Topic: Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare:

Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare are defined by the CEBC as programs that help manage the behavior of adolescents in the Child Welfare system. Behaviors targeted include general disruptive behaviors (e.g., arguing and back talk), delinquent behaviors (e.g., petty theft and vandalism), truancy, and running away from out-of-home placements (commonly called being AWOL). In essence, these are the behaviors that may lead to a foster caregiver or group home asking the social worker to find a different placement for the child that is exhibiting these behaviors. Programs may work directly with youth and families, or train caregivers and staff on ways to handle behavior problems more effectively.

Studies have shown that youth involved with child welfare have higher than average rates of behavior problems in general, and are more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors. Among youth in foster care, at least one study has shown that rates of delinquent and aggressive behavior were twice as high as those in the general youth population. Behavior problems among adolescents involved in child welfare are both a cause and a consequence of placement changes, often leading to multiple placement changes and movement to higher levels of care. By addressing these problem behaviors, and de-escalating difficult situations when they do arise, youth can be maintained safely and stably in the lowest level of care needed.

  • Target population: Adolescents involved with the Child Welfare system who exhibit behaviors such as general disruptive behaviors (e.g., arguing and back talk), delinquent behaviors (e.g., petty theft and vandalism), truancy, and running away from out-of-home placements (commonly called being AWOL)
  • Services/types that fit: Outpatient, day treatment, and residential services in individual or group formats that may target youth directly or adults (caregivers, teachers, etc.) who work with these youth
  • Delivered by: Mental health professionals or trained paraprofessionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically address behavior management for adolescents as a goal
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines behavior-related outcomes, such changes in behavior, symptom levels, and/or functioning
Downloadable Topic Area Summary

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Three Programs with a Scientific Rating of 1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence:

  • Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)
    Adolescents 11 to 18 with the following symptoms or problems: substance use or at risk, delinquent/conduct disorder, school and other behavioral ...
  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST)
    Youth, 12 to 17 years old, with possible substance abuse issues who are at risk of out-of-home placement due to antisocial or ...
  • Treatment Foster Care Oregon - Adolescents (TFCO-A)
    [Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care - Adolescents]
    Boys and girls, 12-17 years old, with severe delinquency and/or severe emotional and behavioral disorders who were in need ...

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of 2 - Supported by Research Evidence:

  • Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
    11-18 year olds with very serious problems such as conduct disorder, violent acting-out, and substance abuse
    Caregivers of youth 10 to 18 years of age in foster or kinship care placements and the youth themselves

Four Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

  • Communities in Schools (CIS) – non-responder
    Adolescents, especially those at-risk, and youth-serving organizations
  • Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI)
    Adults working and living with children and youth who escalate incidents into no-win power struggles, distort reality, are self-abusive, engage ...
  • Teaching-Family Model (TFM)
    Youth who are at-risk, juvenile delinquents, in foster care, mentally retarded/developmentally disabled, or severely emotionally disturbed; families at risk ...
  • Wraparound
    Designed for children and youth with severe emotional, behavioral, or mental health difficulties and their families where the child/youth ...

Ten Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare topic area is relevant to child welfare because behavioral problems in adolescents are a challenge that frontline child welfare workers face on a regular basis. Child welfare workers want to know effective ways to help these minors who, in some cases, are leaving placements and running away. These youth are leaving the foster care system emotionally and educationally unprepared for adulthood and can be at higher risk for homelessness, drug abuse, and becoming victims of violence. It is the hope of the Advisory Committee that the programs in this topic area will address ways to improve the adolescent's behaviors to increase placement stability, thus reducing the number of placements and avoiding higher level placements; and ways to increase the adolescent's coping skills to provide support and allow the youth to set and accomplish goals for the future, stay in lower levels of care, and achieve more independence.

Barbara Fisher
Social Worker Practitioner
Yolo County Child Welfare Services, Woodland, CA

Topic Expert

The Behavioral Management Programs for Adolescents in Child Welfare topic area was added in 2011. Curtis McMillen, PhD was the topic expert and was involved in identifying and rating any of the programs with an original load date in 2011 (as found on the bottom of the program's page on the CEBC) or others loaded earlier and added to this topic area when it launched. The topic area has grown over the years and any programs added since 2011 were identified by CEBC staff, the Scientific Panel, and/or the Advisory Committee. For these programs, Dr. McMillen was not involved in identifying or rating them.