Development and Piloting of a Treatment Foster Care Program for Older Youth with Psychiatric Problems
Background: Older youth in out-of-home care often live in restrictive settings and face psychiatric issues without sufficient family support. This paper reports on the development and piloting of a manualized treatment foster care program designed to step down older youth with high psychiatric needs from residential programs to treatment foster care homes. Methods: A team of researchers and agency partners set out to develop a treatment foster care model for older youth based on Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC). After matching youth by mental health condition and determining for whom randomization would be allowed, 14 youth were randomized to treatment as usual or a treatment foster home intervention. Stakeholders were interviewed qualitatively at multiple time points. Quantitative measures assessed mental health symptoms, days in locked facilities, employment and educational outcomes. Results: Development efforts led to substantial variations from the MTFC model and a new model, Treatment Foster Care for Older Youth was piloted. Feasibility monitoring suggested that it was difficult, but possible to recruit and randomize youth from and out of residential homes and that foster parents could be recruited to serve them. Qualitative data pointed to some qualified clinical successes. Stakeholders viewed two team roles – that of psychiatric nurse and skills coaches – very highly. However, results also suggested that foster parents and some staff did not tolerate the intervention well and struggled to address the emotion dysregulation issues of the young people they served. Quantitative data demonstrated that the intervention was not keeping youth out of locked facilities. Conclusions: The intervention needed further refinement prior to a broader trial. Intervention development work continued until components were developed to help address emotion regulation problems among fostered youth. Psychiatric nurses and skills coaches who work with youth in community settings hold promise as important supports for older youth with psychiatric needs.