Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kelly Kennedy

Second Advisor

Amy-Jane Griffiths

Third Advisor

Scot Danforth

Fourth Advisor

Emily Fisher


Youth who are in foster care or are homeless—those who reside in at-risk living conditions—face increased risk for difficulties in school including poor grades and mental health issues such as suicidality and depression. Previous research has shown that youth who are in foster care or who are homeless have, by definition, experienced adverse childhood experiences or trauma, increasing their risks for poor outcomes. Protective factors in schools can have a significant and meaningful impact on reducing the rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and failing grades. Schools that provide environments in which caring relationships between students and adults are established, high expectations are held for the students, and students are given an opportunity for meaningful participation, are environments in which youth can thrive despite having faced adversity. There is a dearth of literature delineating school-specific risks and supports for students who have experienced the adverse childhood experiences related to residing in at-risk living conditions. This study examines the results of a large self-report survey on behaviors and resiliency of students in California, the California Healthy Kids Survey. Results of a hierarchical logistic regression model showed supportive relationships between adults and students and high expectations may significantly and profoundly reduce suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, and failing grades in students residing in at-risk living conditions. This study provides evidence that students in foster care or homelessness are a unique population with distinct experiences and needs, and school practices that aim to support all students must consider the unique needs of this population.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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