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Press Release

July 1, 2004 Contact: CDC Office of Communications

Innovative Foster Care Programs Show Promise in Reducing Youth Violence

Therapeutic foster care programs reduced violent crimes among adolescents ages 12-18 with a history of chronic delinquency an average of 70% compared with programs for youth in standard group residential treatment facilities, according to recent research. One study showed that for every dollar spent on therapeutic foster care for these youth, an estimated $14 was saved in court and corrections system costs. The findings were reported today by The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent, non-federal task force appointed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We know that youth violence can be prevented,” said Dr. Ileana Arias, acting director of the CDC’s Injury Center. “The findings from the Task Force review show that therapeutic foster care programs offer hope for improving the quality of life for troubled youth and reducing the burden of youth violence on communities.

Therapeutic foster care programs place troubled youth with trained foster families. During the program, adolescents live for 6-7 months in a structured environment where they are rewarded for positive social behavior and penalized for disruptive and aggressive behavior. Therapeutic foster care also separates repeat juvenile offenders from their delinquent peers and provides close supervision at school as well as at home.

Other key findings of the Task Force review related to therapeutic foster care were these:

  • Having a positive relationship with an adult and not associating with youth in trouble appeared to be key contributors to the effectiveness of the therapeutic foster care programs.
  • Total cost benefit (benefits minus costs) ranged from $20,351 to $81,664 per youth.
  • The programs may lower rates of general delinquency and number of serious crimes committed, including violent interpersonal offenses.
  • A series of studies in one region showed that rates of subsequent incarceration among youth who had been in therapeutic foster care declined 57% compared to youth in standard residential group care.
  • Some youth showed improved school performance.

The Task Force found too few studies to determine the effectiveness of therapeutic foster care programs in preventing violence among children with severe emotional disturbance between the ages of 5 and 13.

The Task Force recommends that communities use these findings to support, expand, and improve care programs for the estimated 100,000 plus juveniles currently in foster care in the United States. One potential challenge is recruiting and retaining foster families to participate in the intensive program.

The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, established in 1996, recommends public health interventions based on evidence gathered during rigorous, systematic scientific reviews of published studies. The Task Force releases its findings to a wide variety of public health decision makers as the Guide to Community Preventive Services. To date, 92 reports have been published, providing new guidance for public health leaders making decisions about the application of limited public health resources.

For more information on the Task Force’s review of therapeutic foster care programs, visit For more information on the Community Guide go to For more information on CDC’s work in youth violence prevention, link to

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