Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Efficacy of a Near-Peer Coaching Model for College Students with Mental Health Challenges and Foster Care Backgrounds (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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72P (WITHDRAWN) Efficacy of a Near-Peer Coaching Model for College Students with Mental Health Challenges and Foster Care Backgrounds

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Blakeslee, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Mathew Uretsky, PhD, Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Rebecca Miller, M.S.Ed., Senior Research Assistant, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background and Purpose: We will present findings from the Project FUTURES randomized pilot study, which tested the efficacy of a self-determination coaching intervention for college students with foster care histories and mental health challenges. The FUTURES intervention model is adapted from the evidence-supported My Life and Better Futures models for older youth in foster care (see Geenen, Powers, Phillips, et al. 2014, for details). These structured coaching approaches focus on increasing self-determination skills related to working on goals and problem-solving, partnership with supportive allies, and self-regulation; for this adaptation, participants were coached by trained and supervised “near-peers” who were current undergraduate or graduate students with shared lived experience of mental health concerns and/or foster care.

Method: Participants in the RCT sample (N=35) were ages 18-26 (mean age=20.16), enrolled in the first two years of college or university, and had foster care experience and self-identified mental health difficulties; the sample is 71% female, 40% non-white or mixed race, and 20% Hispanic. Baseline assessments were conducted in the fall, with post-intervention assessment in the following spring, and follow-up assessment in the subsequent fall. Statistical analysis tested whether intervention participants made significant gains, and showed significant differences from the control group, on post-intervention and follow-up measures of self-determination, career-related exploration and self-efficacy, mental health efficacy and empowerment, and academic outcomes.

Results: There was a significant and large treatment effect for a study-specific self-determination scale at post-intervention (t=-3.764, p=.001) and follow-up (t=-2.055, p=.027), with no significant differences on the AIR Self-Determination Scale. There were significant and large treatment effects at post-intervention on the Career Decision Self-Efficacy scale (t=-2.173, p=.021) and the Youth Efficacy & Empowerment Survey-Mental Health scale (t=-2.212, p=.019), but these were not maintained at follow-up. A study-specific career goals exploration scale showed a significant medium-sized effect at post-intervention (U=28, p=.015, r =.499) and a small-to-medium effect size at follow-up (U=63, p=.035, r=.347). There was a significant and large treatment effect for grade point average at follow-up (t=-1.159, p=.131), and a trend-level difference between the groups on whether participants were still enrolled in college or vocational programs at follow up (x2=3.027, p=.099).

Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate intervention efficacy on some targeted measures of self-efficacy and empowerment related to the intervention focus on post-secondary goal achievement and problem-solving around academic and mental health stressors, with some evidence of effects for academic outcomes. These findings are especially notable given the small RCT sample size. The lack of statistically significant findings for other measures will be discussed in the context of the previous studies using this model and the implications for ongoing model refinement. Lastly, we will report study limitations related to recruitment and retention, benefits and challenges around the implementation of this coaching approach using near-peers, and implications for programming to support students with foster care backgrounds and mental health challenges in the transition to college.