Foster Care Research Lab

Main areas of interest:

  • Child welfare system
  • Aging out of foster care
  • Developing, adapting, and testing interventions
  • Program evaluation
  • Maltreatment, trauma, and PTSD
  • LGBTQ youth well-being

Foster Care Research Lab

The Foster Care Research Lab is led by Dr. Amy Salazar. The projects in this lab focus on better understanding the circumstances of, and supporting positive outcomes of, youth who are experiencing, have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing foster care or child welfare system involvement. A large portion of this work involves developing, adapting, and testing interventions with the aim of increasing the number of evidence-based programs available for improving the outcomes of youth with foster care experience.

Current and recent research projects include:

  • Fostering Higher Education: Fostering Higher Education (FHE) is a postsecondary access and retention intervention for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood developed by Dr. Salazar. The first phase of this study was a two-year NIDA-funded R21 development project focused on designing FHE and testing its youth usability and practitioner feasibility. The FHE intervention contains elements of professional educational advocacy, substance abuse prevention, and mentoring. The next phase of this work is a pilot test of the intervention, which is being partially funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The pilot test will involve youth in foster care in SW Washington. A freely accessible article on Fostering Higher Education can be found here: Fostering Higher Education: A Postsecondary Access and Retention Intervention for Youth with Foster Care Experience..
  • National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents. This is a 5-year project funded by the United States Children’s Bureau. In this Initiative we are developing and pilot testing a comprehensive, evidence-informed curriculum of foster and adoptive parent trainings that will be freely available for child welfare systems. National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster/Adoptive Parents (NTDC)
  • Authentic Youth Engagement Study. This study funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is evaluating how authentic youth engagement operates in Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative sites. It will explore how authentically engaging foster youth in program functions can help both the Jim Casey Initiative and other youth-serving systems achieve their desired results.
  • RCT of Connecting foster parenting program and development of module for parenting LGBTQ+ youth in care: Connecting is an adaptation of the Staying Connected with Your Teen family-based substance use prevention program for use with foster families. Connecting is currently being tested in a randomized controlled trial at the University of Washington. In addition to being an investigator for the trial, Dr. Salazar is also working with a team to develop and test the usability of a curriculum module for improving the relationships between foster parents and their LGBTQ+ wards to add to the Connecting
  • Oregon Keeping Families Together: This study is an evaluation of an adaptation of the Communities That Care evidence-based community mobilization model to address community-level prevention of child maltreatment and child welfare system involvement and enhancement of child well-being in two Oregon communities.

Some potential opportunities for students include:

  • Learning quantitative and qualitative methodologies
  • Experience implementing randomized controlled trials
  • Data analysis
  • Working on scholarly publications
  • Presenting at research and practice conferences