Young people in out-of-home care

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

Project details

This NHMRC Partnership grant led by Professor Helen Herrman 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 content (e.g. self-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-building 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 

This partnership has also attracted Rotary and University of Melbourne Social Equity Institute funding, two PhDs and other student research studies, such as MD and Master’s in public health studies. 

Research lead

Prof Helen Herrman


  • Professor Cathy Humphreys
  • Professor Patrick McGorry
  • Dr Ida Kaplan
  • Dr Penelope Mitchell
  • Professor Carol Harvey
  • Associate Professor Catherine Mihalopoulos
  • Professor Susan Cotton
  • Dr Elise Davis
  • Associate Professor Aladair Vance


  • 2 PhD students
  • MD and Masters in Public Health student researchers


  • NHMRC Mental Health Targeted Call for Research $1,001,830 (2012-2017)
  • Rotary and University of Melbourne Social Equity Institute funding

Related projects

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. Melbourne Social Equity Institute Interdisciplinary seed funding. 2014 $39,480

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. Australian Rotary Health Research. 2014-2017 - $127,010