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Children and Youth Services Review

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Foster children, Mental health, Social service, Developmental psychology


This study articulates the iterative development of an intervention called Strengthening Youth Networks and Coping (SYNC), which is designed to target coping self-efficacy and help-seeking intentions and behaviors among youth in foster care. The overarching goal is to design an intervention that will be a feasible and acceptable enhancement to existing child welfare services, and that will address modifiable determinants among adolescents involved in child welfare system that are related to elevated risk for mental health challenges, limited support network capacity, and service disengagement after exiting foster care. In this paper, we describe our initial needs assessment, explain how we selected proximal intervention mechanisms (i.e., intermediate outcomes) to target, and outline the preliminary intervention development process, including ongoing insights we received from a research advisory group including members with lived experience. Next, we report and discuss the initial acceptability pre-testing data collected from youth (N=30) as well as feasibility data collected from providers (N=82), results from which were used to refine the SYNC intervention framework prior to robust efficacy testing. Findings highlight the need and importance of targeting youth coping and help-seeking, integrating programming within existing transition services, delivering this content in a group-based format that includes near-peer mentors and facilitators with lived experience, and developing options that work for the heterogeneous population of young people in foster care. The results also highlight the key objective of capturing youth’s interests prior to enrolling in the program (e.g., language used in recruitment materials), holding their interest throughout the program (e.g., creating opportunities for youth to engage with other youth with similar experiences), and suggestions to encourage youth’s engagement and participation. This paper articulates the value of this intervention development approach, and the sequential phases of this intervention development process as well as the results, which may be useful to applied researchers and practitioners working with youth in foster care and other priority populations.


© 2022 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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