"In-between" : a study of domestic workers' children who have been informally fostered by their mothers' employers.
This research explores the subjective experiences and life stories of 4 domestic workers’ children who were informally fostered by their mothers’/grandmothers’ employers in South Africa. Using a narrative thematic approach to analyse the semi-structured interviews conducted with each participant, the research sought to develop an understanding of the experience of being informally fostered, and how it may have shaped their understanding of themselves and their place in society. Themes related to notions of ‘identity’ and ‘belonging’ dominated the interview data and hinted that essentialist notions of race and culture still dominate social discourse in South Africa. A key finding of this research was that receiving unconditional support and acceptance from both their biological and their informal fostering families was important. Perceived or actual abandonment from either of these parental systems potentially resulted in significant threats to self-esteem, sense of personal agency, identity, and security of belonging. Another important finding was that the colour of the participants’ skin led them to question whether their identity, their sense of belonging, and their ‘ways of being’ were ‘natural’ to them or divergent as they differed from South African society’s essentialist expectations of black identities.