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 Program

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Foster care, Trauma, Maltreatment, Mental health, Mentoring, Skills training


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 6–10 months postintervention 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% of those randomized to FHF started the program, 92% completed it, and over 85% 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 and its sequelae.

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