sector”.

  24. 24.

    Ibid; AIHW (2020) Data tables: Child Protection Australia 2018–19. Supplementary Table S5.12. Child Welfare Series no 72. Cat no CWS74.AIHW. See

  25. 25.

    Gustavsson and MacEachron, “Creating Foster Care”, 48-9, 50.

  26. 26.

    Jenny Davis, “Triangulating the Self: Identity Processes in a Connected Era”, Symbolic Interaction, 37.4 (2014): 500–523; 507.

  27. 27.

    Ibid., 518.

  28. 28.

    Benjamin Hanckel and Shiva Chandra.

  29. 29.

    Ibid., 3–4.

  30. 30.

    Livingstone, “Taking Risky Opportunities”, 394–5.

  31. 31.

    Deuze, “Media Life”, 138.

  32. 32.

    Nora Gustavsson and Ann MacEachron, “Positive Youth Development and Foster Care Youth: A Digital Perspective”, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 25.5 (2015): 407-15; 408.

  33. 33.

    Davis and Weinshenker, “Digital Storytelling”, 48.

  34. 34.

    Ibid. 51–2.

  35. 35.

    Bernie Hogan, “The Presentation of Self in the Age of Social Media: Distinguishing Performances and Exhibitions Online”, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 30.6 (2010): 377–386; 377–380; Davis, “Triangulating the Self”, 506.

  36. 36.

    Jean Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic (September 2017),

  37. 37.

    Daniella Perry, “Television on Television Violence: Perspectives from the 70s and 90s”, Open Vault,

  38. 38.

    Reinecke and Trepte, “Authenticity and Well-being”, 96; Davila et al., 72-5.

  39. 39.

    Maya Gudka, Kirsty L. K. Gardiner, and Tim Lomas, “Towards a Framework for Flourishing Through Social Media: A Systematic Review of 118 Research Studies”, The Journal of Positive Psychology, (2021):1–20; 1–2.

  40. 40.

    Jenna Clark, Sara Algoe, and Melanie Green, “Social Network Sites and Well-Being: The Role of Social Connection, Current Directions in Psychological Science”, 27.1 (2018): 32–37; 32–33.

  41. 41.

    Ibid., 33.

  42. 42.

    Ibid., 33.

  43. 43.

    Ibid., 33, 34.

  44. 44.

    Clark et al., “Social Network Sites”, p34.

  45. 45.

    Ibid., p34.

  46. 46.

    Christy Cheung, Zach Lee, and Tommy Chan, “Self-Disclosure in Social Networking Sites: The Role of Perceived Cost, Perceived Benefits and Social Influence”, Internet Research, 25.2 (2015): 279–299; p282.

  47. 47.

    Ibid., p284.

  48. 48.

    Ibid, p284.

  49. 49.

    Gudka et al., “Towards a Framework”, 1, 3.

  50. 50.

    Ibid., 3.

  51. 51.

    Ibid., 10.

  52. 52.

    Nora Gustavsson and Ann MacEachron, “Positive Youth Development”, 408.

  53. 53.

    Gudka et al., 13.

  54. 54.

    Ibid. 11–13.

  55. 55.

    Ibid., 13.

  56. 56.

    Susan Mapp and Cache Steinberg, “Birth Families as Permanency Resources for Children in Long-Term Foster Care”, Child Welfare, 86.1 (2007): 29–51; p29.

  57. 57.

    Quoted in Ramona Denby, Efren Gomez, and Keith Alford, “Promoting Well-Being Through Relationship Building: The Role of Smartphone Technology in Foster Care”, Journal of Technology in Human Services, 34.2 (2016): 183–208; 187.

  58. 58.

    Gustavsson and MacEachron, “Positive Youth Development and Foster Care Youth: A Digital Perspective”, p408.

  59. 59.

    Ibid., “Positive Youth Development”, 407, 409.

  60. 60.

    Ibid., 412–13.

  61. 61.

    Denby et al., “Promoting Well-Being”, 183.

  62. 62.

    Ibid., 183–5.

  63. 63.

    Ibid., 188–9.

  64. 64.

    Ibid., 198, 202.

  65. 65.

    Ibid., 199.

  66. 66.

    Davis and Weinshenker, “Digital Storytelling”, 52–3.

  67. 67.

    Ibid., 53.

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Deitz, M., Burns, L.S. (2022). Digital Support for Young People in Out-of-Home Care. In: Foster Youth in the Mediasphere. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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