Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Colette Daiute

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Sociology | Social Work

Keywords

children in foster care, education, stigma, narrative, blog

Abstract

Roughly 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States (Lash, 2017, p. 5). These youth are less likely to graduate high school than their non-foster peers (Barnow et al., 2015). While several barriers contribute to the poor educational outcomes for children in foster care, research has noted that the label “foster child” is associated with negative connotations and differential teacher treatment (Altshuler, 2003; Finkelstein, Wamsley, & Miranda, 2002). In spite of such observations, little research has emphasized the perspectives of those in foster care. To fill this gap, this qualitative study posed the following question: How do adults formerly in foster care perceive teacher treatment and expectations of students in foster care versus students who are not in foster care? Participants who were 18 years old or older and were in the foster care system were recruited with flyers distributed via snowball sampling. Adults formerly in foster care are in relevant positions to reflect on their own, their group’s, and their peers’ experiences in school. Participants were invited to contribute to a WordPress site, a platform for creating blogs, designed for this study. On the site, participants blogged in response to two narrative vignettes about school events including children in foster care. Additionally, participants interacted and commented on the blog posts to compare their recalled schooling experiences with others’ experiences and with the vignette responses. Character mapping was used to analyze the blog posts and blog comments. The analysis showed a dichotomy between the student in foster care who was presented in a more negative light academically and behaviorally and the student not in care who was presented in a more positive light. It was also found that the participants connected with the fictional third-person narratives by using the “I” perspective. This project highlighted the potential stigma surrounding children in foster care and the importance of using narrative methodology.

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