Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) is an alternative to group or residential treatment, incarceration, or hospitalization for adolescents who have problems with chronic antisocial behavior, emotional disturbance, and delinquency.
Community families are recruited to provide MTFC-placed adolescents with treatment and intensive supervision at home, in school, and in the community. MTFC emphasizes clear and consistent limits with follow-through on consequences, positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, a relationship with a mentoring adult, and separation from delinquent peers. The program targets teenagers with histories of chronic and severe criminal behavior at risk of incarceration. In MTFC, adolescents are placed, singly or in twos, in a family setting for six to nine months. Community families are recruited, trained, and supported to provide well-supervised placements and treatment. MTFC parents are part of the treatment team along with program staff. They are paid a monthly salary and a small stipend to cover expenses. The Core Components for Youth include daily structure and support; an individualized point system; a weekly individual treatment; consistent teaching-oriented, nonphysical discipline; and psychiatric consultation and medication management as needed. The Core Components for Families include weekly family treatment with a strong skills focus; instruction in behavior management methods; frequent home visits with on-call and crisis backup; an aftercare parent group; and access to 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week on-call staff contact. The Core Components for Foster Parents include daily telephone calls; support and training; and 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week on-call staff availability and crisis intervention.
In MTFC, foster parents act as mentoring adults and are trained to provide home-based treatment that extends into the school and community. They are well-trained in the MTFC intervention approach and are closely supervised while they provide youngsters with cognitive-behavioral therapy—with intensive supervision, positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior, and disincentives for inappropriate behavior and association with delinquent peers. Other key objectives of the MTFC intervention approach are to encourage youth to develop academic skills and positive work habits, to encourage family members to improve communication skills, and to decrease conflict between family members. In the latest application of the model, MTFC is being used in work with adolescents who have developmental disabilities and histories of sexual problems.
Evaluations of MTFC have demonstrated that program youth compared to control-group youth spent 60 percent fewer days incarcerated at 12-month follow-up; had significantly fewer subsequent arrests; ran away from their program, on average, three times less often; had significantly less hard-drug use; and had quicker community placement from more restrictive settings (e.g., hospital or detention). Results showed that youth spent significantly fewer days in lock-up during another 1- and 2-year follow-up study and significantly fewer youth were ever incarcerated following treatment. A significant relationship was found between the number of days in treatment and the number of days of subsequent incarceration for youth in the MTFC group.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Effective program
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001): Model program
OJJDP Blueprints Project: Model program
Ms. Patricia Chamberlain
Oregon Social Learning Center
160 East Fourth Street
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 485-2711
Chamberlain, P. (1998). “Treatment Foster Care.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Chamberlain, P., and Mihalic, S. F. (1998). Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Book Eight: Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.