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Announcement of Grants to Support Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers, and Families

Announcement of Grants to Support Expectant and Parenting Teens, Women, Fathers, and Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 7, 2017
The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces the award of $22,023,940 in 16 grants through the OAH Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) Program to states and tribes to improve the educational, health, social, and economic outcomes for expectant and parenting teens, women, fathers and their families. The grants start on July 7, 2017.
 
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Engaging Select Populations E-Learning Module



Introduction

Go to Section: Introduction > Recognizing Diversity > The Power of Diversity > Defining Vulnerable Youth > Vulnerabilities

Introduction

This course on Engaging Select Populations provides programs working with expectant and parenting adolescents and young adults (referred to as expectant and parenting youth in this course) with an overview of principles and strategies to more successfully reach diverse, vulnerable, and at-risk youth and, specifically, how to work in partnership with them. In this module, we use the term “select populations” to refer to groups of diverse youth with many different characteristics, including, in some cases, vulnerability. The diversity of a population includes the ways in which people differ on characteristics such as age, race, language, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, and physical and mental abilities. Vulnerable youth populations, sometimes referred to as “at-risk populations,” are identified by characteristics that put them at increased risk for negative outcomes.

Successfully engaging select populations of expectant and parenting youth doesn’t just mean translating materials into other languages or assuming that expectant and parenting youth would universally respond to a “one size fits all” approach. Principles for engaging select populations can and should be incorporated into the design, delivery, and implementation of program services. To reach and engage select populations, programs must be flexible, adaptable, and open to customizing materials for a variety of audiences.

This E-learning module on Engaging Select Populations teaches practitioners working with expectant and parenting youth how to:

  • Define select populations
  • Identify the select populations they serve within their target population
  • Identify supports and ways to engage the select populations they serve
  • Develop specific strategies for engaging select populations of youth

Recognizing Diversity

Youth represent diverse groups, with respect to their characteristics and their needs and are often vulnerable youth.

What is Diversity?

Recognizing and responding to diversity within a target population is critical for successful design, delivery, and implementation of program services. Diversity encompasses a number of characteristics, attributes, and contexts, including:

  • Race, ethnicity, language, and culture
  • Gender identity (including transgendered or gender non-conforming)
  • Developmental or acquired disabilities
  • Faith-based beliefs (religious or spiritual)
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or youth questioning their sexual orientation
  • Socio-economic status
  • Variability in language skills and/or reading level

These aspects of diversity can influence the ways in which youth participate in program activities and the approach facilitators use to present information. Engaging diverse participants requires cultural competence, flexibility, and the creation of a safe environment to express opinions. Programs should hire staff and/or train staff to be culturally competent in their engagement of and interactions with youth. In addition, the organization or agency as a whole should embrace, practice, and support cultural competency. “Cultural competence” means having an attitude of acceptance, respect, understanding, and appreciation for another’s cultural uniqueness and a willingness to learn about another’s culture. Cultural competence in program delivery allows for facilitators to establish a rapport with participants, as well as deliver content effectively and respectfully.

Acknowledging Diversity

Successfully acknowledging diversity is more than just accepting differences; it requires:

  • Respecting, appreciating, and understanding the varying characteristics of individuals.
  • Understanding the dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression; that is, historically power differentials have existed between majority and minority groups, and those power differences often result in social privileges or advantages for those in majority groups while simultaneously resulting in oppression and prejudice toward those in minority groups.

Be aware of what may hinder program staff from being culturally competent:

  • Stereotypical thinking: making assumptions about a person or a group of people based on a particular generalization, without regard for individual differences.
  • Ethnocentrism: the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture and to believe that this culture is superior to that of all others (or inferior).
  • Denial of one’s own biases: ignoring personal beliefs or assumptions about groups of people, rather than acknowledging and addressing them.

