The Nuffield-funded Expressions of Self research project aimed to listen to minoritised looked-after children and young people’s narratives on ethnicity, religion and identity, to inform policy and practice about their needs. During this last year we have spoken to 26 care-experienced children and young people from Black, South Asian and other minoritised backgrounds to understand how their perceive and experience their identities whilst in care.

We have heard stories of resilience and hope, as well as stories of recurrent loss and enduring sadness. However what unites all the stories is evidence of young people’s fluid constructs of identity and ability to almost seamlessly oscillate across identity positions. In this session we will use young people’s stories of identity and negotiating their identity to showcase learnings for frontline social workers. We will explore the different kinds of impact that their identities can have on young people’s journeys through care.

This session serves as an introduction to the Expressions of Self research project and covers the findings and implications. Our presenters shall return to CoramBAAF to deliver and discuss the publication of the full-findings of the research that they introduced in their Autumn 2023 lunch and learn session.


Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (PhD) is Professor in the Sociology of Islam at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK. She is Chair (2020-2023) of the Muslims in Britain Research Network (MBRN). As a feminist sociologist of religion, she interrogates the power dynamics within knowledge production and the implications of the processes and systems of knowledge on society as a whole. She started undertaking research with and for children in care after starting the process to become an adopter, just under a decade ago.

Alison Halford is an Assistant Professor (Research) and Impact Lead at the Centre for Computational Science and Mathematical Modelling (CSM), Coventry University. Her research emphasises meaningful participation informed by an ethics of care to give voice to those traditionally excluded from public engagement and positions of authority. As a feminist scholar, her work draws upon intersectionality to promote greater equality and transparency in decision-making to build the capacity and resilience of communities now and in the future. 

Kusha Anand is Research Fellow and Co-Investigator on two research projects at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, UK. With a decade of fieldwork experience in interdisciplinary projects focusing on ethnic minoritised groups, refugees, and migrants in the UK, she is passionate about the use of arts-based methods to amplify the voices of children from ethnic minoritised groups in the UK.