Date of Award



© 2022 Karen M. Maguire

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Jennifer Scott

Second Advisor

Audrey Rabas

Third Advisor

Stasia Peters


This qualitative interpretative phenomenological analysis sought to understand the lived experiences of connectedness to the secondary school community of children raised by grandparents, told from the reflective viewpoint of the grandchildren now as adults. Although the relationship between grandparents and the grandchildren they raise has been studied, how those grandchildren connect to the school community has yet to be explored and was the focus of this study. Research on grandchildren raised by grandparents and student connection to the school community provided valuable insight, highlighting the need for additional exploration in this area. Education researchers have studied student engagement quite thoroughly, discovering the connection between students and the school community to be a crucial relationship and an essential aspect for all school personnel to consider. Student connection to the school community is key to ensuring successful learning. This connection becomes critical as students progress through high school; however, student engagement has mystified parents and educators for decades. The connection to the school community becomes even more challenging when a student is raised out of the home, either in foster care or relative placement, such as with grandparents. By conducting semi-structured interviews, this qualitative interpretative phenomenological analysis examined the connectedness to the school community of students raised by grandparents and, subsequently, how the relationship with grandparents contributed to connection to the school community. After reviewing and analyzing the transcripts of the interviews, four major themes emerged from the data: (a) compassion for people, (b) loyalty in relationships (c) individual determination and resiliency and, (d) school personnel lack of awareness of students’ support needs. The most noticeable finding in which the study participants unanimously agreed was the need for programs in schools to address the specific academic and emotional needs of students raised by grandparents. All participants reported that generally, educators did not know they were raised by grandparents, and unless they self-identified, educators made the assumption they lived in a traditional family. Each noted there were support programs for students of divorced parents, students who were homeless, or students who were in Department of Children and Families (DCF) or Department of Youth Services (DYS) custody, yet there were no programs or support services for students raised by grandparents. Because of the vulnerability of this population, programming designed to work with these students requires thoughtfulness at local and state levels.


Ed.D. Dissertation