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Protecting the cultural identity of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children living in the public care system

Allen, Daniel (2015) Protecting the cultural identity of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children living in the public care system. Today's Children Tomorrow's Parents (40-41). pp. 122-139. ISSN 1582-1889

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Abstract

Throughout Europe, the public care system exists to protect the welfare of over one million children who have suffered from abuse or neglect or experienced bereavement, disability or serious illness in one or both parents. However, although the public care system is primarily intended to offer children protection from risk and harm, there are some concerns to suggest that it is also being systematically misused to “eradicate Gypsy existence and culture”. Cited as a system for state sanctioned control, rather than as a system for effective and safe child care, it is believed that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children across Europe are being taken away from their communities and placed in public care for no other reason than that they are Gyp- sies, Roma or Travellers. With regard to basic human rights, this is a serious allegation. There are,though, some conceptual tensions associated with this claim. Firstly, little is known about how many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are actually living in public care throughout Europe. Second, little is known about the carers who look after these children, and third, little is known about the lived experiences of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers themselves. In an attempt to shed further light on this situation, the present paper summarises the findings of a study that utilised interpretive phenomenological analysis to uncoverthe experiences of 10 Gypsies and Travellers who lived in the public care system in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Based on the testimonies provided, this paper will problematise the allegation already presented to show that some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children can experience a brief sense of relief when the opportunity to enter public care is presented to them. However, by drawing upon the experiences of those people who were sent to live in residential homes and other transcultural foster care placements, it will explain why, without carful and competent multicultural planning, the existence and culture of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children can be made vulnerable to the threats associated with acculturative distress and the experience of absolute social alienation in later life.

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