Who Am I and Where Am I From? Substitute Residential Home Children’s Insights into Their Lives and Individual Identities

Ingrid Sindi & Judit Strömpl - Child & Youth Services


Decisions regarding children’s residential care reorganisation are primarily based on an adult’s perspective of children’s wellbeing and care. While these adults tend to be well-intended and base their decisions off relevant evidence, the children’s perspectives ‐ which reflects their actual lived experiences ‐ is almost never considered. However, since children are experts of their own lives, they should have the right to participate and express their opinion: Their point of view could be of great value in developing residential child care. In this article, we provide SOS children’s insights into their own life experiences and individual identities. The data was collected during an ethnographic research in one of Estonia’s SOS Children’s Villages (SOS CV). This article aims to answer to following research questions: 1. What are the main topics in SOS children’s stories when they talk about themselves and their everyday lives in substitute homes? 2. What kind of identity can be determined from children’s stories? 3. How can the subtext within the children’s stories be used to develop a child-centred residential care? In this article, we present and discuss several key-findings. First, it is important to note that there are gaps in the children’s life stories, as they sometimes lack information about important people and events in their lives. Second, this lack of adequate information can damage the children's identities and, in turn, undermine their development. Third, the opportunity to talk about important life events encourages the children to ask questions, as they are interested in obtaining additional information to complete the gaps. Fourth, the children’s stories indicate the shortcomings of substitute homes, related to both culture and communication.