Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This qualitative study explored the school experiences of foster children by asking their teachers how they perceive them academically, socially and behaviorally. Foster children, who have generally experienced adverse life circumstances, are prone to have academic and behavioral trouble in school; many drop out before completing high school. This research focused on assessing how teachers cope with the unique challenges these students present, their suggestions for how they could be supported in school, and recommendations in terms of teacher training for working with this group. Eight public school teachers of foster children from two urban schools in Rhode Island were interviewed, including one special education teacher from a charter elementary school and seven from an alternative public high school. All participants taught a foster child within the last two years. The high school teachers were familiar with their student's academic and personal lives, teaching them in small classes for four years. All the teachers were motivated to understand and support the children's needs. They reported many students' difficulties with academic work and social functioning. Some foster children responded positively to the teacher's help and support, which was validating for teachers, although often draining, while other children remained unresponsive, which was often experienced as the teacher's personal failure. School structure, including individualized learning that encompassed the social-emotional needs of foster children, including internships for high school students, was outlined as an effective strategy. Teachers also need strong support in the school system and to have access to appropriate resources.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 93 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 75-77)