Program providers should reflect upon their own diverse characteristics and backgrounds, their personal values and beliefs that stem from them, and the ways in which their values and beliefs affect their interactions with others. Diversity can manifest itself in any number of ways, including:

  • Gender roles
  • Family structure
  • Perceptions of time and space
  • Use of humor
  • Speech norms
  • Orientation to authority
  • Attitude toward future and life planning
  • Degree of openness toward members of other cultures
  • Degree of openness about personal issues
  • Individualistic vs. collectivistic values
  • Direct vs. indirect communication (i.e. eye contact, assertiveness)
  • Level of formality of communication
  • Importance of spirituality

When accounting for diversity in designing and implementing programs for expectant and parenting youth, it can be helpful to assess your program’s sensitivity to diversity by asking the following questions:

  • Do any barriers exist that would restrict select populations from participating?
  • Does program scheduling, location, or content restrict participants from attending based on their religious beliefs or days of observance?
  • Are there barriers to participation for youth with no or little income or those with physical disabilities?
  • Do program materials and staff members take into account varying levels of English language competency and reading level without causing embarrassment to participants?
  • Is there a cultural mismatch between the program and the participants? For example, are there conflicts or challenges in the protocol or program messages that differ from the cultural values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations of the select populations served by the program?

Implementing Diversity Programming

One key consideration in engaging diverse expectant and parenting youth is that some aspects of diversity may be in transition. That is to say, during adolescence and young adulthood, young people may “try on” various roles as they develop their identity and gain more independence and autonomy. It is important to keep in mind static versus non-static aspects of diversity and identity and be aware of the transitions that youth may be experiencing. Gender identity, sexual orientation, and religious or spiritual faith, among others, are aspects of identity that may be evolving as young people navigate their transition to adulthood.

Other tips for implementing programming with cultural competence when engaging diverse populations:

  • Do not assume that everyone’s needs and wants are the same – this rings true for program staff and program participants. View the participant as an expert on his/her cultural experiences.
  • Remember that there are subcultures within cultures, and that individuals may identify with many different (and sometime conflicting) cultural identities.
  • Remember that words and phrases are culturally-conditioned (meaning that they may be rooted in one particular culture or may be culture-specific) and that meanings may differ between people and subcultures.
  • Do not rely on past experiences to deal with every new situation – stereotypes and assumptions, whether derived from personal experience or not – can contribute to negative interactions.
  • Consider the cultural knowledge that you possess as possibilities not absolutes; that is, consider that personal values and beliefs are just that – personal – and other values and beliefs are equally as salient to those who espouse them. Be flexible in seeing things from a different worldview.
  • Be aware of and examine your own biases constantly.
  • In the process of acknowledging personal biases, make a good faith effort to think about the positive attributes that different groups bring to the table – not just the negative attributes that are sometimes associated with that group. Treat cultural differences as a resource – look at differences between groups and individuals as an opportunity to learn and be able to tolerate ambiguity or discomfort in learning something different or in contrast to your culture, beliefs, and attitudes.

The Power of Diversity

Select populations or expectant and parenting youth, both diverse and vulnerable, face numerous challenges on their path to self-sufficient, positive adulthood. Programs can benefit from a strengths-based approach to working with select populations, which means focusing on the capacities or gifts that select populations have to offer, not on perceived shortcomings or what is absent.

Bohach (1997) writes: "Every individual, no matter how deprived or disadvantaged he may feel he is or be perceived to be, still has an endless supply of unique, positive, and valuable abilities that are gifts…. Using their gifts, we can focus on areas of strength (the positive) rather than only focusing on areas of need (the negative)."

Group diversity holds many strengths and benefits for programs working with expectant and parenting youth from select populations, including:

  • Diverse experience - Diverse backgrounds bring unique experiences and perceptions to groups and teams. Pooling the varied knowledge and skills of diverse youth can be fruitful. All youth possess unique strengths and weaknesses derived from their cultures, their individuality, and their life experiences. With thoughtful facilitation, diversity can be leveraged, and the strengths of each person can come together to form a group that is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Opportunities for learning and growth - Another advantage of group diversity is the opportunity for youths' personal growth. Being exposed to new ideas, cultures and perspectives can help individuals to reach out intellectually and gain a clearer view of their surroundings and their place in the world. By slowly breaking down conscious or subconscious barriers of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, youth can become more well-rounded members of society.
  • Improved group effectiveness and better decision making - Homogenous groups tend to be comfortable around each other, which is great for camaraderie, but not so great for exploring complex solutions to problems. Diverse groups can break up “group think.” Diversity among team members can bring new and varied ideas to the table; in fact, the mere presence of different groups may be enough to get people out of their comfort zones and thinking differently about the situation.

Defining Vulnerable Youth

There is no universal definition of the term “vulnerable youth.” Generally, youth are perceived as vulnerable if they experience situations, such as pregnancy or homelessness, that put them at risk of developing problem behaviors and outcomes that may potentially damage their communities, themselves, or both. Being “vulnerable” does not necessarily mean that a young person has already engaged in risky behavior or experienced negative outcomes, but it does mean that he or she is in a position or situation where they are more likely to engage in those risky behaviors and thus experience negative outcomes.

