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February 2004Vol. 5, No. 1Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Foster Children: The Children's Psychotherapy Project

The Children's Psychotherapy Project for Foster Children is an innovative program that offers children in foster care a stable relationship with a caring adult by providing long-term individual psychotherapy. Through this program, experienced therapists commit to donating one psychotherapy hour (pro bono) each week and to maintaining a therapeutic relationship with one foster child, for as long as that child needs treatment, no matter where the child is placed. In return for providing this service, the therapists receive weekly group consultations with senior clinicians.

Clinical experience and anecdotal evidence indicate the first wave of 50 children treated in the program is doing well, having remained in school and in placements, rather than on the streets. A protocol is now in place to collect more detailed outcome data on every child in every program, focusing on the areas of child behavior, mood, cognitive functioning, relationships, and placement stability. Data will include interviews with therapists at intake, annually thereafter, and at treatment termination.

The Children's Psychotherapy Project is the primary clinical program of A Home Within, a nonprofit organization created to support mental health programs for foster children, youth, and families. The first project was organized in San Francisco in 1993. Since that time, similar programs have been developed in 10 other cities or counties, with approximately 160 clinicians serving approximately 100 foster children. A Home Within hopes eventually to expand services to 2,500 children in 50 communities.

Information about the national organization and local chapters can be found on A Home Within's website at Therapists or program managers interested in forming a local chapter should contact Dr. Toni Heineman, Executive Director, at