Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences, Child, Family, and School Psychology

First Advisor

Cynthia E. Hazel

Second Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Third Advisor

Gloria E. Miller

Fourth Advisor

Michele D. Hanna


Foster parent - foster child dyad, Non-relational foster care, Non-relational foster child needs and services, Non-relational foster parent, Public school, School psychologist


This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach to capture the lived experience of non-relational foster families navigating the Colorado public education system. While most research on children in foster care looks at all sub-populations of foster care combined, this is the first known study to focus solely on non-relational foster families navigating the education system. I explored non-relational foster parents experience navigating the education system for the school-age children in their care through a semi-structured two-interview approach. Four levels of data analysis were completed (descriptive coding, emergent coding of themes, a priori coding of research questions, and a priori coding grounded in ecological systems theory). The purpose of this study was to create a better understanding of how school psychologists can support non-relational foster families in the public school setting. I sought to gain a better understanding of the supports and challenges this population experiences, to identify what needs non-relational foster parents perceive as being met or not met in the school setting for the children in their care, and create a better understanding of how those needs being met or not impacts the dyadic relationships in the home setting. Study findings revealed that a non-relational foster child’s needs being met or not in the school setting does have an impact that extends beyond educational success or outcomes, by having a significant impact on the dyadic relationship between non-relational foster parent and non-relational foster child. An additional unexpected finding was that non-relational foster parents see this role as a significant part of their identity and hold a deep level of meaning related to their role. Unlike other subpopulations of foster care, non-relational foster parents seek out this role as a vocation and this level of meaning may be an uncategorized feature of being a non-relational foster parent and taking on this identity. The outcome of this study includes specific recommendations for school psychologists supporting non-relational foster families in the public school setting and encourages a shift in perspective for school staff to appreciate that non-relational foster parents are eager to be active partners in supporting the children in their care.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Emma Grace Topf


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

289 p.


Education, Psychology, Individual and family studies