March 25, 2015

Friends of the Children–Boston Participates in Longitudinal Study

Achievers are selected for evaluation through randomized-controlled trial.

Evaluation is critical to Friends of the Children's success. Friends of the Children–Boston is part of a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) study, the 'gold standard' of research.

The current longitudinal randomized-controlled trial (RCT) study of our model was launched in 2007. The National Institute of Mental Health funded critical pilot work at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) that ultimately led to the award of a research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for the first 5-year phase of this study. The study has also received additional funding in recent years from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2013, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, invested nearly $500,000. Dr. Mark Eddy, the principal investigator of the study, is a Senior Research Scientist at New York University. Most recently, the Silver Family Foundation invested in continuing the study. In 2017, the study was published in the academic journal Prevention Science.

Over a 3-year enrollment period, Friends of the Children chapters observed over 2,000 children attending public schools in Boston, New York, Portland and Seattle. Teachers completed questionnaires and, using this information and a standardized rating system, Friends staff and school personnel identified the top 25 percent of children at high risk for and low protection against adjustment problems in adolescence. Children were then randomly assigned to either the “intervention” group (those with a Friend) or to the “control” group (those without).

The goal of the RCT is to continue this study over the youths' 12 years in the Friends of the Children program, following youth through important transitions into middle and high school and on to early adulthood.

Key Takeaways from Early Findings:

  • 96% of parents would recommend Friends of the Children to other families
  • 92% of children trust their Friend, believe their Friend makes them feel better when they are upset and helps them solve problems

Youth with a Friends are more likely to:

  • Complete school tasks on time
  • Behave positively in schools
  • Use anger management skills
  • Demonstrate a sense of belonging in their family
  • Be self-confident
  • Accept a hug

Youth with Friends are less likely to:

  • Get suspended or expelled from school
  • Be disobedient or argumentative

This RCT is the only one of its kind measuring the long-term implications of a relationship-based, child-focused intervention spanning the K-12 school years for children who face systemic obstacles and who have lived through a lot of trauma. Results from the study have the potential not only to expand Friends of the Children services and improve youth development programs nationally but also to change policy on how our country invests in the success of our highest priority children.