Date of Award

Summer 8-4-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Antonio Garcia, Ph. D.

Second Advisor

Lina Hartocollis, Ph. D.


Combining pregnancy and parenting with schooling is no easy task even for mature and well - established students, but being a pregnant and parenting teenager in foster care while trying to succeed in school is even more complicated. Pregnant and parenting teens (PPTs) in the foster care system are greatly impacted and affected by educational disruption and academic difficulties due to the added burdens of their status in foster care. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand what factors contribute to school engagement and to determine to what extent attachment theory, identity theory, self-efficacy, and critical race theory explain and illuminate barriers to and facilitators of promoting school engagement and positive educational outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens in foster care. In-depth interviews were conducted with 11 aged-out participants who were pregnant and / or parenting teens while in foster care. Results indicated that attachment connections, adolescent identity, and self-efficacy had strong consequences on school engagement, disengagement, and educational outcomes among participants. Themes of system response, impact of system response, educational outcome, and lessons learned emerged as highlights of participants’ lived experiences in foster care. These themes, along with implications for social work practice, policy, and research are discussed in the following paper. PPTs in this study underscored the need to develop intervention programs that promote healthy attachment relationships and contribute to positive ethnic and cultural identities and self-efficacies. These efforts, in concert with trainings for child welfare staff and foster parents on how best to support PPTs in achieving these intended outcomes, could increase their school engagement and educational advancement and therefore mitigate the short and long-term challenges associated with teen pregnancy and foster care.

Included in

Social Work Commons