In the United States, 400,000 children are in state custody through child protection systems (CPS), most commonly for parental neglect. While states focus on removing children from danger, familial separation leaves a social void with negative impacts that can extend into adulthood. To better understand how youth in state custody navigate that social void, we interviewed 33 youth (aged 13–17) who were in CPS custody about their relationships with family, perceptions of role models and mentorship, and experiences with an arts-based mentorship organization. We also discussed their projected futures after CPS custody. The interviews took place in the field, during a two-week Theatre Camp program. Theatre Campers’ narratives illustrate the paradox between state benevolence and youth development: many felt safer in CPS, but encountered barriers to connecting with formal and informal support. They missed family, but also used them as examples of what not to do. Their unique perspectives (in state custody, but not incarcerated) provide insight into how marginalized youth view and engage with various forms of social support. We explore the implications of these findings for research at the intersection of criminology and social work, holistic juvenile justice policy, and social support over the life-course.
- Art therapy
- Child welfare
- Juvenile justice
- Social support
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science