Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership



First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. John Winslade


Not all children live with their biological parents. In 2013, approximately 60,000 children in California were in foster care. These children comprise a significant subgroup of students in public schools today and are one of the most educationally vulnerable student populations. Often they are, as a group but with individual exceptions, low-performing.

Parents’ involvement has often been credited with improving school achievement. Foster parents, therefore, play an important role in ensuring the academic success of foster care children. Foster parents encourage, provide emotional support and guidance to these children and advocate on their behalf.

The purpose of this study was to explore how foster parents perceived the educational experience of children in foster care. A qualitative research approach utilized an interview process to explore the participants’ perceptions and generate recommendations for developing a more effective educational system. The study sample consisted of eight foster parents, recruited by snowball sampling, with experience working with school-age children in foster care. Face-to-face interviews were conducted, audio-recorded, and transcribed for analysis. The purpose of this study was to explore foster parents’ perceptions and identify important issues that they believed contribute to the academic successes and failures of children in foster care. Findings were analyzed to generate recommendations for developing a more inclusive educational system. The data was examined in relation to two theoretical frameworks; Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Foster parents reported that they believed they participated in the foster child's academic achievement. They did not believe that they were always supported to fully assist the foster children to achieve their full potential. Foster parents perceived two-way collaboration as imperative when addressing the educational needs of children in foster care. While they believed that they were efficient in yielding results to help children in foster care become academically successful, foster parents also believed that changes need to occur within the foster care system that would enable them to be more efficient and effective. This research study brought light to the complex dynamics of foster parent responsibilities and educational decision-making. Those dynamics included lack of adequate and sufficient training offered to teachers and foster parents regarding the education of children in foster care; the lack of foster parent knowledge regarding district-mandated foster parent liaisons and factors that inhibit foster parent collaboration. All findings have implications for the foster care system. However, the conclusions are limited to only foster parents’ reports. Information was not gathered from other stakeholders, such as foster children, social workers, teachers and those within the foster care legal system.