My Life

1  — Well-Supported by Research Evidence
3  — Promising Research Evidence

About This Program

Target Population: Youth and young adults, ages 15-19, in foster care who are able to go into the community with their program coach, including youth with disabilities and/or mental health conditions

For children/adolescents ages: 15 – 19

Program Overview

The purpose of My Life is to support young people in learning how to direct their lives and achieve their educational and transition to adulthood goals. Grounded in self-determination enhancement, My Life provides youth with 9-12 months of:

  • Youth-directed relationship support
  • Coaching in applying achievement, partnership, and self-regulation skills to identify and reach goals (e.g., set goals, problem-solve, find information and help, negotiate, find allies, focus on accomplishments, manage discouragement)
  • Support for experiential activities aimed at goal achievement and guided skill practice
  • Workshops that bring together participants and successful near peers who also have lived experience in foster care, for learning, peer support, and networking

Each youth identifies and works towards self-identified educational and/or transition goals, shares his or her goals and support needs with important adults during a youth-led meeting, and develops at least one individual plan for future support with a trusted adult.

Program Goals

The goals of My Life are:

  • Increased self-determination
  • Increased quality of life
  • Increased educational and transition planning knowledge and engagement
  • Increased achievement of goals and accomplishments
  • Increased independent living, career, and postsecondary preparation
  • Increased use of transition services
  • Increased time spent on homework and credits toward high school graduation
  • Increased employment and high school completion
  • Reduced levels of depression and anxiety

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for My Life.

Essential Components

The essential components of My Life include :

  • Youth are provided with a minimum of 40 hours (9-month intervention) up to 55 hours (12-month intervention) of youth-directed weekly coaching, provided at school, community, or home locations and at times convenient to the youth.
  • Coaching focuses on providing a reliable, transparent, and respectful relationship presence in the context of supporting youth to:
    • Identify and strive toward goals they value
    • Learn and apply specific metacognitive self-determination skills as they pursue their goals and manage challenges that arise (i.e., thinking, communication, and self-management skills vs. skills such as cooking, making a resume or budgeting)
    • Perform experiential activities as they carry out plans to achieve their goals or manage challenges that (e.g., visiting a college or an employer, getting an ID, meeting with a case worker regarding a concern).
  • Metacognitive self-determination skills that youth learn to apply are in the areas of:
    • Achievement (e.g., set goals, problem solve, plan, track accomplishments)
    • Building allies (e.g., schmooze, be assertive, negotiate)
    • Self-regulation (e.g., think positive, manage stress, say no to discouragement)
    • These skills and illustrations of their application are presented in a self-help student guide called Take Charge for the Future.
  • Coaches also support youth to share their goals and support needs with adults in their lives during a youth-led meeting, as well as to develop a plan for support during the coming year with at least one adult whom the youth trusts.
  • During the coaching period, youth participate in 3-4 workshops, each lasting about 2.5 hours, during which they meet with other peers in the program and with near-peers, or slightly more experienced young adults who also have foster care experience and who are successfully participating in college or employment. Each workshop includes an informational session followed by an informal activity for food, fun, and networking. Workshop topics are selected by participants and might include finding housing or employment, completing college applications, self-care during stressful times, etc. Transportation is provided to workshops, as needed and desired.
  • My Life is a positive youth development program that is accessible to youth with varying abilities and challenges (e.g., gifted and talented, learning or cognitive disabilities, mental health issues). However, the approach is not designed to provide treatment or crisis support, and youth dealing with addiction must be in treatment in order to participate in My Life. Once enrolled, coaches continue to work with youth regardless of changes in placement, school, or foster care status, arrest, being 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 My Life requires a license agreement Delivery of coaching requires completion of 32 hours of group or individual certification training provided by a certified My Life supervisor, followed by 32 hours of in-person or distance supervision during 9-12 months of coaching with at least two youth. My Life supervisor certification first requires My Life coaching certification and two years of experience coaching at least four youth. Supervisor training involves co-planning and facilitation of a group coach certification training class with a certified My Life trainer, followed by 20 hours of supervised My Life coach supervision during the following year.
  • Coaches complete a fidelity checklist to document their implementation of required program elements, and they collect at least three videotapes or audiotapes of their work with youth for self-reflection and professional development discussion during supervision.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

My Life directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Challenges faced by youth transitioning out of the foster care system such as lack of information, opportunity, support, and skill needed to actively strive toward their chosen goals; lack of experience in successfully managing barriers that emerge during transition; lack of adult allies; and lack of confidence and feelings like frustration, anger, fear and hopelessness, which are often associated with prior exposure to trauma, life instability, and restriction.
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, plan with, or seek support from bio or foster family members. Foster parents are provided with monthly updates on the youth's goals, with maximal youth participation.

