Methods: 288 foster youth from a metropolitan area were assessed and randomized at baseline (mean age=17.31, 53% female, 54% non-White). Follow-up data were collected at 12 months- and 24 months-post intervention. A two-by-three repeated measures design was used to test for main effects of group and time, and the group-by-time interaction, on validated measures including the Arc Self-Determination Scale (ARC; Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1996), the Career Decision Self-Efficacy (CDSE) Scale (Benz et al., 1996), and the Youth Transition Planning Assessment (YTPA; Powers et al., 2011), as well as a self-determination skills interview. We analyzed outcome moderation by foster care risk factors, including placement stability and Child Report of Posttraumatic Symptoms (Greenwald & Rubin, 1999).
Results: There were small intervention effects on some outcomes, including statistically significant treatment group gains on the ARC (p=.03) and CDSE (p=.03), and group-by-time effects on youth accomplishments (p=.02), goal planning (p=.02), and stress management (p=.03), and trend-level findings for the YTPA. The moderators had consistently significant associations with group differences on the outcomes, where greater response to treatment was found for participants reporting low-to-moderate traumatic stress levels and average-to-high degrees of placement stability.
Conclusion: We investigated whether an intensive coaching model helped foster youth learn and apply skills for self-determined transition planning and service engagement. Overall, there is a consistent pattern of hypothesized effects on proximal outcomes related to improved self-determination. These effects are attenuated by risk factors associated with being in foster care; youth in the treatment group who entered the study with lower risk levels showed greater improvement on the outcomes. These findings may translate to other structured interventions where youth risk factors may inhibit skills development when trauma-related symptoms are elevated or following periods of placement instability.