Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care Reduces Continued Drug Use

Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) has demonstrated advantages over group residential placement for teen girls. Findings from a follow-up to a NIDA-supported trial (2015) indicate that these advantages extend to a reduction in illegal drug use in early adulthood.

NIDA-Supported Trial

153 young women were contacted about their participation as teens in the randomized controlled trial of MTFC in Oregon. Half of the girls had been placed in MTFC at 22 state-supervised homes with highly-trained foster parents. The other half were assigned to 35 (mostly group-care) community-based program facilities. The girls spent about five to six months on average in their placements and were aged 13 to 17 years old.

The Follow-Up

In interviews scheduled every 6 months over a two year period that began 7 to 9 years after the start of the trial, women reported on their and their romantic partners’ use of illegal drugs, excluding marijuana, over the past 6 months.

Those placed in MTFC and group homes both reported drug use ranging between “never” and “once or twice.” The women placed in MTFC reported declining drug use over five assessments, but those who were in group care reported stable drug use.

Confirming the “Norm”

The trajectory of drug use in the MTFC group confirms the norm for the general population; drug use rises in adolescence, peaks around 18-20, then falls. Dr. Kimberly Rhoades, of the University of Oregon and Oregon Social Learning Center, said, “In a high-risk group of adolescent girls, the intensive intervention provided by MTFC can mitigate some of the risk for drug use in the young adult period.”

MTFC Positive Reinforcement

The program provides intensive supervision and guidance, including:

  • Daily phone calls to foster parents to observe the girls’ progress
  • Weekly group meetings for all of the foster parents
  • Daily in-home behavior management program for the girls
  • Regular monitoring of girls’ school attendance, performance, and homework
  • Family therapy for the aftercare placement family (usually the biological family) focused on parent management plans

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