Date of Award


Degree Name

Educational Leadership


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Linda Spatig

Second Advisor

L. Eric Lassiter

Third Advisor

Eugenia Damron

Fourth Advisor

Mary Beth Reynolds


The Maternal Infant Outreach Worker Program (MIHOW) is a strength-based home visitation program that uses trained lay women indigenous to the community to mentor and teach parents who are economically disadvantaged or live in geographically isolated areas about healthy and positive pregnancy and parenting up until the child turns age three. This qualitative case study conducted in rural Appalachia at two program sites examined how women involved in the West Virginia MIHOW program – program leaders, home visitors, and mothers – came to recognize their strengths and use them to achieve life aspirations. In addition, this study explored how MIHOW program participants perceived themselves in various aspects of their lives and how the program contributed to positive social change for women, their families, and their communities. Findings were interpreted in relation to extant literature on strength-based approaches, home visitation, and women as leaders. Theme one pertains to the role of the importance of being explicit about strengths and making it pervasive throughout the entire program. Recognizing strengths and carrying out the strength-based approach was core for MIHOW program leaders and home visitors as they wholeheartedly practiced it in their work and their lives, whereas mothers’ recognition of their strengths was less clear. The second theme shows that MIHOW program staff and mothers achieved many of their life aspirations, as well as established new visions and overcame obstacles. The third theme shows that women participating in MIHOW were making a difference by simultaneously leading from in front (as role models) and from beside (as collaborative team members), which included the factors of authentically walking the walk of the strength-based approach, listening and observing with an open mind, collaborating with humility, and advocating for and with mothers. Findings were also interpreted through an examination of Robert K. Greenleaf’s servant leadership principles and the theoretical frame of social justice feminism. The combination of Robert K. Greenleaf’s (2002) servant leadership and social justice feminism was exemplified in MIHOW’s leadership from in front and from beside as it provided a respectful, supportive, encouraging, and egalitarian environment, which for many program staff and mothers increased their self-advocacy beliefs, fostered their leadership growth, empowered them to be the “leaders they wanted to be,” and transformed them into “movers and shakers” in their communities.


Women -- Appalachian Region.

Maternal Infant Outreach Worker Program.