The Foster Care Research Group


Since 2001, the Foster Care Research Group at the University of San Francisco has measured treatment outcomes for the foster youth A Home Within serves. The research team, consisting of trained psychology undergraduate students, a lab manager, and two full time psychology faculty conducts annual phone interviews with therapists over the course of treatment. All protocol are reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects at USF.

Over the years, the Foster Care Research Group has been able to capture the incredible work of A Home Within clinicians in presentation and publication. Findings shown that A Home Within’s model of creating long-term healthy relationships with foster care youth has contributed to the significant reduction of symptoms including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, peer relationships problems, sleep problem and dissociative states.

The Foster Care Research Group has also trained dozens of Research Assistants, many of whom have gone on to become teachers, clinicians, and researchers working with current and former foster youth.

Please contact Dr. Saralyn Ruff,Term Assistant Professor, University of San Francisco
Director, Foster Care Research Group, with any questions.

Published work:

Ruff, S.C., Heineman, T.V. & Clausen, J.M. (Eds). (under contract). Relationship-Based Therapy and Ambiguous Loss. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Company.

Toni Heineman, June Madsen Clausen, Saralyn C. Ruff, Wendy Von Wiederhold, Psychoanalytic Social Work, 2012. For as long as it takes: Relationship-based play therapy for children in foster care.

Ruff, S. C., Aguilar, R., & Clausen, J. M. (2016). An exploratory study of mental health interventions with infants and young children in foster care. Journal of Family Social Work.  doi:10.1080/10522158.2016.1181128

Clausen, J.M., Heineman, T.V., and Garber, A. (under review). Long-term mental health treatment of adolescents in foster care.

Ruff, S. C., Aguilar, R.M. Clausen, J.M., & Heineman, T.V. (under review).

Relationship-Based Therapy: Lessons learned for infants and young children in foster care.

“My therapist has been my anchor through this storm. They remind me of the progress I have made over the years when I feel I am only treading water. They remain by my side in this healing journey and self-discovery. Without them, I forget that I am a good person with a stable job, friends, and chosen family whom I am able to love and that I am loved.” —Anthony, AHW Advisor & Former Client