Date of Award

Winter 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Disorders & Special Education


Early Childhood Education

Committee Director

Angela L. Eckhoff

Committee Member

Peter Baker

Committee Member

Kathleen Levingston

Committee Member

Katharine Kersey


This study examined factors that impact recruitment, engagement, and retention of low-income parents in community parenting programs. Using a traditional qualitative phenomenological approach, this research sought to develop an understanding of the difficulties that program providers often encounter in engaging low-income parents. Participants included program stakeholders (providers, policy-makers, and funders) and low-income parents with children under the age of five from urban areas. A series of focus groups were held in order to capture the voices and develop a textural description of the lived experiences of participants. Results revealed that a combination of factors impact engagement, including the important role of the community in the lives of the families, and the positive impact of developing relationships and connections between program providers and parents. Further, themes for the data emerged bringing forth the notion that effort and resiliency are strengths and merit attention when engaging parents. Most importantly, results demonstrated that families acquire various forms of community cultural wealth and funds of knowledge that need to be acknowledged and valued when seeking to develop parenting programs. Implications for program development indicate a strong need to consider: developing an understanding of the needs and culture of the specific community in which the program will be provided; intentional efforts in connecting with and building relationships with families prior to program start; designing programs that allow for parent input, feedback and contribution of social and cultural capital; and inclusion of assessment mechanisms that account for smaller, individualized goals that acknowledge for difference in efforts to engage.