Better Futures

Program basics

  • Program is designed to help young people in foster case with mental health challenges prepare for post-secondary education and adult life
  • Rooted in the concepts of Self-Determination Theory; offers a blend of developmental and instrumental mentoring
  • Program takes place over a 10-month period. Students are provided with individual, bi-monthly peer-coaching sessions to determine post-secondary goals and participate in five mentoring workshops with peer coaches and professionals
  • “Summer Institute”—four days on a university campus, where students stay in dorms, take part in information sessions and learn about college admissions, resources, and other subjects related to postsecondary success

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, the National Institute of Justice

Target population

High school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased postsecondary preparation
  • Lowered self-reported levels of hopelessness and barriers to education
  • Increased likelihood of attending college
  • Reduced levels of criminal activity

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • The intervention requires coordination among several key stakeholders, including foster care agencies, universities and schools, and mental health service providers in the project area.
  • Recruitment of qualified peer coaches, who are able to relate to program participants, to provide relevant support is considered essential for the success of the program.
  • A central part of the model is support provided to youth by “near-peers”, who are currently in college and who have shared experiences and can normalize issues around foster care and/or mental health.
  • Flexibility of the program allows mentors to focus their attention on those experiences and skills most relevant for mentees as opposed to a rigid checklist of components of program fidelity.
  • The direct emphasis on mental health is an essential feature as youth in foster care are more likely than youth in the general population to experience mental health conditions.
  • Correctly identifying and addressing mental health challenges faced by youth in foster care are key components of success.
  • Recruiting participants in a highly inclusive way is essential. Past groups have included people with varying mental health conditions as well as a range of physical and mental disabilities.

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