Recommended Intensity:

1 per week, usually 60-90 minutes however may vary with activity focus and youth's situation

Recommended Duration:

9-12 months

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Foster / Kinship Care
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


My Life 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 guides Certification program participation and license agreement

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Combination of prior experience in youth work, at least a bachelor's degree in social work, education, or a related field, and/or personal lived experience in foster care

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Group (preferred) or individual coach certification training can be obtained at Portland State University, local agency sites or distance agency sites so long as it is provided by a My Life certified supervisor. Supervisor certification training is currently offered by master trainers at Portland State University. Following completion of certification training, supervision is offered in-person or distance.

Number of days/hours:
  • Coach: 32 hours of certification training completed in-person over one week, two weeks or one month; 32 hours of supervision is provided in-person or distance following training
  • Supervisor: 5 days/40 hours certification training; 20 hours of supervision is provided in-person or distance following training
Additional Resources:

There currently are additional qualified resources for training:

Portland State University maintains a database of all certified coaches and supervisors.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for My Life.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of My Life as listed below:

Supervision for newly trained coaches is provided, if a local My Life certified supervisor is not available. On-site or distance supervision for all newly trained My Life supervisors is also given.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for My Life as listed below:

There is a fidelity checklist and reporting tool that coaches complete as they work with youth. (Please contact Shannon Turner for more information – contact information listed below).

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for My Life as listed below:

Take Charge for the Future Youth Guide for youth participants and My Life Coach certification manual (available for coaches in training, certified coaches, and youth in program). Sample materials are available for review. Contact person is Shannon Turner – contact information listed below

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement My Life.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Powers, J., Pommier-Satya, S., Turner, A., Dalton, L. D., Drummond, D., Swank, P., & other members of 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.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 69


  • Age — 16.5–17.5 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 51% Caucasian, 16% African American, 12% Multiethnic, 10% Native American, 8% Hispanic, and 3% Other
  • Gender — 41% Female
  • Status — Participants were youth involved in the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services foster care system.

Location/Institution: Oregon

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of the TAKE CHARGE self-determination intervention [now called My Life] for improving the transition outcomes of those highly at-risk youth who are in both foster care and special education. Participants were randomly assigned to TAKE CHARGE or to Foster Care Independent. Measures utilized include the Arc Self-determination Scale, the Quality of Life Questionnaire (QofLQ), the Transition Planning Assessment, and the Outcome Survey. Results indicate that at baseline, postintervention, and at one-year follow-up moderate to large effect sizes for the differences between groups in self-determination, quality of life, and utilization of community transition services were found. Youth in the TAKE CHARGE group also completed high school, were employed, and carried out independent living activities at notably higher rates than the comparison group, although statistical analyses were not conducted on these outcomes. Limitations include the lack of statistical analyses on key variables relevant to the topic area (high school completion, employment, and living status), small sample size, and lack of generalizability to other youth in the foster care system.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 1 year.

Geenen, S., Powers, L. E., Powers, J, Cunningham, M., McMahon, L., Nelson, M., Dalton, L. D., Swank, P., 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.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 123


  • Age — 14.08–17.83 years (Mean=15.49 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 50% Caucasian, 29% African American, 7% Native American, 7% Hispanic, 6% Multiethnic, 0.8% Asian, and 0.8% Other
  • Gender — 46% Female
  • Status — Participants were youth in the foster care system that were enrolled in special education services.