Who are vulnerable youth?

Researchers have identified multiple groups of youth who are more vulnerable to experiencing poor outcomes as they enter adulthood. Some of these groups include:

  • Homeless and runaway youth
  • Young mothers and fathers
  • Youth involved in social service systems (e.g., juvenile justice, foster care)
  • Youth who have experienced abuse, neglect, and/or other trauma
  • Disconnected youth (youth detached from the labor market or school settings)
  • Undocumented or non-citizen youth
  • Youth engaged in substance abuse

Youth of color and those living in poverty are overrepresented in vulnerable populations due in part to their exposure to poverty, crime, racism, and lack of access to systems of care, such as health care and vocational assistance.

Vulnerable youth face many obstacles that may make it difficult to avoid negative outcomes and, moreover, difficult to thrive. In some cases, vulnerable youth may not even have their basic needs met – they may experience a lack of food, shelter, and health care. Vulnerable youth might also have to contend with unstable family support systems or homes, a lack of educational opportunity or attainment, or difficulty securing employment that provides adequate wages and health insurance.

Due in large part to these challenges, vulnerable youth are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illness, to engage in criminal activity, and to experience negative reproductive health outcomes, such as:

  • Earlier and higher levels of sexual activity during adolescence
  • A greater number of sexual partners
  • Lower levels of contraceptive use
  • An elevated risk of sexually transmitted infection
  • Higher levels of teen pregnancy and childbearing

Young Parents

Being a parent at any age poses challenges, and expectant and parenting youth are often faced with added financial, societal, emotional, and physical difficulties that put them and their children at higher risk for a number of negative outcomes. Expectant and parenting youth with additional vulnerabilities (that might be present before, during, or after they become parents) may be forced to contend with even greater challenges and barriers. In fact, simply by becoming parents, their risk of further vulnerability increases.

Frequently, young people experience multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities. For example, young women who are homeless, have run away, or are in foster care are more likely to experience teen pregnancy. Of course, when taking these complex and compound vulnerabilities into account, it is important to remember that a factor such as being in the foster care system or being homeless is not necessarily the singular impetus for engaging in the risky behaviors that can lead to teen pregnancy. Rather, for many youth, vulnerabilities are interrelated and emerge from shared root causes. For instance, their risky sexual behaviors may be linked to the experiences of abuse, neglect, or abandonment, which caused these youth to be placed in foster care or to become homeless to begin with.

Example

A young person is placed in foster care due to family instability; she is now considered vulnerable. This increases her likelihood of becoming a teen parent. She gives birth as an adolescent and subsequently drops out of school. This young person now falls into three vulnerable populations: being involved in a social service system (foster care), being a teen parent, and being disconnected from school.

For select populations of youth who are pregnant or become parents, programs should be designed and implemented with their vulnerabilities and risk factors in mind, so that the needs of program participants are supported both as teen parents and as vulnerable youth.

Vulnerabilities

Engaging select populations involves both an understanding of the many unique and diverse characteristics of individuals and groups and of the obstacles faced by them. The challenges faced and programmatic support needed by expectant and young parents stem from these myriad factors and the ways they interact.

Diversity and vulnerability are intertwined: diversity can result in vulnerability, and it can also intensify vulnerability. When considering diversity among youth who are vulnerable, remember that diverse characteristics or contexts may predispose or expose a young person to vulnerability (which might be the case for, say, racial minority or low economic status youth) or they may exacerbate their vulnerability through marginalization in society (which might be the case for youth with marginalized sexual orientations or without documented citizenship status).

A working understanding of societal dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression can help ensure that programs take into account multiple perspectives and life experiences, as well as the barriers faced by certain groups or individuals. For example, a young person who identifies with an ethnic or religious minority group may not necessarily be vulnerable based on this identification alone, especially if they have access to support networks and resources such as a stable home, school, and neighborhood.

However for vulnerable youth who also identify as an ethnic or religious minority, this identification may compound their vulnerability due to further marginalization and greater barriers to resources and care. This is particular important for program providers to understand, as vulnerable youth—such as those who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning; have undocumented citizen status; have developmental or acquired disabilities; or have limited English proficiency or low reading ability—are at higher risk of engaging in problem behaviors and experiencing negative outcomes.

