FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
2. Outreach and Goal-Setting
3. Case Management / Coaching
4. Increasing Earnings
5. Building Financial Capability
6. FSS Infrastructure
After the assessment is completed, one of the first concrete tasks of the FSS program coordinator is to help participants set realistic, individualized, short- and long-term goals, with target dates for completion, in the areas of education and job training, employment, and financial capability.
As noted earlier, FSS program participants are required to set two goals:
Beyond these two required goals, FSS participants and their coordinators are free to establish additional goals such as completing a GED or becoming ready for homeownership.
For more on goals in the Contract of Participation, see 24 CFR §984.303.
Participants establish their goals in their Individualized Training and Services Plan (ITSP), which is part of the Contract of Participation that is signed upon official enrollment in the FSS program. Often, two or more meetings are required to complete a participant assessment and establish an effective set of goals that reflects the participant’s needs and wants.
Some FSS programs build in time to complete initial goal planning before signing the Contract of Participation. In others, however, the contract is signed before the full assessment and goal-setting conversations have taken place.
How to manage this timing challenge? Many programs make the most of the flexibility in the FSS program and set up the initial ITSP using the two required goals and one or two preliminary goals. These additional goals can then be modified as needed after the full participant assessment and goal-setting meetings have been held.
The following tips may also be useful to consider when working with participants to set goals:
This video describes a technique called guided imagery to help participants set their goals.
The ITSP asks participants to identify a “Final Goal” and, under this, “Interim Goals.”
Different FSS programs use these categories in different ways. Some FSS programs define “interim goals” as goals that can be achieved in a relatively brief period of time, characterizing all long-term goals as final goals. Other FSS programs, by contrast, restrict final goals to the two required goals and characterize all other goals as interim goals.
For example, say a participant identified Obtain a two-year associate degree as an additional goal the participant wanted to achieve. Some FSS programs might characterize this as an interim goal while others might characterize it as a final goal:
Participant goals may go beyond a focus on education, training, and employment to include the head of household’s health, mental health, financial capability, as well as needs of other household members. Some goals focus on “outputs”—which are the immediate results that indicate completion of a task, such as finishing a training program—while others focus on “outcomes”—which represent the longer-term changes that follow an activity, such as obtaining a promotion or pay increase. Some FSS programs require goals to be framed as outcomes while listing outputs as activities undertaken to achieve those goals.
Common goals include:
When refining each interim or final goal, keep in mind the guidelines in the SMART Acronym. These characteristics (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound) can help to ensure that both you and the participant have a clear sense of what is expected of them and when.
For each goal, participants will also need to determine smaller steps – called Activities or Services on the ITSP – that must be completed to make progress toward meeting the goal. These activities are often broken down in 3- to 6-month increments.
Establishing and tracking these activities can make larger goals feel more achievable, and helps participants achieve small successes and build confidence.
In the video clips, FSS practitioners discuss how they approach the process of breaking down larger goals into smaller steps.
You may wish to develop ITSP templates for use with common goals such as securing employment, completing educational or job training, or becoming prepared for homeownership.
Templates lay out the typical steps and timeline for completing common goals and are a good starting point, but they must be modified for each participant. Remember that ITSPs must reflect the individual needs, interests, and goals of each participant and his or her household.
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