Program Components of Psychosocial Interventions in Foster and Kinship Care: A Systematic Review

  • Jacqueline Kemmis-Riggs
  • Adam Dickes
  • John McAloon


Foster children frequently experience early trauma that significantly impacts their neurobiological, psychological and social development. This systematic review examines the comparative effectiveness of foster and kinship care interventions. It examines the components within each intervention, exploring their potential to benefit child and carer well-being, particularly focussing on child behaviour problems, and relational functioning. Systematic searches of electronic databases included PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Web of Science Core Collection, the Cochrane Collaborations Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) and Scopus to identify randomised or quasi-randomised trials of psychosocial foster/kinship care interventions, published between 1990 and 2016. Seventeen studies describing 14 interventions were included. Eleven studies reported comparative benefit compared to control. Overall, effective interventions had clearly defined aims, targeted specific domains and developmental stages, provided coaching or role play, and were developed to ameliorate the effects of maltreatment and relationship disruption. Interventions effective in reducing behaviour problems included consistent discipline and positive reinforcement components, trauma psychoeducation, problem-solving and parent-related components. Interventions effective in improving parent–child relationships included components focussed on developing empathic, sensitive and attuned parental responses to children’s needs. Given the prevalence of both behaviour problems and relational difficulties in foster families, targeting these needs is essential. However, interventions have tended to measure outcomes in either behavioural or relational terms. A more coordinated and collaborative research approach would provide a better understanding of the association between parent–child relationships and child behaviour problems. This would allow us to develop, deliver and evaluate programs that combine these components more effectively. Protocol Registration Number: PROSPERO CRD42016048411.


Interventions Foster care Kinship care Systematic review Looked after children Maltreatment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approval was obtained by the University of Technology Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental HealthUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

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