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Developing Evidence-Based Interventions for Foster Children: An Example of a Randomized Clinical Trial with Infants and Toddlers


  • Support for this research was provided by NIMH R01 52135 and NIMH K02 74374 to the first author. We acknowledge the support of Cheryl Ransom-Garner, Commissioner of Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and Carlyse Giddens, Director of Delaware Division of Family Services; and caseworkers, foster families, birth families, and children at both agencies.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mary Dozier, Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 [e-mail:].


Children who enter foster care have usually experienced maltreatment as well as disruptions in relationships with primary caregivers. These children are at risk for a host of problematic outcomes. However, there are few evidence-based interventions that target foster children. This article presents preliminary data testing the effectiveness of an intervention, Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up, to target relationship formation in young children in the foster care system. Children were randomly assigned to the experimental intervention that was designed to enhance regulatory capabilities or to a control intervention. In both conditions, the foster parents received in-home training for 10 weekly sessions. Post-intervention measures were collected 1 month following the completion of the training. Outcome measures included children's diurnal production of cortisol (a stress hormone), and parent report of children's problem behaviors. Children in the experimental intervention group had lower cortisol values than children in the control intervention. Also, the experimental intervention parents reported fewer behavior problems for older versus younger foster children. Results provide preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of an intervention that targets children's regulatory capabilities and serve as an example of how interventions can effectively target foster children in the child welfare system.