Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Angela Eckhoff

Committee Member

Kristine Sunday

Committee Member

Helen Crompton

Committee Member

Sue Kimmel


The U.S. admits approximately 70,000 refugees each year. Many of these are families with young children. Refugee populations differ from broader immigrant populations in their background and experiences, yet they are rarely disaggregated from other immigrant populations within educational studies. Many refugee families meet the eligibility guidelines for early childhood educational programs, such as Head Start or public PreK programs; however, they often have difficulty navigating the enrollment process (Gross & Ntagengwa, 2016; Hooper, Zong, Capps, & Fix, 2016). To date, little is known about the specific experiences of resettled refugee mothers and their perspectives of navigating the early childhood education context within the U.S. This descriptive dual case study utilized qualitative data collection methods such as individual interviews, policy and document analysis to develop an in-depth understanding of the refugee mothers’ experience of navigating the early childhood education context in the U.S. Results indicate that mothers experience many challenges in both accessing and participating in the public PreK education program in their school district and that they utilize a combination of social and cultural capital to navigate and overcome those challenges. Each mother in the study approached the challenges differently and utilized their unique network of social connections. Implications from the study suggest the need for more targeted resources and support for families in finding, accessing, and participating in early childhood programs.