This study evaluated the effectiveness of the Fostering Healthy Futures program in reducing mental health conditions and associated problems.
The evaluation was conducted in the Denver (Colorado) metropolitan area using a randomized controlled trial. Participants were children ages 9 to 11 years old who were maltreated and placed in foster care. Children in the control group (n = 77) received an assessment of their cognitive, educational, and mental health functioning. Children in the intervention group (n = 79) received the assessment and participated in a 9-month mentoring and skills group program. Children and caregivers were interviewed at baseline prior to randomization, immediately following the intervention, and 6 months after the intervention. Teachers were interviewed two times after baseline. Measures included a multi-informant index of mental health problems; youth-reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress, dissociation, and quality of life; and caregiver- and youth-reported use of mental health services and psychotropic medications. After adjusting for covariates, intent-to-treat analyses demonstrated that the treatment group had fewer mental health problems on a multi-informant factor 6 months after the intervention (mean difference, −0.51; 95 percent confidence interval, −0.84 to −0.19), reported fewer symptoms of dissociation 6 months after the intervention (mean difference, −3.66; 95 percent confidence interval, −6.58 to −0.74), and reported better quality of life immediately following the intervention (mean difference, 0.11; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.03 to 0.19). Fewer youths in the intervention group than in the control group had received recent mental health therapy 6 months after the intervention according to youth report (53 percent vs 71 percent, respectively; relative risk = 0.75; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.98). The study concludes that a 9-month mentoring and skills group intervention for children in foster care can be implemented with fidelity and high uptake rates, resulting in improved mental health outcomes. (publisher abstract modified)