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Children and Youth Services Review

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Social work with youth


Post-secondary students transitioning from foster care face a range of unique challenges to academic engagement and success, and the typical mental health stressors experienced by college-age young adults are exacerbated by experiences of trauma common to those with foster care experience. Many campuses have introduced specialized support programs for these students, but few have been rigorously tested. This study is the first identified randomized experiment to evaluate a post-secondary support program for enrolled college students with foster care backgrounds and mental health challenges. We report findings from a pilot intervention study testing the Project Futures model, which includes one-on-one coaching from near-peers around self-determination and self-efficacy related to mental health, academics, and other inhibitors of educational success. Overall, though this was a small pilot RCT ( N = 35 ), analysis showed evidence of intervention impact on important targeted outcomes at post-intervention and / or 6-month follow-up, including self-determination, career-related self-efficacy and career exploration activities, and mental health self-efficacy and empowerment. Further, compared to the control group, intervention participants had a higher reported GPA and were more likely to still be enrolled in school at follow-up. The study findings suggest that such structured coaching approaches can increase self-determination and self-efficacy in ways that may impact retention and potentially degree completion for foster youth. We discuss these findings in the context of specialized campus support programming for youth with foster care histories, as well as important limitations in our study, and recommendations for future research, practice, and policy.


© 2022 Elsevier Ltd.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Children and Youth Services Review. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Children and Youth Services Review.



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