About This Program
Target Population: Youth and young adults in foster care, including youth with disabilities and/or mental health conditions, who are: 1) in their final year of high school or GED completion, 2) not opposed to the idea of participating in postsecondary education, and 3) permitted to go into the community with their Better Futures coach
For children/adolescents ages: 16 – 19
The purpose of Better Futures is to support young people in exploring their postsecondary interests and opportunities, and in preparing them to participate in postsecondary education, including college and vocational training programs. Grounded in self-determination promotion, and developed as a postsecondary-focused adaptation of the My Life program, Better Futures engages youth in a four-day postsecondary immersion experience along with the following supports that are provided for 9 months after that experience:
- Youth-directed relationship support from a coach who is currently in postsecondary education and who has personal life experience in foster care
- Coaching in applying achievement, partnership, and self-regulation skills to identify and reach postsecondary and related youth-chosen goals (e.g., dream, set goals, problem-solve, schmooze to reach out to allies, negotiate, appreciate accomplishments, hang tough against stress)
- Support for experiential activities aimed at career and postsecondary exploration and preparation, along with related goal achievement
- Workshops that bring together participants, coaches, and successful near peers (i.e., peers currently in postsecondary education and who have lived experience in foster care) for learning, peer support, and networking
Each youth identifies and works towards self-identified postsecondary and related goals. The youth is supported to carry out a series of postsecondary exploration and preparation activities (e.g., review high school transcript, interview/shadow someone in a career or with a degree of interest, visit a college or vocational program, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid [FAFSA], explore housing options) and to develop at least one individual plan for future support with a trusted adult ally.
The goals of Better Futures are:
- Increased self-determination
- Increased career and postsecondary preparation
- Increased participation in postsecondary education
- Increased hopefulness
- Increased educational and transition planning knowledge and engagement
- Reduced perceived barriers to educational goals
- Increased mental health empowerment
The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Better Futures.
The essential components of Better Futures include:
- Youth participate in a four-day, three-night Summer Institute postsecondary immersion experience, including three nights in the dorms, two days on the University campus, and one day spent at a community college.
- Following the Summer Institute, youth are provided with a minimum of 27 hours of community-based coaching over 9 months, provided by a successful college student who also has personal experience in foster care. Coaching focuses on providing an accepting, transparent, respectful, and reliable relationship presence in the context of:
- Supporting youth to identify and strive toward postsecondary and related goals they value
- Supporting youth in learning and applying 11 specific metacognitive self-determination skills, naturally integrated into their selection and pursuit of goals and activities (e.g., highlighting steps in a skill the youth is already using, introducing/supporting application of a skill such as negotiation when a youth is communicating with others who are blocking their goal, the coach asking the youth to help them problem solve a situation)
- Supporting youth during 17 required and youth-determined experiential activities as they carry out plans to achieve their goals (e.g., visiting a college or vocational training program, gathering college information on the Internet, completing applications, meeting with a supportive adult to discuss plans and support needs)
- Metacognitive skills that youth learn to apply are in the areas of:
- Achievement (e.g., set goals, problem solve, make decisions)
- Building allies (e.g., schmooze, negotiate)
- Self-regulation (e.g., think positive, hang tough through stress)
- These skills and illustrations of their application are presented in materials drawn from a self-help guide called Take Charge for the Future.
- During the coaching period, youth participate in 4-5 peer mentoring workshops, each lasting about 2.5 hours, during which they meet with other peers in the program and with near-peers (i.e., more experienced young adults who also have foster care experience and who are successfully participating in college or a vocational training program). Each workshop includes an informational session followed by an informal activity for food, fun, and networking. Workshop topics are selected by participants and could include finding housing or employment, completing college essays, self-care during stressful times, etc. Transportation to workshops is provided as needed and desired by youth.
- Better Futures is a positive youth development program that is accessible to youth with varying abilities and challenges (e.g., gifted and talented; learning, physical, or cognitive disabilities; mental health issues). However, the approach is not designed to provide treatment or crisis support. Once enrolled, coaches continue to work with youth regardless of changes in placement, school, or foster care status; arrest; going on the run; health crisis; etc., however the program's focus remains on the youth's goals with support provided around accessing additional crisis, legal, health, or other supports.
- Implementation of Better Futures requires a license agreement; delivery of coaching requires completion of 32 hours of certification training, followed by 30 hours of supervision during 10 months of coaching internship with at least two youth. Coaching competencies are demonstrated through all of the following being met:
- Submission of at least three videotapes of coaching for self-reflection and progress on coaching development goals
- Completion of fidelity checklists that document engagement with youth in Better Futures experiences and skills, and relational, experiential and didactic support provided to youth
- Completion of post-training and post-internship questionnaires.
