Case Management & Coaching

Module 3.4: Referrals to Service Providers

Local service providers play an essential role in the FSS program, providing participants with the trainings, services, and other resources they need to meet their goals and to meet the needs of family members.

As an FSS program coordinator, one of your roles is to connect participants with relevant service providers to help them achieve their goals. These resources should be identified in participants’ FSS Action Plans.

You are not expected to provide coaching or services that are beyond your expertise, training, or skill level, or simply outside the mission of the PHA. Referrals enable participants to receive these specialized assessments and services and allow you to focus on the key role of helping participants to achieve their goals, including all of the incremental steps along the way.

The partnerships you develop with service providers, including through your Program Coordinating Committee, will help to ensure the availability of supportive services to meet a broad range of needs.

Working with a Program Coordinating Committee and building strong partnerships with service providers will be covered later in this training.

For more on the Program Coordinating Committee, see 24 CFR §984.202.

The referrals you make will depend on program participants’ needs and the resources available in your community. Partners will likely include service providers operating in at least the following areas (click the arrows to expand the content):

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

Other types of service providers might include organizations providing literacy and English language classes, disability service providers, nutritionists, transportation services, mentorship services, professional clothing, child care providers, health and behavioral health clinics, and agencies providing emergency services. Other, nontraditional partners include automobile service shops, which can provide low-cost car maintenance services, higher-end consignment shops, which can provide work or interview clothes, and representatives from a community farmer’s market or grocery store, who may be willing to provide nutrition and food preparation classes free of charge. While not typically thought of as “service providers,” these partners can provide important supports that make a big difference in participants’ lives.

When to Make Referrals?

You will likely make several rounds of referrals as participants move through different phases of the program—at the initial FSS participant assessment, at goal-setting, and then at ongoing meetings, including following achievement of interim goals.

In many cases, referrals are steps building toward a larger goal: At the initial assessment, for example, a participant interested in homeownership may receive a referral to a credit union to establish a relationship with a financial institution and open and gain experience maintaining a bank account. At goal-setting, the participant may be referred to a credit counseling agency for help achieving the interim goal of increasing the participant’s credit score, and then at ongoing meetings the participant may be referred to a housing counseling agency to assess readiness and prepare for homeownership.

Similarly, a participant interested in advancing in a chosen career track may first be referred to a workforce center for a career assessment to help identify individual training and education plans. At goal-setting, the participant may be referred to an basic skills education program, community college, or workforce center to obtain training or education that is contextualized for the participant’s chosen career path. Finally, the participant may be referred to a provider that offers professional clothing as the participant begins the interview process for specific job openings.

In other cases, however, this sequence does not progress in such a straightforward manner and referrals are based first on a triage approach designed to meet the highest priority needs. For example, a participant who presents a health crisis in their initial assessment may first be referred to a community health clinic to address immediate health concerns. After this crisis has been resolved and the participant is given time to recover, additional referrals can be made—to career planning, basic skills or literacy classes, or degree programs—to begin moving closer to achieving long-term goals.

Crisis management can happen at any time, not only at the initial assessment. Especially among very low-income participants, crises can be debilitating and disruptive, and lead to the loss of a job or housing, making it difficult to stay on track to achieve longer-term goals. Referrals and crisis intervention may be needed at various points throughout a participant’s tenure in the FSS program.

This video explains why individualized referrals are a client-centered best practice.

Practitioners recommend building relationships with services providers so that you can make individualized and personalized referrals at every stage. Direct personal referrals, such as a phone call to let a provider know to expect a specific individual, may increase the likelihood that the participant will follow through and that he or she will receive effective, relevant assistance.

In addition to making effective referrals, it is important to follow-up on any referrals at the next meeting. Tracking what referral was made and whether the participant followed through on the referral is key to knowing if the participant is actively working toward the goals in their Individual Training and Services Plan. Ultimately, a referral is only useful if it becomes an action that results in the family making progress toward their goals.

  Download Sample FSS Referral Form

  Download Sample Checklist for FSS Interviews with Referral Letter Notes

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. When FSS coordinators strive to secure partnerships with supportive services providers or funders, which of the following types of programs should they pursue?

A - Employment training and placement.Partially correct.While partnerships with this type of service provider are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.B - Education and skills development.Partially correct.While partnerships with this type of service provider are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.C - Financial education and capability.Partially correct.While partnerships with this type of service provider are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.D - Human services/TANF.Partially correct.While partnerships with this type of service provider are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.E - City or county government.Partially correct.While partnerships with this type of service provider are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.F - A, B, and C only.Partially correct.While partnerships with these types of service providers are important, FSS participants will need a variety of services, including those available through public agencies or departments. Partnerships with all of the service providers or funders listed should be pursued.G - All of the above.Correct!Effective referrals for services rely on identifying appropriate referral organizations and services. These services may vary widely depending on program participants’ needs.

2. If a participant has a long-term goal to become prepared for homeownership but has a low credit score, which of the following would be the best initial referral for that goal?

A - Homeownership education.Incorrect.While homeownership education will be important to achieving the long-term goal of homeownership preparedness, it is important to first resolve the interim goal of increasing his or her credit score through credit counseling.B - Credit counseling.Correct!Credit counseling is a good first step toward achieving the interim goal of increasing the participant’s credit score, which will be needed to enable the participant to qualify for a mortgage at a reasonable interest rate.C - Employment training.Incorrect.While the participant may benefit from employment training, this type of training will not directly affect progress toward the goal of homeownership preparedness. For purposes of achieving the long-term goal of homeownership preparedness, it is of primary importance to first address the interim goal of increasing the participant’s credit score through credit counseling.D - City or county government.Incorrect.City and county governments often offer first-time homebuyer assistance and other programs to support homeownership; however, the participant should first focus on credit counseling programs that help to resolve the obstacle of a low credit score.

3. If a participant has a long-term goal of a good-paying job and a history of underemployment and unemployment, which of the following is the best initial referral?

A - Job placement.Incorrect.Given the participant’s employment history, it would likely be premature to send them to a job placement service. The participant would benefit from an initial referral to an employment assessment service. Training, education, and employment can then be tailored to the participant’s interests, values, aptitudes, abilities, and skills, increasing the likelihood of success.B - Credit counseling.Incorrect.While the participant may also benefit from credit counseling, employment assessment will be the most beneficial in helping to identify the participant’s interests, values, aptitudes, abilities, and skills, and then tailoring their training, education, and employment accordingly.C - Employment assessment.Correct!A person is much more likely to excel in training, education, and employment when these are matched to their interests, values, aptitudes, abilities, and skills. Even a small amount of career assessment can increase the likelihood of employment success.D - Civil Service Job List.Incorrect.Given the participant’s employment history, it would likely be premature to send them a job list and expect a different result. The participant would benefit from an initial referral to an employment assessment service. Training, education, and employment can then be tailored to the participant’s interests, values, aptitudes, abilities, and skills, increasing the likelihood of success.

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