Searching for answers: Ambiguous loss associated to the history of placement in residential care

Nadine Lanctôt, Researcher, Université de Sherbrooke, CANADA 

Mathilde Turcotte, Researcher, Université Laval, CANADA   

This presentation aims to contribute to a better understanding of the placement experiences and their impacts throughout the lenses of ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss is “an unclear loss that continues without resolution or closure” (Boss and Yeats, 2014: 63). Placement experiences could represent two forms of ambiguous loss. On one side, the motives that have prompted the placement in care may indicate that parents were physically present, but psychologically absent. This is particularly the case of parental neglect. On the other side, in the context of the placement itself, significant others (family, peers) are physically absent, but may be psychologically present. Symptoms associated with ambiguous loss among foster care children include confusion, distress, ambivalence, immobilization and guilt (Lee and Whiting, 2007; Unrau et al., 2008). The specific objective of this presentation is to evaluate the long-term symptoms associated to ambiguous loss among emerging adult females who aged out-of-care. Qualitative data were gathered from a sample of 20 young women (mean age = 19.1) who were placed in residential care center in Montreal (Canada) during their adolescence (Lanctôt, 2011). Results highlight the enduring feelings of abandonment and rejection expressed by the young females as well as the relational hardships thus arising.  Results suggest that programs and services should allow opportunities for youth to construct their own meaning of their experiences as well as to explore and question their identity, ambivalence, hope and fears.

Key-words: Placement, residential care, ambiguous loss, emerging adulthood, females

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