Mentoring Children in Foster Care: Examining Relationship Histories as Moderators of Intervention Impact on Children’s Mental Health and Trauma Symptoms

Lindsey M. Weiler, Sunkyung Lee, Jingchen Zhang, Kadie L Ausherbauer, Sarah E.O. Schwartz, Stella S. Kanchewa, Heather N. Taussig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mentoring-based interventions show promise among children in foster care, but previous research suggests that some benefit more than others. Because children in foster care experience relationship disruptions that could affect mentoring effectiveness, we examined whether children’s relational histories at baseline (i.e., relationship quality with birth parents, relationship quality with foster parents, caregiver instability, and previous mentoring experience) moderated the impact of a mentoring intervention on children’s mental health, trauma symptoms, and quality of life. Participants included 426 racially and ethnically diverse children (age: 9–11; 52% male) who participated in a randomized controlled trial of the Fostering Healthy Futures program (FHF), a 9-month one-to-one mentoring and skills group intervention. Results showed that relationship quality with foster parents and prior mentoring experience did not moderate intervention impact. Relationship quality with birth parents and caregiver instability pre-program, however, moderated the effect on some outcomes. The impact on quality of life was stronger for children with weaker birth parent relationships and fewer caregiver changes. Likewise, the impact on trauma symptoms was stronger for those with fewer caregiver changes. Overall, FHF seems to positively impact children with varied relational histories, yet some may derive more benefits – particularly those with fewer caregiver changes pre-program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Early online dateJul 26 2021
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (1 K01 MH01972, 1 R21 MH067618, and 1 R01 MH076919, H. Taussig, PI) and funding from the Kempe Foundation, Pioneer Fund, Daniels Fund, and Children’s Hospital Research Institute. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Community Research and Action


  • Fostering Healthy Futures
  • Maltreatment
  • Mental health
  • Moderation
  • Trauma
  • Youth mentoring

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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