Case Management & Coaching

Module 3.3: Participant Meetings and Client Communication

Regular meetings and communication with FSS participants help to keep participants on track to achieve their goals and provide opportunities to offer encouragement and support, as well as referrals to resources and trainings.

How Often Should You Meet With FSS Participants?

This video clip provides some guidelines.

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

While there are no hard and fast rules about how and how often to communicate with FSS participants, FSS coordinators report that regular and frequent communication is the bedrock of a strong coordinator-participant relationship and necessary to build and maintain trust with their participants.

This video emphasizes the importance of patience and commitment in working with participants.

When determining how frequently to meet with participants, consider whether the participant is experiencing particular challenges or obstacles, whether he or she is working or enrolled in educational or job training, and, perhaps most importantly, the strength of your relationship with the participant. Coordinators’ recommendations range from weekly meetings with participants who are having challenges to quarterly or semiannual meetings with participants who are steadily on track to achieve their goals. The frequency of meetings depends on many factors and will likely change over time.

Some general rules of thumb, based on FSS coordinator input, include:

  • Consider meeting weekly – with new participants; participants who are experiencing challenges; and those who are seeking employment, want help advancing to a better job, or are beginning a new job
  • Consider meeting at least monthly – with participants who are not in school or employed 20 or more hours per week
  • Consider checking in at least once a month or quarter by phone or e-mail – with employed participants who are steadily on track to achieve their goals

The key for FSS participants at all stages is to maintain regular contact at an appropriate level that is sufficient to build and sustain a supportive and trusting relationship.

Most FSS program coordinators prefer to hold in-person meetings with participants in the FSS program office, although meetings may also be held in another private setting, such as the participants’ home or workplace. Meeting participants in their home environment can provide insight into some of the barriers to self-sufficiency that the participants might not bring up on their own, or even recognize, such as furniture, clothing, and housekeeping needs. Some coordinators emphasize the importance of having a meeting in-home soon after enrollment to meet all family members in a location that is comfortable and familiar to the participants if the family agrees and the program coordinator has sufficient time to make a home visit without compromising other responsibilities.

After the initial assessment, other forms of contact can supplement in-person meetings and increase the frequency of contact without requiring as much time or resources, especially for participants who are employed and/or enrolled in education or training programs. These include:

  • Remote coaching sessions conducted using meeting technology (especially helpful in rural areas and/or for clients who have transportation issues)
  • Conversations via phone, email, or Skype
  • Text or email alerts and reminders
  • Quarterly statements
  • Personal letters

Some PHAs and owners also convene group meetings that provide an opportunity for FSS participants to share their experiences, knowledge, and perspectives with one another. These meetings also allow coordinators to informally check in with their participants.

In the video clips, practitioners discuss how FSS coordinators in their programs use these approaches.

Ultimately, you should use your best judgment and develop a unique communication plan for each participant based on his or her assessment, needs, and progress. You should meet with a participant and/or the family as often, in person or virtually, as the participant needs to achieve his or her goals and address family members’ needs.

The focus of participant meetings will shift over time as participants progress through the program and encounter new challenges and opportunities.

Early conversations will center on the participant’s current situation, conducting baseline assessments, and handling critical issues.

Then, participants will work with the coordinator to create the Individual Training and Services Plan (ITSP) with long- and short-term goals and target dates to meet those goals.

During subsequent meetings with residents, coordinators should check in on how the participant and the family are doing overall, review individual goals and progress with ITSPs, follow up on any previous referrals to service providers or programs, and review budget and credit issues.

To get the most out of meetings with participants, some coordinators create meeting checklists. The items on the checklist will change over the course of the program, depending on whether the participant is newly enrolled, progressing toward his or her goals, or approaching graduation. This tool can be used to follow up on progress toward goals, check on the status of referrals to services or trainings, and stay on top of other challenges that may arise over time.

Below are several examples of coordinators’ checklists covering the following topics:

 Introductory and Assessment Meetings Checklist

 Job Search Goal Meeting Checklist

 Early Employment Review Meeting Checklist

 Monitoring Meeting Checklist

 Approaching Graduation Meeting Checklist

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

  • Revisit the ITSP and review participant goals at every meeting
  • Recognize and celebrate small achievements and steps toward larger goals
  • Show how much participants have accrued in their escrow account at each meeting
  • Review the family budget, debt/credit issues, asset building status, and general financial stability
  • Create personal reports that visually show participants' progress toward goals
  • Brainstorm together as needed on better goal achievement

 Download This List


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: FSS coordinators are required to communicate with participants on a bi-monthly basis.

A - True.Incorrect.There are no requirements regarding how often to communicate with participants.B - False.Correct!There are no hard and fast rules about how often to communicate with participants. FSS coordinators should use their best judgment when establishing the frequency of meetings, keeping in mind that any communication plan will likely change over time.

2. True or False: Meetings with FSS participants must never take place in the participants’ homes.

A - True.Incorrect.There are no restrictions on meetings occurring in participants’ homes. Some programs encourage at least an initial meeting in the participant’s home, as the home environment can provide insight into the family’s needs and potential barriers to self-sufficiency.B - False.Correct!Some programs encourage at least an initial meeting in the participant’s home, as the home environment can provide insight into potential barriers to self-sufficiency. Subsequent in-person meetings generally take place in the FSS program office, although meetings can also take place at the participant’s workplace or other venues.

3. True or False: Meeting checklists are a useful way to ensure all necessary topics are covered at a participant meeting.

A - True.Correct!Checklists can build additional structure into the FSS program and can be a valuable way to track follow-up items from meeting to meeting.B - False.Incorrect.Checklists can be a useful tool for FSS coordinators and participants to track follow-up items from meeting to meeting.

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