Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

John Carey

Second Advisor

Michael Krezmien

Subject Categories

Social Welfare


Foster parents have been excluded from efforts to improve educational outcomes for foster children, yet they have the potential to serve as powerful advocates for youth in schools if they are adequately trained and supported on how to do so. The purpose of the present study is to identify key skills and to develop an instrument that can be used to assess competence among Massachusetts foster parents in parenting skills that have been identified in the literature to underlie academic engagement. This research is based on the idea that foster parents have the potential to contribute positively to youth engagement and success in school if they are trained to implement parenting practices that support youth development in ways that improve school performance. While foster parent training is required in several states, extant research suggests that there is limited benefit of the most commonly adopted training curricula (Dorsey et al., 2008; Festinger & Baker, 2013). No surveys to date specifically evaluate foster parents’ preparedness to meet the unique developmental and educational needs of youth in foster care. This instrument was informed through a comprehensive synthesis of literature on foster parent training outcomes and an analysis of the Massachusetts Approaches to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP; Department of Children and Families, 2001) curriculum. Through these analyses, six domains of parenting skills emerged: building relationships with youth, empathy towards youth, educational process and role, developmentally appropriate expectations, behavior management, and social-emotional development. The instrument was then refined through an iterative process that was informed by a focus group with expert foster parents and cognitive interviews with foster parents. Findings from the focus group were used to explore the relevance of the underlying constructs. The cognitive interviewing led to the refinement of the questions based on foster parents’ feedback on the appropriateness and clarity of the content. The resultant measure is intended for use improving foster parent training content and pedagogy, to ensure foster parents’ preparedness to parent in ways that set the stage for educational attainment and success in adulthood, and in future research on long-term outcomes for youth in foster care.