Methods: This Participatory Action Research (PAR) photovoice project involved 8 former youth in care between the ages 19 to 29 in Vancouver, B.C. over the course of 12 weeks. A collaborative thematic analysis of the photographs was conducted with the youth co-researchers, and the lead researcher executed additional analysis following the data collection phase.
Results: Relationships to culture, spirituality and the land were identified as important by racialized and Indigenous youth co-researchers. Animal companions also emerged as an important non-human connection. Key barriers included a lack of culturally matched foster placements and social workers, gentrification, housing restrictions and a narrow definition of family relationships. Key strengthening factors included supportive community organizations and culturally competent workers.
Conclusions and Implications: There is a well-known Indigenous phrase, "all my relations", that emphasizes the interconnectedness of human beings to the universe. This Indigenous philosophy can also be applied to the relational needs of all youth 'aging out' of care. Findings of this study highlight the need for child welfare policies, decision-making and practices to invest in all the relations of youth in care - including to the spiritual, cultural, earth and animal worlds - and ensure their continuity during the transition to adulthood. The connections that are located outside of the traditional social capital framework, including non-human relationships, also need to be valued as viable and crucial sources of social capital for care leavers. By doing so, youth exiting care have a better chance at accumulating social capital and building a support network they can rely on during their transition to adulthood.