Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

C. David Brell


Barriers to collaboration between professionals in the school and child welfare systems are impeded by poor communication, a lack of cross-disciplinary language, and confusion regarding professional practices. This study, the Education Collaboration Project (ECP), addresses the importance of understanding school success for students in foster care through the voices and actions of the key constituent groups: students with foster care histories and professionals from the school and child welfare systems. Also included in a small component of this study were foster parents who participated via an anonymous survey. The theoretical framework combined critical pedagogy, elements of critical discourse analysis, adaptive change theory, and communities of practice (COP) theories from which an empowering intervention emerged. Within this study, the intervention was delivered through a graduate course, Connecting Public School and Child Welfare Systems to Children in Foster Care cross-disciplinary, where students with foster care histories and professionals from school and child welfare systems united in shared problem solving and action to promote school success. The methodology was predominately qualitative but was enhanced by the use of surveys and a modified Q-sort method. The study and its empowering intervention allowed for a transformative process where participants evolved from disconnected youth, school, and child welfare Education Collaboration Project (ECP) participants to collective ECP participants and finally emerged as members of the Education Collaboration-Community of Practice (ECP-COP). Perhaps the most important conclusion of this study is that cross-system collaboration is both an empowering intervention and an advocacy strategy, and is necessary for addressing the needs of students in foster care.