Outreach and Goal-Setting

MODULE 2.4: Participant Assessments

Participant Assessments

Participant assessments are a critical step in the process of working with FSS participants, and their general purpose is to help FSS coordinators and participants identify strengths and supportive service needs and assess skills and barriers to education and employment. Assessments also serve several other purposes:

  1. Assessments help you to develop a better understanding of a client’s needs and goals.
  2. Assessments provide insights that will help you and the participant determine how best to achieve those goals, including identifying supportive service needs and trainings, based on the participant’s unique experiences and circumstances.
  3. Assessments are a time to establish and strengthen a long-term partnership with your participant families.

This video explains how participant assessments help to achieve these objectives.

FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Participant Assessment Tools

Participant assessments may be conducted using an off-the-shelf tool or a customized assessment form developed by the FSS program. At minimum, the assessment should measure client well-being across a number of areas including (click the arrows to expand the content):

In this video, one FSS practitioner describes her program's holistic approach to assessment.

If your FSS program does not already use a single standard assessment form, consider standardizing the assessment process and administering the same form to each participant. Standardization introduces fairness, structure, and consistency, and can save time. There are many existing assessment tools that can be administered by program coordinators or via referrals to partner organizations.

The following are informal assessment tools designed to identify areas of need for additional, professional assessments (such as medical, mental health, educational, and career) and to assist participants in goal-setting or task choices in areas that do not require further assessment. FSS coordinators may wish to administer these assessment tools:

The following are examples of career assessment tools that a professional employment counselor might administer. They are intended to be used in employment counseling involving assessment, analysis, and career choice and matching, as well as counseling on educational and training choices. Unless the FSS Coordinator is a trained career counselor, participants should receive a referral for these assessments. It is common for states to require certification to administer some of these tools:

HUD does not necessarily endorse or recommend these assessment tools, which are displayed here for reference only.

Assessment Matrices

Assessment Matrices can be a useful way to structure the assessment. Matrices organize the assessment into clear categories, with suggested questions and a ranking system for scoring the participant on each subject covered by the assessment. A general measure of well-being may include a scale like this one:

 Sample Initial Assessment - Nan McKay and Associates

 Sample Pre-ITSP Assessment & Planning Tool - Nan McKay and Associates

 Sample Family Development Rubric with Benchmark Indicators - Nan McKay and Associates

If a participant is In Crisis or At Risk, coordinators can help the client identify and incorporate changes, and make referrals to other services. If revisited periodically, a matrix can also be used to track a participant’s progress over time. Additionally, a triage or matrix such as this can help an FSS program establish expectations or program policies regarding how often a program coordinator will be in contact with a participant.

Recommendations from FSS Program Coordinators on Participant Assessments

The following tips may also be useful to consider when planning meetings with participants:

  • Schedule ample time to complete initial assessments at enrollment. A comprehensive assessment can take one to two hours to complete.
  • Conduct in-person assessments to build relationships with new participants, but also
  • Consider remote coaching sessions conducted by phone or using meeting technology, especially in rural areas and/or for clients who have transportation issues.
  • Take a holistic view of the family. Consider physical and mental health, financial skills, and other conditions that create barriers to employment.
  • Ask about the family’s ability to overcome barriers in the past. Learning what has worked (or not) in the past is beneficial information.
  • Ask about the factors relevant to the participant’s success and not topics beyond the scope of the program. This will build trust and mutual respect.
  • Take steps to ensure all information shared by the participant is treated as confidential. Some of the information discussed during assessments can be quite sensitive.
  • After the initial assessment, conduct follow-up assessments on a regular basis to track progress and identify any new barriers. Take this opportunity to provide referrals to services that can bolster the participant’s outlook.

 Download This List

As this video illustrates, assessment tools are useful in evaluating participants' progress throughout the program.

 

Please complete this quiz before you proceed to the next module. To take the quiz, use the arrow keys or click the correct answer choice. If you answer incorrectly, you will be able to try again until you select the correct response.
Scores will not be recorded.

1. True or False: HUD requires FSS coordinators to use a standard assessment form provided by HUD at the initial participant assessment.

A - TrueIncorrect.FSS coordinators may use one of many off-the-shelf assessments or design an assessment form of their own, but many FSS programs design a customized assessment form of their own.B - FalseCorrect!FSS coordinators may use one of many off-the-shelf assessments, but many FSS programs design a customized assessment form of their own.

2. Which of the following topics should be addressed in an initial assessment?

A - Basic family information (marital status, dependents, living situation, food security).Partially correct.This is an area that should be covered in an initial assessment, but initial intake assessments should also measure client well-being across other areas and all of the topics listed should be addressed.B - Education history and goals (educational level achieved, job training, licenses or certifications).Partially correct.This is an area that should be covered in an initial assessment, but initial intake assessments should also measure client well-being across other areas and all of the topics listed should be addressed.C - Employment history (career interests, legal status, criminal history).Partially correct.This is an area that should be covered in an initial assessment, but initial intake assessments should also measure client well-being across other areas and all of the topics listed should be addressed.D - Finances and asset building (individual and household income, debt, savings, financial management).Partially correct.This is an area that should be covered in an initial assessment, but initial intake assessments should also measure client well-being across other areas and all of the topics listed should be addressed.E - Barriers or family needs (physical and mental health, substance abuse, childcare needs, transportation).Partially correct.This is an area that should be covered in an initial assessment, but initial intake assessments should also measure client well-being across other areas and all of the topics listed should be addressed.F - All of the above.Correct!The initial participant assessment is likely to be your first lengthy interaction with a new FSS family and is a good opportunity to begin developing a relationship and understanding a client’s needs and goals.

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