Location/Institution: Not Specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to test the efficacy of TAKE CHARGE [now called My Life] for promoting the school performance of youth in special education and foster care. Participants were randomly assigned to either a control group that received typical services or to the intervention group (TAKE CHARGE) that received coaching in the application of self-determination skills to achieve their goals, as well as participated in group mentoring workshops with successful young adult alumni of foster care. Measures utilized include the AIR Self-Determination Scale, the Educational Planning Assessment, the School Attitude Measure (SAM), the Teacher Report Form (TRF), and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results indicate that youth in the TAKE CHARGE group, along with their parents, reported significantly greater youth involvement in educational planning posttreatment compared with baseline than did control group youth and parents. Additionally, the intervention appeared to have a positive impact on key school achievement and performance variables, including credits toward graduation and time spent on homework. Although the groups were similar in terms of grade level at pre-test, by follow-up almost twice as many control group youth had dropped out of school. In addition, the intervention appears to have had a positive impact on intervention group youths’ preparation for postsecondary education. The intervention group youth were more engaged in career development activities at posttest and they were more likely to have paid jobs at follow-up compared with the control group. Limitations include the lack of statistical analyses on key variables relevant to the topic area (high school completion, employment, and living status), relatively small sample size, and lack of generalizability to other youth in the foster care system.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 9 months.

Blakeslee, J. E., Powers, L. E., Geenen, S., Schmidt, J., Nelson, M., Fullerton, A., George, K., McHugh, E., Bryant, M., & The Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2020). Evaluating the My Life self-determination model for older youth in foster care: Establishing efficacy and exploring moderation of response to intervention. Children and Youth Services Review, 119, Article 105419.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 288


  • Age — 16.5–18.5 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 132 Caucasian, 78 Multiracial/Other, 52 Hispanic, 46 African American, 19 Native American, and 9 Asian or Pacific Islander
  • Gender — 153 Female and 135 Male
  • Status — Participants were a diverse population-based cohort of youth in foster care including those with and without disabilities.

Location/Institution: Multnomah County (the city of Portland), the primarily suburban areas of Washington County, and the suburban and more rural areas of Clackamas County

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to build on previous experimental evaluations of the My Life program in improving educational and transition-to-adulthood outcomes for youth in foster care with disabilities, including those with mental health challenges. Participants were randomly assigned to the control condition or to the My Life program for one year. Measures utilized include the Arc Self-Determination Scale (ARC), My Life Self-Efficacy Scale (MLSES), the Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy (CDSE) scale, the Child Report of Post-traumatic Symptoms (CROPS), the Restrictiveness Evaluation Measure for Youth, self-attributed accomplishments, a self-determination skills assessment, administrative records that reported disability status, and placement stability that was reported by the child welfare agency’s administration. Results indicate that compared to the control group, the My Life group had greater postintervention and one-year follow-up gains on several indicators of self-determination. Results also demonstrate no difference in My Life effectiveness for youth with or without disabilities, suggesting the universality of this approach. Findings also suggest that foster youth participants with low-to-average risks in terms of placement stability, placement restrictiveness, and traumatic stress levels seem to benefit most from My Life, although youth who are at higher risk due to placement instability, high placement restriction, and high traumatic stress still showed some benefit of participating in My Life on some measures. Limitations include some of the reported findings are likely false positives due to chance, predominance of Caucasian youth in the sample, the low prevalence of the other race categories, and relatively small sample size.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 1 year.

Additional References

Geenen, S. J., Powers, L. E., Hogansen, J. M., & Pittman, J. O. E. (2007). Youth with disabilities in foster care: Developing self-determination within a context of struggle and disempowerment. Exceptionality, 15(1), 17–30.

Schmidt, J., Cunningham, M., Dalton, L., Geenen, S., Orozco, C., Powers, L. E., & Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth in Foster Care. (2013). Assessing restrictiveness: A closer look at the foster care placements and perceptions of youth with and without disabilities aging out of care. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 7(5), 586–609.

Schmidt, J., Dubey, S., Dalton, L., Nelson, M., Lee, J., Kennedy, M. O., Kim-Gervey, C., Powers, L., Geenen, S., & The Research Consortium to Increase the Success of Youth In Foster Care. (2015). Who am I? Who do you think I am? Stability of racial/ethnic self-identification among youth in foster care and concordance with agency categorization. Children and Youth Services Review, 56, 61-67.

Contact Information

Jennifer Blakeslee, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Regional Research Institute, Portland State University
Phone: (503) 725-8389
Fax: (503) 725-4180

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2023

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: December 2017

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: October 2017