Improving mental health for young people in out-of-home care: Providing participatory evidence-based mental health care across services

Project Details

Researching evidence based interventions to improve the mental health of vulnerable young people living in out of home care by strengthening the therapeutic capacities of their carers.

This National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership five-year grant led by Professor Helen Herrman (Orygen Research Centre) aimed to build the capacity of the  Out-of-Home Care (OoHC) sector to respond to young people and carers by providing regular specialist mental health and alcohol and other drugs (AOD) knowledge and skill development for professionals  and carers in this sector.  The aim was to work in partnership to reduce the risks of mental ill-health among young people and support more effective treatment and recovery.  The primary intervention occurred over two years and involved regular fortnightly monthly scheduled sessions of typically 60-90-minute duration, where a specialist youth mental health or AOD clinician from a local clinical service would provide professional development to Community Service Organisation (CSO) staff in participating OoHC teams from four separate CSOs operating in the North and West regions of Melbourne.  Sessions were determined and negotiated between the specialist clinician and the individual OoHC team based on interest and need, in terms of the mode (e.g. reflective practice, secondary consult, (didactic training) or conent (e.g. sef-harm, anxiety, trauma) from a menu of options.

This project included a nested process evaluation study with the following aims:

  • Describe the implementation and fidelity of a mental health capacity-building project which involved the trial of an elements approach to disseminating evidence-based practices
  • Describe implementation factors considered most/least useful
  • Describe capacity-bulding design components considered most/least useful
  • Describe perceived changes in mental health capacity for staff exposed to the intervention
  • Undertake a needs assessment for future mental-health capacity-building for CSO staff in the OoHC sector.

The partnership has attracted Rotary and University of Melbourne Social Equity Institute funding, 2 PhDs and other student research studies (MD, Masters in Public Health). Publication of findings is currently underway.


Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne
School of Social Work, University of Melbourne
MacKillop Family Services
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)
Westcare (Salvation Army)
Foundation House (the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture and Trauma)
Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY)
Take Two (state-provided psychological services for children and young people in OoHC)
Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH)


Herrman H, Humphreys C, McGorry P, Kaplan I, Mitchell P, Harvey C, Mihalopoulos C, Cotton S, Davis E. & Vance, A. Improving mental health for young people in out-of-home care: providing participatory evidence-based mental health care across services. 5 years. NHMRC Mental Health Targeted Call for Research.

Herrman H, Mitchell P, Moeller-Saxone K, Cotton S, Harvey C & Humphreys C. The Bounce Project: The effectiveness of peer support training to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of young people leaving Out of Home Care. 2 years. Australian Rotary Health Research.

Herrman H, Cahill H, Moeller-Saxone K, Mitchell P, Humphreys C, Cotton S & Harvey C. The Bounce Project: Peer-support training for young people leaving Out of Home Care, to improve social inclusion, mental health and wellbeing. 1 year. Melbourne Social Equity Institute Interdisciplinary seed funding.

Research Outcomes

Monson K, Moeller-Saxone K, Humphreys C, Harvey C, Malcolm S & Herrman H. It’s not about white walls, it’s about real life: understanding the mental health needs of young people with experience of Out of Home Care. In revised submission to Journal of Mental Health.

Research Group

Psychosocial Research Group

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre


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