Better Futures (2009-2014)


Better Futures: Increasing Postsecondary Preparation and Engagement of Youth with Serious Mental Health Conditions in Foster Care  

Youth in foster care with mental health issues face many barriers to participating in higher education. For example, these young people may question whether college is possible for them, they may have struggled in school due to frequent foster care and school placement changes, and they may have few adult allies, successful peers or role models. The Better Futures Project discovered effective ways to help these young people prepare, plan and enroll in college or vocational training.

Project participants included young people in foster care who experience a serious mental health condition and are open to the idea of attending college. Youth who chose to enroll in the project were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or to a control group that received typical services. Our intervention drew upon supported education in mental health and strategies for promoting self-determination. Youth participating in the intervention received individualized coaching, peer support, and connection to foster care alumni and community resources. We investigated the impact of participating in Better Futures on youths' empowerment, confidence, planning for postsecondary education, social support, mental health recovery, and academic performance.

Publications and Products

Better Futures: A Validated Model for Increasing Postsecondary Preparation and Participation of Youth in Foster Care with Mental Health Challenges

This article highlights components of Better Futures along with theoretical underpinnings and experimental findings.

Head in the Game Workshop

This workshop, developed through a partnership between Better Futures and FosterClub is focused on the challenges youth transitioning from foster care may face while pursuing their goals around higher education and provides resources and tools for young people and adult supporters to proactively pursue higher education while maintaining mental health and wellness.

Assessing Restrictiveness: A Closer Look at the Foster Care Placements and Perceptions of Youth With and Without Disabilities Aging Out

This study examined the experience of restrictiveness among transition-aged youth in foster care in the areas of communication, movement around one's home, and access to the community.

Reaching Everyone: Promoting the Inclusion and Retention of Youth with Disabilities in Evaluating Foster Care Outcomes

This paper describes successful strategies for identifying and retaining research participants with various disabilities in order to promote the full participation of foster youth with disabilities in outcome evaluations of the foster care system.

Focal Point, 2013 Article: Better Futures: Helping Young People in Foster Care with Mental Health Challenges Prepare for and Participate in Higher Education

This article presents preliminary findings of the Better Futures Project at the Pathways Research and Training Center, which encourages youth with foster care and mental health systems experience to attend college through exposure to college campuses, near-peer support, and workshops.

Focal Point, 2013 Article: Creating a Better Future

A foster youth writes about how support from her family and her coach with the Better Futures Project helped her attend and succeed in college, where she is currently majoring in education and receiving straight A's.

Things People Never Told Me: When You Start Living on Your Own from Foster Care, There Are Some Things in Life that People Seem to Forget to Tell You About

This compilation of suggestions about finances, health care, employment, and relationships from foster youth transitioning to adulthood is aimed at equipping other youth leaving foster care with the necessary tools to become independent and successful adults. This document is also available in Spanish.


Better Futures: Supporting Young People with Mental Health Challenges in Foster Care to Participate in Higher Education

Presented at the DCDT Conference, Portland, OR, October, 2015.

Building Hope: Self-Determination for All: Supporting the Self-Determination and Transition Outcomes of Young Adults in Foster Care

Presented at the National Pathways to Adulthood Conference, Philadelphia, PA, August, 2014.

Youth Taking Charge of Their Lives

Presented at the Research to Action in Social Determinants of Health Symposium, Portland, OR, February, 2014.

Building Hope: Self-Determination for All: Supporting the Self-Determination and Transition Outcomes of Young Adults in Foster Care

Presented at the Youth Transition Program Statewide Training, Hood River, Oregon, February, 2014; and at the OAVSNP Annual Conference: Reaching New Heights!, Hood River, Oregon, February, 2014.

Keep Your Head in the Game: Managing Anxiety, Stress and Mental Health While Pursuing Higher Education

Presented at the Creating a Blueprint For Success Conference in Los Angeles, October, 2013.

Self-Determination for All!

Presented through VIA HOPE, University of Texas, September, 2013.

College is for Everyone!

Presented at Alternatives 2011 Conference, Orlando, FL, October, 2011.

Better Futures is for Everyone!

Presented at the 22nd Annual National Federation of Families Conference: Trauma Informed Care, Children, Youth and Families shaping Best Practice, Washington, DC, November 18th 2011.

Building Futures: College is for Everyone!

Presented at the 5th Annual Transition to College and Employment Conference, Salem, OR, October 25th 2010.