Missouri foster parents : advocating for the educational needs of children from hard places
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The educational attainment rates of foster youth are abysmal, and positive changes in policy and funding have not improved the rates to an adequate level. Research shows a positive relationship exists between the educational attainment of older youth in foster care and the presence of supportive adults in their lives (Clemens, Helm, Myers, Thomas & Tis, 2017; Dworsky & Perez, 2010; Neal, 2017). This study will explore foster parents as supportive adults, specifically, educational advocates. Educational advocacy comes from the field of special education and refers to behaviors of supportive adults who intervene and mediate for a child or someone who cannot advocate for self. This study will expand educational advocacy research (Duquette, Fullarton, Orders, & Robertson-Grewal, 2011; Duquette, Orders, Fullarton, & Robertson-Grewal, 2011; Duquette, Stodel, Fullarton, & Hagglund, 2011; Mulick & Butter, 2002; Olivos, Jimenez-Castellanos, & Ochoa, 2011; Wilson Cooper, 2007) to foster parents. Framing the study will be the four dimensions of advocacy proposed by Duquette, Stodel, Fullarton, and Hagglund (2011). The framework will inform the interview protocol: items will follow the four dimensions (awareness, seeking information, presenting the case, and monitoring) to explore how foster parents tacitly advocate for the educational needs of their foster children. This qualitative study will seek to answer the research questions How do foster parents serve as educational advocates for foster children? and What challenges do foster parents face as they serve as educational advocates? The study will use a qualitative research design with a phenomenological approach. Data collection will include in-depth interviews of eight to ten foster parents. By extending educational advocacy research to foster parents, this study will highlight the need for foster youth to have educational advocates and the ways in which that need is, or is not, being met. This study will provide a research foundation for additional research, with the hope of helping to ensure an educational advocate, foster parent or otherwise, is engaged in advocacy behaviors for every foster child in Missouri.