Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF)

About This Program

Target Population: Boys and girls, ages 9-11, placed in out-of-home care in the prior two years as a result of maltreatment

For children/adolescents ages: 9 – 11

Program Overview

FHF is a mentoring and skills group program for maltreated preadolescents in out-of-home care.

Skills Groups. Children attend skills groups which meet for 1.5 hours/week for 30 weeks. The groups follow a manualized curriculum that combines cognitive-behavioral strategies with activities designed to help children process experiences related to placement in out-of-home care. For example, topics include: emotion recognition, problem solving, anger management, cultural identity, change and loss, and peer pressure. Multicultural stories and activities are integrated throughout.

Mentoring. Children are paired with graduate student mentors and receive 30 weeks of 1:1 mentoring (2-4 hours per week). Mentors work to: 1) create relationships with children that serve as positive examples for future relationships, 2) advocate for needed services, 3) help children generalize and practice skills learned in group, 4) engage children in educational, social, cultural, and recreational activities, and 5) promote positive future outlooks.

FHF targets risk and protective factors that have been identified as strong predictors of adolescent risk behaviors and associated outcomes.

Program Goals

The goals of Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) are:

  • Short-term goals:
    • Promoting healthy relationships with peers and adults
    • Promoting positive attitudes about self and future
    • Promoting skills for regulating behavior and coping adaptively
    • Promoting better mental health functioning
  • Long-term goals:
    • Reduce the likelihood of youth involvement in delinquency, substance use, and risky sexual behavior
    • Reduce the likelihood of placement instability and restrictive placements
    • Reduce the likelihood of school failure and dropout
    • Reduce the likelihood of arrests and incarceration

Essential Components

The essential components of Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) are:

  • Skills Groups
    • Groups are comprised of 8 boys and girls, one group supervisor, one co-leader (typically a graduate student), and one skills group assistant.
    • Groups are comprised of children with diverse mental health and behavioral (both prosocial and deviant) functioning.
    • Groups are 1.5 hours in length (1 hour of skills group and a half hour of supervised meal and socialization time).
    • During the hour of group, children participate in the FHF manualized skills group curriculum.
    • During the half hour following group, children, mentors, and staff share a meal. This provides youth with the opportunity to socialize with other youth in out-of-home care and to practice social skills under the supervision of staff and mentors.
    • Group supervisors receive a 3-day in person training on the FHF model. The group supervisor and skills group co-leaders receive 3 additional hours of training prior to leading the skills groups. They also receive 1-2 hours/week of ongoing training throughout the 9-month intervention period.
  • Mentoring
    • Mentors are graduate students in social work, psychology, and related fields on field placement or internship with the implementing agency.
    • Mentors are selected after a standardized interview, and after careful screening, using guidelines set forth in the FHF Implementation Manual.
    • Mentors each mentor two children.
    • Mentors complete 24 hours of training and orientation before meeting with children.
    • Mentors receive one hour of individual supervision, one hour of group supervision (during their mentees’ skills group), and one hour of didactic seminar per week. Mentors also participate in a team meeting for one hour every other week.
    • Mentors meet 1:1 with each youth they mentor for 2-4 hours/week for 30 weeks and transport their two mentees to and from group each week for 30 weeks.
    • Mentoring activities and advocacy are individually tailored to meet any identified needs and to promote identified strengths of individual children, following the guidelines set forth in the FHF Implementation Manual.
    • Mentors spend 18-20 hours per week on the FHF program, engaged in the following activities: (1) mentoring youth, (2) interfacing with parents, caregivers, and other involved professionals such as teachers, therapists, and caseworkers in order to facilitate communication and advocate on behalf of children’s needs, and (3) attending supervision, trainings, and meetings.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • History of maltreatment and placement in out-of-home care.
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Although FHF is predominantly a child-focused intervention, substitute caregivers, biological parents, and other collateral adults are involved in the following ways: 1) Mentors and program staff regularly communicate with caregivers/parents about the things their children are learning and doing in the preventive intervention. 2) Caregivers/parents and therapists are given monthly letters about what children are learning in skills groups and how to help children practice these skills. 3) Mentors interface with parents/caregivers, therapists, educators, guardians ad litem, and caseworkers in order to share information and coordinate intervention strategies. 4) As appropriate, children’s mentors provide caregivers/parents with support and instrumental aid for problems that caregivers/parents identify.

