Browse more profiles
My Life
My Life

Youth in Foster Care Build Successful Adult Lives

The Regional Research Institute (RRI) at the School of Social Work, in partnership with the Graduate School of Education, Oregon DHS Child Welfare, and Portland Public Schools, has been awarded almost 6 million dollars from the Eunice Kennedy-Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Two related studies will experimentally test the effects of increasing the self-determination of youth in foster care. Principal Investigator Sarah Geenen, and Co-Investigators Laurie Powers, Ann Fullerton, Lew Bank, and Bowen McBeath are leading the studies, referred to as My Life.

Over a five year period, the studies will involve about 350 youth, 16 to 18 years old, who receive foster care services through Child Welfare Offices in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, and Marion Counties. The studies will randomly assign youth to either a control group that receives standard services or to an intervention group that receives individual coaching and participates in group mentoring activities for a year. Youth will learn how to apply skills like problem-solving, tracking accomplishments, and building connections with adult allies to achieve their goals.

Youth in foster care, about 40% of whom receive special education services, often face many problems during young adulthood, including unemployment, difficulty getting into college, homelessness, and mental health issues. These are the first studies ever funded to actually test whether providing youth in foster care with empowerment experiences will help them to successfully transition from high school into adult life. The research team received these large grants after they conducted a pilot study showing the intervention was promising in helping youth to be more successful.

Study participants will be followed for two years, with the goal of determining what effects the intervention has on their employment, educational success, independent living, health, and quality of life. For more information on the My Life study, please contact the study manager Summer Satya ( .

Without the hospitality and support from local businesses and organizations, our mentorship workshops would not be possible. We’d like to express our deep appreciation to: