School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Frederick Milacci


trauma-informed care, foster parents, fostering, experiential learning, complex trauma, foster parent training, trauma knowledge


Educational Methods | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe foster parents’ trauma knowledge in Central Virginia. The theories guiding this study include childhood complex trauma theory and experiential learning theory (ELT). As discussed by Herman (1992) and Terr (1991), childhood complex trauma theory explains the behaviors and actions of foster children who have suffered complex trauma. As discussed by Kolb (2014), ELT explains the processes that foster parents go through in gaining and applying trauma knowledge to their fostering. The central research question is, how do foster parents in Central Virginia describe their trauma knowledge? Further research questions include, how do foster parents describe the way trauma has affected their foster children? How do foster parents describe how they learned about trauma? How do foster parents describe the impact their trauma knowledge has on the way they parent foster children? The design for this study was Moustakas’ (1994) transcendental phenomenology. Data were collected from fifteen participants in Central Virginia. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, cognitive representations, and a focus group. Data analysis was conducted using the epoche, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis of meanings and essences. Four major themes emerged: “Theme One: Experiences Prior to Trauma Knowledge,” “Theme Two: We are Missing Something,” “Theme Three: Integrating New Information,” and “Theme Four: The Change.” The implications of this study apply to researchers on trauma-informed care, foster parent training programs, Kolb’s (2014) ELT, complex trauma theory, the department of social services, and current and future foster parents.