Recommended Intensity:

Children attend skills groups for 1.5 hours per week. Children spend approximately 1 hour per week with their mentors during transportation to and from skills groups. Children spend 2-4 hours per week in 1:1 mentoring activities with their mentors.

Recommended Duration:

30-week program that typically runs concurrently with the academic year, from September through May

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Community Agency
  • Foster/Kinship Care
  • Residential Care Facility
  • School


Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) includes a homework component:

The FHF curriculum supports children in creating Lifebooks, which use verbal and non-verbal media to chronicle children’s pasts and document their hopes and plans for the future. The skills group curriculum includes weekly Lifebook activities that encourage youth to practice skills learned in group with their mentors and with others in their home, school, and community environments.


Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • 1 group room that can accommodate 8 children and 2 adults; access to a white board or easel/with paper and ability to show DVDs are essential
  • 1 room for 4 mentors and 1 supervisor to conduct group supervision
  • 1 room to accommodate 8 children, 4 mentors, 2 group leaders, 1 skills group assistant and 1 mentor supervisor for a shared meal
  • Licensed mental health professionals to supervise graduate interns who serve as mentors and group co-leaders
  • Licensed mental health professionals to conduct manualized skills groups
  • Graduate student interns to serve as mentors and co-leaders; they are unpaid
  • Staff or volunteers to serve as skills group assistants (to order food, set up the group room, supervise time outs from group, etc)
  • Food for a shared meal before or after group
  • Funds to reimburse mentors for mileage and for business class automobile insurance when needed. Mentors must use their own cars and must provide their own basic automobile insurance
  • $10/week per child is given to mentors to cover the costs of mentoring activities
  • Criminal and driving record background checks on all staff/interns

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

  • Mentors must be enrolled in a university Master’s- or Doctorate-level clinical program with a field placement or internship requirement that can be met through participation in the program.
  • Intern and Group supervisors must hold either a Master’s or Doctorate degree in a relevant field (i.e., social work, psychology) and be licensed. They should have prior supervisory experience.
  • Group supervisors must hold either a Master’s or Doctorate degree. They should have significant clinical experience working with high-risk youth, preferably in a group setting.
  • Group co-leaders are typically graduate students in a relevant discipline.
  • Skills group assistant positions can be filled with existing staff at implementing agencies, with volunteers, or with hourly student workers, but must have significant experience working with children and must be able to manage children who have been given a time out from group.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

In person, via phone, and/or Skype

Number of days/hours:

Pre-implementation training is a 3-day in-person training.

Ongoing training and consultation during the program year ranges from 1-3 hours/week depending on the staff position in the first year of program implementation.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) as listed below:

There is a FHF Program Readiness Assessment available from the FHF Program Developers.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) as listed below:

There are implementation manuals, in-person trainings, and weekly ongoing training and coaching throughout the implementation year. Please contact the Program Developers to obtain information about implementation training costs.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) as listed below:

Fidelity measures currently being tracked include:

  • Attendance, program completion, and other measures of program uptake (e.g. time spent on mentoring visits)
  • Skills group content delivery
  • Mentor training curriculum delivery
  • Mentor and group co-leader supervision
  • Program satisfaction

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) as listed below:

There is a manual that specifies all the components of the program.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

*Taussig, H. N., & Culhane, S. E. (2010). Impact of a mentoring and skills group program on mental health outcomes for maltreated children in foster care. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 164, 739-746.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 156


  • Age — 9-11 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 50% Hispanic, 43% Caucasian, and 29% African American
  • Gender — 51% Male and 49% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who were maltreated and placed in foster care.

