Preventing Behavior and Health Problems for Foster Teens

Based on Research Conducted at OSLC

This study tested the efficacy of an intervention designed to strengthen the parenting skills of foster parents and to increase social skills related to preventing health-risking behaviors for youth in foster homes.

Project Overview

Adolescents in foster care are at high risk for a myriad of negative outcomes, including substance use, involvement in the juvenile justice system, participation in health-risking sexual behaviors, placement in restrictive care settings such as residential treatment care centers, and failed school performance. The primary aim of this study was to test the efficacy of an intervention designed to strengthen the parenting skills of foster parents and to increase social skills related to preventing health-risking behaviors for youth in foster homes in San Diego County. The study tested whether using a preventative version of Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) reduces the likelihood that teens would (a) engage in substance use, (b) engage in criminal offending, (c) participate in health-risking sexual behavior, (d) be removed (i.e., disrupt) from their foster homes because of behavioral or emotional problems, and (e) miss or fail school. Two levels of intervention were tested; one level targeted improving the parenting skills of the state-supported kinship and foster families, and the second level targeted both foster/kin parenting skills and youth health knowledge and social skills. Teens ages 12-16 (and their foster/kin parents) were randomly assigned to one of two enhanced intervention conditions or to a “child welfare services case management as usual” control condition. Foster parents of study teens participated in weekly group meetings with well-trained and supervised paraprofessional facilitators, in which the curriculum was based on parent management training. For teens in the individualized skills training condition, sessions focused on increasing their skills at avoidance of health-harming activities and participation in healthy practices with an emphasis on commitments to prosocial peers and school, and refraining from substance use and sexual behavior.

Funder: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Principal Investigator

Patricia Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Science Director
Oregon Social Learning Center

Active Research Projects

Primary Research and Clinical Interests

Dr. Chamberlain’s interest in developing interventions for children and families emerged from her early work as a special education teacher. She has conducted several studies on treatment for children, youth, and families in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and mental health systems. She founded the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (formerly Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care/MTFC; www.tfcoregon.com) and KEEP (www.keepfostering.org) intervention models. TFCO is an alternative to group, residential, and institutional placement for youngsters with high behavioral and emotional needs. KEEP provides enhanced support and training to state foster and relative parents to prevent placement disruptions, improve reunification rates, and to reduce parent stress and child behavioral and emotional problems. TFCO and KEEP are being widely implemented throughout the United States and in Europe (see www.tfcoregon.com and keepfostering.org). Dr. Chamberlain has been the Principal Investigator on 9 randomized trials examining the efficacy of parent mediated intervention approaches. She has been the P.I. on two P50 Centers of Excellence. She currently is focused on implementation research with an emphasis on what it takes to integrate and scale-up evidence-based practices into real-world agencies and systems. Since 2012, she has led an effort to implement KEEP and Parent Management Training in the New York City child welfare system involving over 300 case workers and supervisors serving over 2,000 children and families at 11 sites (CSNYC). Currently, she is leading an effort to implement KEEP statewide in Tennessee as part of In Home Tennessee, their Title IVE waiver program. Other recent work has also focused on the development of intervention models for adolescent girls in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. In addition to working on research aimed at improving outcomes for youth and foster and biological families, she is interested in how to support child public service systems to improve the efficiency of their routine practices. Dr. Chamberlain is a senior fellow at the Society for Prevention Research (SPR), and was inducted into the first cohort of SPR Fellows in 2013. In 2017 she received the Prevention Science award given for leadership and promoting positive public health impacts.