Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 1:30 PM-2:30 PM
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Laura Packard Tucker, MS, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
Mary Mueggenborg, MSW, Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE)
Background and purpose: This symposium will focus on the purpose, execution, and findings of formative evaluations conducted under the multi-phase grant program Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH). The Children's Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services) is funding YARH to build the evidence base on what works to prevent homelessness among youth and young adults who have been involved in child welfare systems. Eighteen organizations received funding for the first phase of YARH, a two year planning grant (2013 - 2015). Six of those organizations received funding for the second phase, a four-year initial implementation grant (2015 - 2019). YARH focuses on three populations: (1) adolescents who enter foster care between 14 and 17, (2) young adults aging out of foster care, and (3) homeless youth/young adults with foster care histories up to 21. The symposium will focus on YARH's initial implementation phase where grantees refined and tested their comprehensive service model. Grantees conducted usability testing to determine the feasibility of specific model elements and a formative evaluation to understand what supports and structures were needed to implement the model with fidelity. Methods: In this symposium, we will have three presentations around the theme of formative evaluations in YARH - how they fit into the evidence building framework, how they were conducted, what they found, and how they supported and informed implementations. First, we will present the overall YARH framework - the why, how, and what of the YARH grant program with a focus on the evidence building trajectory. Second, we will present Colorado's Pathways to Success initiative, providing details on the formative evaluation research questions, short term outcomes, and how a CQI process was used to refine the intervention. Lastly, we will present the structure and findings of the formative evaluation for Alameda County's Youth Transition Partnership program incorporating examples of usability tests completed to improve implementation elements and a focus on the function of continuous quality improvement (CQI) in implementation. Presenters will highlight ways in which formative evaluations differ from larger scale summative evaluations. The included discussant will serve to comment on the presentations and guide an interactive discussion between presenters and audience. Results: The structure and timing of the YARH grant program allowed for time and flexibility to conduct usability tests which were integrated into program implementation to facilitate program improvements and formative evaluations which generated evidence about outcomes experienced by YARH program participants. Conclusions and implications: These formative evaluations provided the base for a third YARH phase which may include a summative evaluation designed to add to the evidence base on how to prevent homelessness among older youth with child welfare involvement. Audience members will walk away with an understanding of the YARH program and an appreciation for how formative evaluations can serve as a key step on the evidence building trajectory in child welfare.
* noted as presenting author
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