Location/Institution: Denver, CO

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study evaluated the efficacy of the Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program in reducing mental health and associated problems. All children received an assessment of their cognitive, educational, and mental health functioning, and those children randomized to the intervention group participated in a 9-month mentoring and skills group program. Children and caregivers were interviewed at baseline prior to randomization (T1), immediately post-intervention (T2), and 6 months postintervention (T3). Teachers were interviewed at two points of time post baseline. Measures included a multi-informant index of mental health problems, youth-reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress, dissociation, and quality of life, and caregiver- and youth-reported use of mental health services and psychotropic medications. Analyses demonstrated that the treatment group had fewer mental health problems at T3, reported fewer symptoms of dissociation at T3, and reported better quality of life at T2. Fewer intervention youth had received recent mental health therapy at T3, according to youth report. Limitations of the study include that, despite randomization, there were a few key variables on which the 2 groups differed at baseline (analyses controlled for these variables); those lost to follow-up had lower intelligence quotients (IQs) and more mental health problems.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 6 months.

*Taussig, H. N., Culhane, S. E., Garrido, E., & Knudtson, M. D. (2012). RCT of a mentoring and skill group program: Placement and permanency outcomes for foster youth. Pediatrics, 130(1), 33-39.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 110


  • Age — 9-11 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 54.3% Caucasian, 46.1% Hispanic, and 34.6% African American
  • Gender — 51.8% Male and 48.2% Female
  • Status — Participants were children in foster care.

Location/Institution: Two Colorado counties, United States

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Note: Uses same study sample as Taussig, H. N., & Culhane, S. E. (2010). This study examined the impact of Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF), a mentoring and skills group intervention for preadolescent children in foster care on placement stability and permanence. Youth were randomized to FHF or an assessment-only group. Measures utilized included the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and child welfare administrative records. FHF youth were 71% less likely to be placed in residential treatment. Among children living in non-relative foster care at baseline,FHF youth had 44% fewer placement changes, were 82% less likely to be placed in a residential treatment center, and were 5 times more likely to have attained permanency. Significantly more FHF youth had reunified 1-year post intervention. Limitations include a lack of information on reasons for placement change.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 12 months.

Taussig, H. N., Culhane, S. E., Garrido, E., Knudtson, M. D., & Petrenko, C. M. (2013). Does severity of physical neglect moderate the impact of an efficacious preventive intervention for maltreated children in foster care? Child Maltreatment, 18(1), 56-64.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 144


  • Age — 9-11 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 45.8% Hispanic, 47.2 Caucasian, and 29.9% African American
  • Gender — 50.7% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who were maltreated and placed in foster care.

Location/Institution: Denver, CO

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The current study sought to examine the moderating impact of neglect on the efficacy of the Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF) program for preadolescent children in foster care. Because it was not possible to isolate a neglected-only subgroup, as most children with physical neglect histories had experienced other types of maltreatment, this study tested the hypothesis that intervention effects would be stronger among children with more severe physical neglect. Measures included the posttraumatic stress and dissociation scales of the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children, the Child Behavior Checklist, Life Satisfaction Survey, the Coping Inventory (TCI), the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPC), and the People in My Life Measure (PML). Results indicated that after controlling for the severity of abuse, no evidence was found to suggest that program effects were moderated by physical neglect severity. Limitations include lack of follow-up, and measure of physical neglect severity may not be comprehensive.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Taussig, H. N., Culhane, S. E., & Hettleman, D. (2007). Fostering Healthy Futures: An innovative preventive intervention for preadolescent youth in out-of-home care. Child Welfare, 86, 113-131.

Taussig, H. N., Culhane, S. E., Raviv, T., Schnoll Fitzpatrick, L. E., & Wertheimer, R. W. (2010). Mentoring children in foster care: Impact on graduate student mentors. Educational Horizons, 89, 17-32.

Taussig, H. N., Culhane,S. E., Garrido, E., Knudtson, M. D.,Petrenko, C. (2012). Does Severity of Physical Neglect Moderate the Impact of an Efficacious Intervention for Maltreated Children in Foster Care? Child Maltreatment, 1-9.

Contact Information

Heather Taussig, PhD
Title: Professor and Associate Dean for Research
Agency/Affiliation: University of Denver
Department: Graduate School of Social Work
Phone: (303) 871-2937

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2018

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2012