Nicole R. Bossard, Ph.D. is a 2011 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Carolyn Kenny, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Philomena Essed, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Raquel Gutierrez, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Carol Wilson-Spigner, Ph.D., External Reader


lived experience, portraiture, phenomenology, family engagement, clients, child welfare and protection, relational leadership, resilience, relational-cultural theory, self-leadership, collaborative leadership, parent mentors

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This study explores the transformative experience from client and service recipient to collaborative leader and partner in child welfare. Rather than expanding on existing literature that examines the nature and quality of the client experience from a service or customer satisfaction perspective, this study reflects the lived experiences of "real, bonafide" birth parent leaders in child welfare systems in the State of Kansas, several counties in Washington state, and Contra Costa County, California. The goal of the study is to illuminate the journey from clienthood to leadership as experienced by the nine birth parent leaders in the study through research portraits (Lawrence-Lightfoot Hoffmann Davis, 1997). Findings from the study highlight the dynamic interplay between individual and contextual dimensions that support the initiation of and on-going leadership of birth parents within child welfare systems as active and equal participants. The findings illuminate for us the relational web in which the study's birth parent leader participants have emerged and thrive as collaborative partners and leaders within their local child welfare context. In so doing, the study provides a relational interpretation of resilience and transformation, leadership and change that extends beyond traditional notions of client engagement and consumer involvement in child welfare. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLINK ETD Center,