Fostered Aboriginal Youth and Ethnic Identity


Aboriginal youth are over-represented in the Canadian foster care system (Trocmé, Knoke & Blackstock, 2004; Fluke, Chabot, Fallon, MacLaurin & Blackstock, 2010) whilst aboriginal caregivers are under-represented (Brown, Ivanova, Mehta, Skrodzki & Rodgers, 2015). Our research project explored the impacts of being placed in kinship versus non-kinship homes on the ethnic identity of aboriginal foster children placed in early-childhood. This study hypothesized that being placed within a kinship home would be correlated to youth having stronger ethnic identity. Foster children, youth, and aboriginal youths’ positive attachment to their ethnic identities has been linked to increased physical and mental well-being (Gfellner & Armstrong, 2012; Moss, 2009; Corenblum, 2014; Jones & Galliher, 2007). Consequently, facilitating the organic development of ethnic identity is an important policy-goal for youth protection agencies.


Using the Multi-Group Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) (Phinney, 1992), our study tested 43 aboriginal adolescents who had been placed in foster homes during their early-childhood. Our results suggest that being placed with a kinship foster-parent is correlated with: aboriginal caregiver ethnicity, fewer moves between foster homes, and longer-lasting placements. Kinship-care and its correlates were all associated with higher ethnic identity scores, particularly for the MEIM sub-category of ‘exploration.’ Indeed, fewer moves remained significant in a multi-variate model. These results underline the effectiveness of kinship foster placement. In addition, they suggest that further exploration of the factors that facilitate stability and longevity in kinship-care foster homes will be important in developing foster placement policies and best practices. This is especially true for policies that intend to contribute to aboriginal youths’ sense of ethnic identity and thus wellbeing.


Brown, J. D., Sintzel, J., George, N., & St Arnault, D. (2010). Benefits of transcultural fostering. Child & Family Social Work, 15(3), 276-285.


Corenblum, B. (January 01, 2014). Development of racial-ethnic identity among First Nation children. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43, 3, 356-74.


Fluke, J., Chabot, M., Fallon, B., MacLaurin, B. & Blackstock, C. (2010). Placement decisions and disparities among aboriginal groups: an application of the decision

making ecology through multi-level analysis.Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 57-69. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.08.009.


Gfellner, B. M., & Armstrong, H. D. (2012). Ego development, ego strengths, and ethnic identity among First Nation adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence22(2), 225-234.


Jones, M. D., & Galliher, R. V. (2007). Ethnic identity and psychosocial functioning in Navajo adolescents.Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(4), 683–696.


Moss, M. (August 01, 2009). Broken circles to a different identity: an exploration of identity for children in out-of-home care in Queensland, Australia. Child & Family Social Work, 14(3), 311-321.


Phinney, J. S. (1992). The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure: A new scale for use with diverse groups. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7(2), 156–176.


Trocmé, N, Knoke, D & Blackstock, C. (2004). Pathways to the Overrepresentation of  Aboriginal Children in Canada’s Child Welfare System. Social Service Review, 78(4): 577-600.




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