Date of Conferral

2019

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Public Policy and Administration

Advisor

Anthony K. Fleming

Abstract

Many teen parents face challenges when completing secondary education resulting in unsustainable family units. Previous researchers focused on services to teen mothers while completing secondary education, with little addressing the long-term impact of Alternative Specialized Education Services (ASES) as the former teen mother matured. This phenomenological study explored the perceptions of 8 former teen mothers (ranging in age from 20 to 54) of ASES’ impact on their values and decision-making as they matured. Program theory was the overarching framework and values clarification the interpretive lens. Data were inductively coded and subjected to interpretive phenomenological and thematic analysis. Four themes emerged: (a) family dynamics, (b) socioeconomic status, (c) educational aspirations, and (d) ASES impact. Study findings provided evidence of the positive impact ASES made in equipping a vulnerable population with the tools necessary to achieve self-sufficiency and sustainability and strengthening fragile families who, then, required less government intervention. Findings indicated that ASES provide a valuable service that cannot be replicated in the traditional school environment and should be identified as part of the educational continuum, receiving support equal to instructional counterparts. Data also indicated that ASES is continually at risk due to the lack of funding as there are no current data supporting their value to educational instruction and family sustainability. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include policy recommendations to the Delaware Department of Education to fund ASES with the goal of improving teen mothers’ sustainable self-sufficiency through improved educational outcomes.

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