An RCT of Fostering Healthy Futures mentoring program for teens in the child welfare system recently reported final results. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds a sizable 14% point decrease in juvenile justice involvement over ~2 years - an encouraging result though not definitive due to lack of statistical significance.

Program:

  • Fostering Healthy Futures for Teens (FHF‑T) is a 9‑month intensive mentoring program for 8th and 9th grade students who have open child welfare cases due to maltreatment within their families. The mentors are grad students in social work or psychology.

Study Design:

  • The study sample comprised 245 youth in the Denver area, randomly assigned to treatment (FHF-T) vs control (child welfare services as usual). Based on careful review, this was a well-conducted RCT (e.g., baseline balance, low attrition, prespecified primary analyses).

Findings:

  • At ~2 years following study entry, the study found a 14 point reduction in the % of youth with juvenile justice involvement (i.e., court charges) -- 13% T vs 27% C. It also found an 8 point reduction in % of youth self-reporting delinquency in past year (57% T vs 65% C).

  • However, neither of these effects was statistically significant (p=0.19 & 0.32 for the above 2 primary outcomes, respectively). So I think the results are encouraging (due to the sizable effects) but not yet definitive as they could potentially be due to chance.  

Comment:

  • I believe this would be a strong candidate for a replication RCT (with a larger sample) to hopefully confirm the results. Disclosure: Arnold Ventures, my former employer, funded this study. Here's the study report.

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