Date of Award

Summer 2015

Access Restriction

Campus Access only dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education

Department

Education

School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Leslie Ponciano, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Karen K. Huchting, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jill P. Bickett, Ed.D.

Abstract

In the United States, approximately 400,000 children reside in foster care, and most have been exposed to caregiver abuse, neglect, or abandonment. A majority of foster children suffer the effects of damaging circumstances including poverty, violence, inferior health care, and substandard housing. Consequently, young foster youth frequently struggle to accomplish developmental tasks such as establishing secure attachment relationships, cultivating preacademic skills, and acquiring social-emotional competence. The purpose of this research was to determine the impact of Peace4Kids, a nonprofit community-based organization, on young foster youths’ social-emotional development and pre-academic skills. Data collected from parents, teachers, and administrators during semi-structured interviews documented children’s experiences as they attended the organization’s Saturday Core Program. Participants noted that as foster children participated in a variety of curricular and co-curricular experiences at Peace4Kids, their social, emotional, and academic development were positively impacted. Parents, teachers, and administrators reported that the organization’s culture of consistency, trust, and accountability promoted secure attachment relationships among foster youth, staff members, and peers at the Saturday Core Program. Participants iterated that secure relationships provided a foundation for foster children to subsequently acquire social and emotional capacities, including persistence, conflict resolution, self-regulation, and autonomy. As youth in foster care developed social-emotional competencies, pre-academic skills such as literacy and numeracy emerged. This study’s findings indicate that a comprehensive approach is necessary to address the unique needs of foster children who have experienced prior trauma. Additionally, this research study contributes to a growing body of work that explores the role of attachment relationships in group and organizational settings.

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