Although youth who have experienced trauma and are placed in foster care are at risk for adverse outcomes, they are also capable of demonstrating remarkable resilience. Fostering Healthy Futures® (FHF) is a positive youth development program, which rejects the deficit model and focuses on the promotion of strengths. FHF employs 1:1 mentoring and group-based skills training to promote healthy youth development and reduce trauma-related symptoms and behaviors. This innovative program was developed at Kempe in 2002 by Heather Taussig, Ph.D. and her colleagues and it has demonstrated numerous positive outcomes. 

FHF was initially designed for preadolescent children in out-of-home care but a teen adaptation has also demonstrated positive outcomes.  This year, the FHF program will become more readily available for pre-teen and teen participants, as The Kempe Foundation provided a grant in 2019 to expand the availability and implementation of the program in Colorado communities.

Jessica Corvinus, Director of Dissemination for Fostering Healthy Futures, is trying to scale the program and make it available to more youth. One way to do that involves identifying other organizations that may be able to run the FHF program, thereby expanding programming.

Jessica and her colleagues are also piloting the “Acing Healthy Futures” program for youth ages 9-11 who are not in the foster care system but do have a history of involvement in the child welfare system and have experienced one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

“With the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, the child welfare landscape is shifting and the system is changing,” said Ms. Corvinus. “We are trying to align with the goals of Family First which calls for keeping families together.”

How does it work? FHF builds on youth’s strengths and interests by engaging pre-teens and teens in visioning and goal-setting exercises, skills training activities and workshops to build on their competencies and reduce adverse outcomes. 

The results don’t lie. Key findings from the FHF-T program, which was tested in Colorado, demonstrated the following:

  • Children in the FHF program experienced reduced mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety) and trauma symptoms
  • Children were less likely to be receiving mental health treatment at the follow-up, which suggests cost savings of the program.
  • Finally, children who participated in FHF had fewer placement changes and greater permanency.

Findings also suggest that the FHF program is very well received, as these quotes illustrate:

“I want to say thank you. Like a million times over, like thank you, thank you, thank you, ‘cause she was such a big impact. When I thought that no one really wanted me, she was right there.”

“FHF showed me that there is people other than my family that want me to succeed, and that’s behind my back, and, you know, is rooting for me. It gave me joy to my life when it wasn’t too much joy.”

The Kempe Foundation has provided fundraising and advocacy support for the experts at The Kempe Center since its inception. The Center has been recognized as a leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect for more than 45 years. Today, the Center’s programs include medical and behavioral health services, training for child welfare professionals and research on the causes and impacts of abuse.

Visit www.fosteringhealthyfutures.org to learn more.