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A Positive Youth Development Approach to Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Maltreated Children in Foster Care: Replication and Extension of an RCT of the Fostering Healthy Futures Programs

NCJ Number
American Journal of Community Psychology Volume: 64: Dated: 2019 Pages: 405-17
Date Published

The authors describe their research project aimed at replicating and extending previous findings of the Fostering Healthy Futures program, aimed at improving mental health outcomes for children experiencing effects of trauma from maltreatment.


Preventing the negative impact of maltreatment on children's mental health requires interventions to be contextually sensitive, grounded in theory and research, and effective in reaching and retaining children and families. This study replicates and extends previous findings of the Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program, a 30-week mentoring and skills group intervention for preadolescent maltreated children in foster care. Participants included 426 children recently placed in out-of-home care who were randomized to intervention or control conditions. Outcomes measured at six- to 10-months after intervention included a multi-informant (child, caregiver, teacher) index of mental health problems as well as measures of posttraumatic stress symptoms, dissociative symptoms, quality of life, and use of mental health services and psychotropic medications. There were high rates of program initiation, retention, and engagement; 95 percent of those randomized to FHF started the program, 92 percent completed it, and over 85 percent of the mentoring visits and skills groups were attended. The FHF program demonstrated significant impact in reducing mental health symptomatology, especially trauma symptoms, and mental health service utilization. These program effects were consistent across almost all subgroups, suggesting that FHF confers benefit for diverse children. Results indicate that positive youth development programming is highly acceptable to children and families and that it can positively impact trauma. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2019