Better Futures directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:
- In foster care and not already on track for postsecondary participation
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:
This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: In the context of working toward their self-identified goals or managing barriers that arise, youth may be supported to communicate with, plan with, or seek support from bio or foster family members.
Two 60- to 90-minute contacts per month on average; distribution of time may vary with activity focus. It is common for youth and their coaches to meet more intensively when the youth is actively exploring postsecondary programs, preparing applications, or dealing with barriers that arise. Likewise, there may be less active periods when youth and their coaches may meet monthly (e.g., applications have been submitted and youth is busy with high school).
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Community Daily Living Setting
- Foster / Kinship Care
- Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
- School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
Better Futures includes a homework component:
Youth typically have activities to perform in between coaching meetings and coaches are available through phone and text, as needed.
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
Take Charge For the Future youth materials, Certification program participation, and license agreement
Manuals and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Current successful participation in college or vocational training and lived experience in foster care
There is not a manual that describes how to deliver this program.
There is training available for this program.
- Jennifer Blakeslee
On-site certification training is followed by local or distance supervision with a technical assistance arrangement. This arrangement is put into place to offer organizational consultation to compliment the coach training. An agency administrator is typically invited to attend the coaching training as well, to facilitate integration of the approach with other agency services.
Number of days/hours:
32 hours on-site, 30 hours supervision
There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Better Futures.
Formal Support for Implementation
There is formal support available for implementation of Better Futures as listed below:
Participation in supervision is required and further technical assistance is available.
There are fidelity measures for Better Futures as listed below:
There is an online fidelity checklist and reporting tool that coaches complete as they work with youth (contact the Training Contact above for more information).
Implementation Guides or Manuals
There are no implementation guides or manuals for Better Futures.
Research on How to Implement the Program
Research has been conducted on how to implement Better Futures as listed below:
Phillips, L., Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Schmidt, J., Winges-Yanez, N., McNeely, I.C., Merritt, L., Williams, C., Turner, S., Zweben, H., Bodner, C., & Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2015). Better Futures: A validated model for increasing postsecondary preparation and participation of youth in foster care with mental health challenges. Children and Youth Services Review, 57, 50-59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.07.010
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being
Geenen, S., Powers, L. E., Phillips, L. A., Nelson, M., McKenna, J., Winges-Yanez, N., Blanchette, L., Croskey, A., Dalton, L. D., Salazar, A., & Swank, P. (2015). Better Futures: A randomized field-test of a model for supporting young people in foster care with mental health challenges to participate in higher education. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 42, 150-171. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11414-014-9451-6
Type of Study:
Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 67
- Age — Mean=16.76 years
- Race/Ethnicity — 41.7% White, 23.9% Native American, 19.4% African American, 4.5% Hispanic, 1.5% Asian, and 9% Multiethnic
- Gender — 52% Female
- Status — Participants were youth in the child welfare system.
(To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to conduct a preliminary efficacy evaluation of the Better Futures model, which is focused on improving the postsecondary preparation and participation of youth in foster care with mental health challenges. Youth were randomized to either a control group that received typical services or Better Futures. Measures utilized include the Arc Self-Determination Scale, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) Self-Determination Scale, the Youth Empowerment Scale-Mental Health, the Quality of Life Questionnaire, the Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale, the Assessing Barriers to Education Scale, Transition Planning Assessment Scale, and the Hopelessness Scale. Results indicate significant gains for the Better Futures group on measures of postsecondary participation, postsecondary and transition preparation, hope, self-determination, and mental health empowerment, as compared to the control group. Youth in the Better Futures group also showed positive trends in the areas of mental health recovery, quality of life, and high school completion as compared to those in the comparison group. Limitations include small sample size; study implementation in a single midsized urban setting on the west coast, which limits generalizability of the findings to other locales; and length of follow-up.
Length of postintervention follow-up: 6 months.
Geenen, S., Powers, L. E., Powers, J, Swank, P., Cunningham, M., Fullerton, A., & Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2013). Experimental study of a self-determination intervention for youth in foster care. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 36(2), 84-95. https://doi.org/10.1177/2165143412455431
Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Powers, J., Satya, S., Turner, A., Dalton, L. D., Drummond, D., Swank, P., & The Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2012). My Life: Effects of a longitudinal, randomized study of self-determination enhancement on the transition outcomes of youth in foster care and special education. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(11), 2179-2187. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.7.018
Quest, A. D., Fullerton, A., Geenen, S., Powers, L. E., & The Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2012). Voices of youth in foster care and special education regarding their educational experiences and transition to adulthood. Children and Youth Services, 34(9), 1604-1615. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.04.018
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: July 2019
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: March 2021
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: December 2016