Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Doris E. Pierce

Second Advisor

Dr. Jane O'Regan Kleinert


Of all Kentucky youth, state agency children are at the highest risk of making unsuccessful post-secondary transitions to adulthood. The intent of both studies comprising this dissertation was to understand and guide transition planning to make future improvements to transitions of adolescents in state agency programs.

The Kentucky Youth at Risk in Transition Study was a mixed methods study that identified and described the understandings of student transitions in state agency education programs from the perspectives of youth and administrators. The study included 105 nontraditional education programs funded and supervised by the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children (KECSAC). Data collection included a survey administered to all KECSAC Program Administrators, focus group interviews with KECSAC Program Administrators, focus group interviews with KECSAC students, and individual interviews with KECSAC students. Survey data produced a description of a variety of key aspects of transition census data for KECSAC students. Qualitative data were analyzed using grounded theory. Results indicated that: transition is more narrowly defined within nontraditional schools; key strengths of transition practice are present in nontraditional schools; and coordination barriers within this inter-agency transition system are most apparent in students’ frequent inter-setting transitions between nontraditional and home schools.

The second study was the “Building Enhanced Services for Transition” Study. It was designed to generate improvements to transition planning and services in KECSAC programs. Participatory action research was used so that improvements to transition services would emerge directly from the priorities of those concerned, while grounded theory sought understanding of the emerging changes in services for state agency youth across five KECSAC programs. Participants were comprised of twenty-nine education program administrators and staff members. Data collection occurred through semi- structured interviews, researcher reflections, research team meetings, and observations. There were six successive coding schemes throughout the study. A primary finding of the study was the degree to which individual and structural stigmatization of state agency youth impedes successful transitions to adulthood. Understanding the operation of stigma

in these students suggests ways in which this primary barrier might be disrupted and post- secondary outcomes for these students at high risk of failure could be improved.