Intended Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctorate in Public Administration (DPA)


Kris Norman Major Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anita Larson, DPA

Second Committee Member

Cayte Anderson, Ph.D.



Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis was used to examine how young adults with prior out-of-home care experience make meaning of the Independent Living (IL) process (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). Participants had been in foster care, kinship care, and informal care settings. All participants were enrolled at the university or had recently graduated from the university. All participants were female, white, and from mixed geographic background. None registered as having disability, although evidence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) was shared. Only one study participant had prior experience with an IL contractor.

Individual interviews were conducted, followed by a focus group. The how and what of the learning about topics of IL were explored. Additional questions probed how meaning was made from the formal or informal IL learning experience. Familiarity with New Public Service themes found in local, county, state government was also explored.

While each participant pointed out the uniqueness of their experience, the study found similarities sufficient to identify themes, sub-themes and patterns in their experiences. Themes included context of Basic Needs, as well as content in Priority of Education/Work, Attention to Task/Organization, and Challenges with Health/Relationships. Patterns woven through the experience and meaning expressed by participants included safety, work ethic, and healthy relationships. The participants’ desire to impact public policy through the study was apparent. Recommendations for practice, research and policy were addressed, along with need for collaborative research among professionals in the field, academics, and the young adults whose voices of experience need to be at the policy table reinforcing the theme that grounded the study, “Nothing about us without us” (Charlton, 2000).








School of Business Student Theses and Dissertations