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  A Longitudinal Study of a Mentoring and Skills Group Intervention for Maltreated Youth


The University of Denver is studying whether an evidence-based, mentoring and skills group intervention can mitigate the effects of childhood adversity, reduce delinquency and juvenile justice involvement, and promote positive youth development. Fostering Healthy Futures is a 9-month mentoring and skills training program for 9- to 11-year-old children placed in court-ordered foster care as a result of maltreatment. An earlier randomized controlled trial evaluation demonstrated that the program significantly reduced youth mental health symptoms, residential treatment facility placements, and foster care placements.

This project is funded under the OJJDP FY 2017 Field Initiated Research and Evaluation Program, which supports efforts to build knowledge and innovation in both policy and practice in areas of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention that have been understudied or merit closer attention.

Goals and Objectives:

The goal of the study is to explore and test whether the intervention prevents and/or reduces delinquency and juvenile justice involvement. Specifically, the study is using a longitudinal sample of foster care youth to:

  • Examine whether the Fostering Healthy Futures intervention is associated with less delinquency and involvement in the juvenile justice system.
  • Examine whether the intervention buffers youth from the negative effects of childhood adversity.
  • Examine whether changes in psychosocial functioning (mental health, social functioning, and emotion regulation) operate as mediators of this intervention effect.
  • Explore whether there are gender and/or racial/ethnic differences in program efficacy and mediating mechanisms.

To do this, the study will:

  • Build upon longitudinal data collected across four time points from 426 maltreated children in foster care, ages 9 to 11 at baseline, who were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial of the Fostering Healthy Futures intervention. Data collected from interviews with youth, caregivers, and teachers will measure adverse childhood experiences, delinquency, mental health, social functioning, and emotional regulation. The researchers will use administrative records to measure juvenile justice involvement.
  • Conduct confirmatory factor analyses to examine the optimal factor structure associated with the mental health, social functioning, and emotion regulation variables.
  • Use structural equation modeling techniques to examine the research questions noted above.
  • Compile and disseminate project findings.


The research team is preparing longitudinal data from the randomized controlled trial of the Fostering Healthy Futures intervention and official court records from the State Court Administrator's Office. The researchers expect to complete analysis in 2019. OJJDP intends to post a final technical report when the project concludes.

Contact Information:

Benjamin Adams, Social Science Analyst | 202-616-3687

Heather Taussig, Ph.D., Principal Investigator | 303-871-2937
Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver

Project Snapshot

Project Title: An Ecological Model of Risk and Protection for Delinquency and Juvenile Justice Involvement Among Maltreated Youth: A Longitudinal Study

Most recent solicitation: OJJDP FY 2017 Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation Program

Grantee: University of Denver

Award start date: October 1, 2017

End date: September 30, 2019

Award status: Active

Type of research: Evaluation

Related topical page: mentoring;risk and protective factors

Location of research: Denver, CO

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