This study continues work we’ve been doing under a developmental research grant and pilot study of Connecting, a self-directed, family-focused, substance abuse and risky sexual behavior prevention program for foster teens and their caregivers. The new study will be conducting a randomized controlled trial of the program with foster families and teens in Washington State. The program was adapted for use within the child welfare system, from Staying Connected with Your Teen (SCT), a family-based, self-directed prevention program that has shown long-term (2-year) effects in reducing initiation into drug use and sexual activity, and has reduced the frequency of violent behaviors, especially among low-income African American teens. Pilot data demonstrate less family conflict, clearer family expectations for behavior, less favorable attitudes for drug use, and a reduction in some risky problem behaviors in foster families in the program condition compared to wait-list controls. We will test the program with 260 foster youth-caregiver dyads. This 5-year efficacy study will 1) use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the program on key proximal and distal family outcomes for foster care families; 2) collect cost data and complete a cost-benefit analysis, should we find benefits to providing this preventive program; and 3) collaborate with child welfare partners during the final year of the study to maximize the potential of low-impact integration of this evidence-based program into the system should it be found to be efficacious.
This proposal unites two University of Washington School of Social Work entities, the Social Development Research Group and Partners for Our Children, a research group designed to conduct new thinking, resources, and expertise to improve the child welfare system, focusing its research on child welfare transformation. One innovative feature of this proposal is our strong collaboration with the Washington State Children’s Administration and the Alliance for Child Welfare Excellence, which will allow systems integration and dissemination should the program be efficacious.