Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Suzanne Harrison

Second Advisor

Dr. Steve Song

Third Advisor

Dr. Scot Headley


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the perceptions of former and current foster youth on the barriers, supports, helps and strategies they encountered during their K-12 education, and to learn how these contributed to their ability to enroll in post-secondary education. The study included in-depth interviews of 11 participants, all of whom were current or former foster youth who were enrolled or had plans to enroll in a community college or four-year university. These in-depth interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. The data was first coded by topics and then grouped into themes. The results of this study indicated that previously identified barriers and supports to academic achievement were true for this group of participants, but that these topics or themes represented the effects of a deeper issue; the issue of anger, abuse and disempowerment. This anger, abuse, and disempowerment touched every aspect of their life, resulting in high mobility, IEPs for emotional/behavioral issues, and difficulty transitioning from care to independence. The findings of this study contribute to the conversation on foster youth in several areas. First, the study has implications for teachers and teacher educators on the challenges foster children and youth face, and how to prepare future teachers to meet those challenges. Second, the study encourages teachers to look beyond labels given foster children and youth, such as IEPs for emotional/behavioral issues, to consider the root of the problem and seek solutions. Third, the study has implications for the Department of Human Services, who have been charged with the care and protection of children they remove from the homes of biological parents and guardians. It is their job to iii ensure that certified foster parents are providing quality care for foster children and youth placed in their home. The study concludes with recommendations for future research on foster youth and academic achievement.