Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Pablo Arriaza


Researchers have found that social workers have difficulty identifying their roles in responding to the barriers African American teenage mothers face in pursuit of higher education. This action research project explored the roles social workers play in responding to the barriers African American teenage mothers face in pursuit of a college education and how social workers responded. The ecological systems theory was used to help understand this phenomenon. An action research methodology was used to collect data from 6 licensed social workers who worked with African American teenage mothers. Three focus groups were facilitated to explore the social work practice problem. The data were collected, transcribed and coded using an open coding and thematic analysis process. Findings revealed 5 overarching themes: 1) emotions; 2) barriers; 3) support systems; 4) success factors; and 5) social work practice approaches and implications. Findings indicated that these social workers responded to the barriers African American teenage mothers face by exploring teenage mothers' emotions as well as their own emotions, by using appropriate social work practice approaches, and exploring the factors that contribute to teenage mothers' success. Participants also responded by acknowledging teenage mothers' support systems and by addressing the actual barriers while in the roles of case manager, educator, broker, and advocate. These findings affect positive social change across all systems of society by guiding social workers to find and implement feasible and sustainable psychosocial interventions to address identified barriers. Eliminating these barriers provides higher educational opportunities for African-American teenage mothers.

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