The Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing receives grant to evaluate a sexual health intervention in foster care systems

THRIVE Evaluation Grant Announcement

AUSTIN, Texas—

The Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to evaluate a sexual health intervention in foster care systems in three states.

THRIVE is an innovative sexual health intervention for youth in foster care and child welfare professionals. The intervention was designed by the Texas Foster Youth Health Initiative in 2020-2023, under leadership of the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing and in partnership with Healthy Futures of Texas and the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services.

Research shows that youth in foster care experience higher rates of pregnancysexually transmitted infections, and intimate partner violence than their peers.

“Only a few evidence-based sexual health interventions aim to address these inequities, and they typically focus exclusively on youth,” said Barbara Ball, PhD, LPC, Co-PI of the Texas Foster Youth Health Initiative and PI on the new award. “Our research shows that many child welfare professionals and caregivers feel unsure how to have conversations with youth in foster care about sexual health and relationships. Consequently, youth in foster care may never have an opportunity to talk with anyone about about these sensitive yet important topics.”

“Developing THRIVE has been a remarkable process that was supported by young adults with lived experience, foster caregivers, and child welfare organizations to make sure the intervention feels relevant and user friendly,” Dr. Ball continued. “Our work is unique in that we provide training for child welfare professionals on how to engage youth in trauma-informed conversations about sexual health and relationships before we educate youth on these issues.

The $5 million award funding the evaluation of THRIVE is one of 12 “Teen Pregnancy Prevention Tier 2 Rigorous Evaluation Cooperative Agreement Awards” by the Office of Population Affairs through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing is one of two grantees designated to implement and evaluate teen pregnancy prevention programs for youth in foster care and/or the child welfare system.

Three organizations with expertise in child welfare and sexual health (Planned Parenthood of Illinois, KVC Behavioral Health Services Kansas, and the Colorado Sexual Health Initiative) will implement THRIVE in congregate care settings in their respective states. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, along with teams at the University of Kansas and the University of Colorado Boulder, will serve as the independent evaluators.

“This grant provides an opportunity to test the efficacy of THRIVE in congregate care settings using a rigorous evaluation design,” said Amy Dworsky, a Chapin Hall senior research fellow who will be leading the evaluation team. “Our evaluation will examine whether the intervention produces the desired outcomes among both youth in congregate care and the professionals who are responsible for their wellbeing.”

The Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing (TXICFW) is a team of researchers and practitioners developing and refining knowledge to improve how systems interact with children and families. We conduct research, evaluate interventions and programs, develop and administer trainings, and build program capacity in the fields of child welfare, adolescent health, family’s economic and social supports, and school social work. We are proudly located within the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin.

Kate McKerlie
TXICFW Communications Director