Coping and support-seeking in out-of-home care: A qualitative study of the views of young people in care in England

Rachel M. Hiller, Sarah L. Halligan, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Elizabeth Elliott, Emily Rutter-Eley, Tilly Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives Young people who have been removed from their family home and placed in out-of-home care have commonly experienced abuse, neglect and/or other forms of early adversity. High rates of mental health difficulties have been well documented in this group. The aim of this research was to explore the experiences of these young people within the care system, particularly in relation to support-seeking and coping with emotional needs, to better understand feasible and acceptable ways to improve outcomes for these young people. Design and study setting This study used 1:1 semistructured qualitative interviews with young people in out-of-home care in England, to provide an in-depth understanding of their views of coping and support for their emotional needs, both in terms of support networks and experiences with mental health services. Participants were 25 young people aged 10-16 years old (56% female), and included young people living with non-biological foster carers, kinship carers and in residential group homes. Results Participants described positive (eg, feeling safe) and negative (eg, feeling judged) aspects to being in care. Carers were identified as the primary source of support, with a supportive adult central to coping. Views on support and coping differed for young people who were experiencing more significant mental health difficulties, with this group largely reporting feeling unsupported and many engaging in self-harm. The minority of participants had accessed formal mental health support, and opinions on usefulness were mixed. Conclusions Results provide insight, from the perspective of care-experienced young people, about both barriers and facilitators to help-seeking, as well as avenues for improving support.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere038461
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • Child & adolescent psychiatry
  • Child protection
  • Quality in healthcare

Cite this