Youth in foster care are more than twice as likely (PDF) Visit disclaimer page to get pregnant and become a parent while in care or after care. That’s why for more than 20 years, staff at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work Visit disclaimer page have worked tirelessly to improve health outcomes for youth in foster care. As a Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) Program grantee, a program funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau, the Kent School of Social Work equips Kentucky youth in foster care with knowledge and skills to build healthy relationships and improve health outcomes through the CHAMPS II Program Visit disclaimer page .
On a daily basis, the Kent team applies lessons from two decades of child welfare work and insights from previous research Visit disclaimer page to reduce teen pregnancy among Kentucky youth. Their recent SRAE funding has helped expand much needed program services to address issues like human trafficking, sexual coercion, and suicide prevention among foster care youth. As part of the expansion, program staff deliver Love Notes Visit disclaimer page —an evidence-based, comprehensive healthy relationship curriculum, in multiple settings. Tailored to align with the needs of youth and their level of trauma, the curriculum is currently taught in residential facilities and independent living programs. Youth that live in residential facilities usually receive one lesson per week to minimize trauma-related triggers.* The curriculum is also delivered through CHAMPS Camp—where community-based organizations create a camplike environment for youth to gather for two days of learning and fun. The only requirement is that youth agree to show up energized and ready to learn!
A recent collaboration between the Champs II Program and three foster care agencies resulted in the Straight from the Heart Conference at Home of the Innocents Visit disclaimer page in Louisville, KY. The event was the brainchild from a mandate for a private foster care program to have a trauma-informed care training for foster and adoptive parents. The event not only provided trauma-informed care training for foster and adoptive parents, but also created key partnerships and linkages in the community to further expand the program’s capacity to provide youth with other important support services. This innovative event further established the program as a key player in adolescent health in the state of Kentucky.
Youth that completed the Love Notes curriculum experienced several positive changes, including changes in attitudes about non-marital sex, teen pregnancy, and dating violence. Program youth also reported a decrease in feelings of suicidality (e.g., desire to die and suicide ideation, plan, intent, and attempt) and they were working to overcome childhood trauma and hurts.
The CHAMPS II program is on target to exceed their original goal—to reach 1,100 youth in two years. To date, 1,206 youth have been referred to the program. More than 75 percent of these youth have successfully completed the program. By exploring different methods of delivery and expanding the program to other settings (juvenile justice and workforce education programs), CHAMPS II is successfully improving positive youth outcomes through meaningful prevention services.
*Tip: The selection of delivery method(s) should be informed by the level of trauma youth have experienced.