Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Mary Ellen Freeley

Second Advisor

Randall F Clemens

Third Advisor

Catherine C DiMartino


There are roughly 400,000 children in the foster care system throughout the United States. Many of these children enter care after experiencing some sort of physical or emotional trauma. This trauma has a potentially damaging impact on the educational achievement of this scarred population. The data show that these children are at high risk for poor educational achievement. With the help of caring adults, these children can overcome barriers and achieve academic success.

The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to explore the educational experience of students in foster care through the perspective and expectations of multiple stakeholders and to investigate the role that stakeholders play in the educational achievement of foster children. This qualitative study gained insight into the perspective that stakeholders have of the educational experience of foster children. In addition, this study investigated the expectations that stakeholders have of the educational achievement of foster children. Adult stakeholders—including foster parents, caseworkers, and school officials—are important for children in foster care as they serve as advocates and as a source of consistent educational support.

The participants in the study included three certified foster parents, three caseworkers and four school officials who have all had contact with school-age foster children. Through the use of open-ended interview questions, the researcher gained insight into the perspective that stakeholders have of the educational experiences of foster children in their care, as well as the expectations they have for the academic achievement of the foster child.

The study identified seven themes—including trauma, relationships, impactful people, established habits, communication, realistic expectations, and motivation—that stakeholders believe contribute to the academic successes and failures of children in foster care. The theoretical framework selected to better understand the stakeholders’ perceptions and expectations of the achievement of foster children, and their role in impacting foster children’s educational experiences, was Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model (1979). Limitations, recommendations for future studies, and implications for practice were also discussed.