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

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Outreach and Goal-Setting

3. Case Management / Coaching

4. Increasing Earnings

5. Building Financial Capability

6. FSS Infrastructure

Outreach and Goal-Setting

Module 2.5: Goal Setting

The Goal Setting Process

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:

  1. To become independent of income assistance from federal or state welfare programs for at least 12 months. (The requirement applies solely to ongoing cash maintenance. Food stamps, Medicaid, or short-term non-recurring payments are not considered income assistance.)
  2.  To seek and maintain suitable employment.

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:

  • It takes time. You may need several hours and multiple meetings to establish an effective set of goals.
  • In addition to finding out the participant’s current goals, try to learn what goals they have previously set for themselves, including whether and under what circumstances they have been able to meet them.
  • Consider meeting new participants in their home or another private setting, if the program coordinator has sufficient time to make a home visit without compromising other responsibilities. Some coordinators find new participants are most comfortable in their own homes.
  • Remember that there are no right or wrong answers or goals. It’s your job to see through what participants think you want to hear, and get to the root of participants’ own goals. But….
  • Work with participants to ensure the formal goals they set are reasonable and achievable. Consider documenting additional "reach” goals in places other than the ITSP so they do not impact participants’ ability to graduate from the FSS program.

 Download This List

This video describes a technique called guided imagery to help participants set their goals.

Develop Long-Term 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:

  • With the FSS participant, you may choose to characterize Obtain a two-year associate degree as an interim goal on the way to achievement of the single final employment goal.
  • Alternatively, you and the participant may choose to characterize Obtain a two-year associate degree as an additional final goal, reserving the interim goal category for activities that can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe.

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:

  • Complete a specific job skills training or obtaining a license/certificate
  • Obtain a GED or high school equivalency credential
  • Obtain an associate degree or bachelor’s degree
  • Complete homeownership preparedness training
  • Develop a budget
  • Obtain a promotion/wage increase
  • Complete a financial education course

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.

Break Down Long-Term Goals into Smaller Steps

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.

Develop Templates for Common Goals

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.

 View a Sample of ITSP Goals

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: Participant goals identified in the ITSP must focus on education, training, or employment.

A - True.
While participants are free to pursue other objectives on their own time, goals identified as part of the FSS program may only focus on education, training, and employment.
Incorrect.FSS participants must include as goals (1) seeking and maintaining employment, and (2) becoming free of cash welfare assistance; however, participants may also set goals in other areas.
B - False.
On their ITSP, FSS participants must include the goals of seeking and maintaining employment and becoming free of cash welfare assistance; however, participants are free to establish additional goals in other areas, such as mental or physical health.
Correct!The two required goals address employment and becoming free of cash welfare assistance. Participants may choose to set additional goals in other areas.

2. Many programs find the SMART acronym a useful tool for identifying actionable goals. The “M” in the SMART acronym stands for:

A - Monetary goals that position the participant for financial independence.Incorrect.While independence from income assistance from state and federal welfare programs is a required goal of FSS participants, the M in SMART refers to measurable goals that are quantifiable. In the FSS context, percentage increases toward an income goal, for example, would meet this criterion.B - Mastery obtained through completion of an apprenticeship program or job or educational training.Incorrect.FSS participants should pursue trainings that position them for employment at the conclusion of the program period but they need not become masters in a particular field. The M in SMART refers to measurable goals that are quantifiable. In the FSS context, percentage increases toward an income goal, for example, would meet this criterion.C - Market-oriented goals that position a participant for employment in the local community.Incorrect.FSS participants should pursue trainings and educational programs that enable them to find employment by the conclusion of the program period; however, the M in SMART refers to measurable goals that are quantifiable. In the FSS context, percentage increases toward an income goal, for example, would meet this criterion.D - Maximum goals that allow the participant to get the maximum financial benefit out of a minimal investment of time.Incorrect.Goals should be reasonably achievable within the FSS program period and so actions that deliver maximum benefit in a short time period may be beneficial; however, the M in SMART refers to measurable goals that are quantifiable. In the FSS context, percentage increases toward an income goal, for example, would meet this criterion.E - Measurable goals that are quantifiable.Correct!In the FSS context, percentage increases toward an income goal, for example, would meet this criterion.

3. True or False: It’s best to avoid breaking down long-term goals into smaller steps because FSS participants may get bogged down in individual milestones and lose sight of their ultimate goal(s).

A - True.Incorrect.While a participant’s long-term goals indicate his or her interests and vision for the future, FSS coordinators recommend working with participants to identify smaller steps that can be used to measure progress towards meeting these goals.B - False.Correct!Establishing and tracking achievement of smaller steps is a good way to monitor participants’ progress toward long-term goals, and also helps participants achieve small successes and build confidence.

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2. Outreach and Goal-Setting

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