Select populations of expectant and parenting youth often represent vulnerable populations, and they face complex barriers to success that may include pregnancy discrimination. Pregnancy and childbearing discrimination is illegal and refers to treating an individual unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Although most reported cases of such discrimination involve females, there have also been cases where males have faced the same type of discrimination. In the case of young parents, pregnancy and childbearing discrimination might include not inviting a pregnant youth to the prom, not allowing a pregnant teen to walk at graduation, or denying a pregnant teen an internship opportunity. These unique barriers may result in teen parents being further disconnected from society or their peers. Even when overt discrimination does not occur, being a young parent, female or male, may be isolating. These young mothers and fathers may face negative reactions or outright rejection from their families, peers, schools, or employers. Especially with rates of teen births at an all-time low, teen and young parents are that much more stigmatized and marginalized.

Programs that serve select populations will be most successful if they are cognizant of the challenges faced by and sensitive to the needs of minority and vulnerable populations. Program leaders and staff should consider asking themselves the following questions:

  • Does the programming offered make any assumptions about what is “the norm” or make any assumptions about participants?
  • Does it provide space for all voices to be heard safely and equally?

Asking questions like these may be helpful for recognizing the many potential layers of diversity and in identifying unintended exclusion or cultural bias.

The 4 S's of Engagement

Go to Section: Introduction > Setting > Support > Structure > Strategy > Exercises

Introduction

Part 1 of this e-learning module highlights the benefits of engaging select populations and explores the four S's for engaging youth: Setting, Support, Structure, and Strategy. These elements help programs achieve success in reaching and retaining select populations of youth, and they lay the foundation to develop partnerships with youth.

Benefits of Youth Involvement

Direct youth involvement offers potential benefits both to select populations of youth and to the organizations that serve them. To name just a few: youth gain experience and confidence; organizations gain a fresh perspective on youth culture; and develop more effective outreach strategies. However, organizations must clearly identify and articulate these benefits if youth and adults are to embrace the concept of youth involvement.

Involving young people may provide an organization with the following benefits:

  • Fresh ideas, unshackled by the way things have always been done
  • New perspectives on decision-making that integrate relevant information about young people's needs and interests
  • Candid responses about existing services
  • Additional data for analysis and planning that may be available only through speaking with youth directly
  • More effective outreach that provides important information peer-to-peer
  • Additional human resources as youth and adults share responsibility
  • Greater acceptance of messages, services, and decisions because youth were involved in shaping them
  • Increased synergy from partnering youths’ energy and enthusiasm with adults' professional skills and experience
  • Enhanced credibility of the organization to both youth and advocates

Involving young people may benefit young people in these ways:

  • Increased status and stature in the community
  • Improved competencies and agency
  • Increased self-esteem and sense of self
  • Stronger skills and experience as leaders
  • Greater knowledge and understanding of other cultures
  • Increased self-discipline and schedule management
  • Greater appreciation of the multiple roles of adults
  • Broader career choices

Setting

Highly trained staff and a welcoming program space are essential to engaging select populations of expectant and parenting youth. Combined, these two components can create an appropriate environment for serving select populations of youth. In fact, regardless of who is providing services, which select populations are being served, and where they are being served - the principle remains: a warm and welcoming program environment will facilitate program engagement.

The following strategies can help create an appropriate environment for serving select populations:

  • Cultivating a culture of acceptance and maintaining a no-tolerance policy for discrimination
  • Developing and espousing cultural competence among staff and program participants alike
  • Incorporating developmentally- and culturally-appropriate practices into program services and delivery
  • Utilizing youth voices in the development and delivery of program services
  • Recruiting, training, retaining, and compensating highly-skilled and culturally-competent staff
  • Setting up a process to deal with and overcome challenges when they occur

Concrete suggestions for developing highly skilled staff and a welcoming program environment include:

  • Hiring Criteria -- by identifying and applying appropriate staff selection criteria and by a implementing a thorough interview process, programs are more likely to hire people who are a good fit for the program. It is important to remember during this process that there is not necessarily a single set of ideal staff qualities to look for when hiring – a diverse staff brings the same elements to the table that a group of diverse young people brings, experiences, culture, and understanding.
  • Training staff -- staff should be trained and mentored to build their capacity to understand and address the complex influences and risk factors that lead to teen pregnancy; to adopt culturally sensitive practices and celebrate diversity; to help youth recognize the positive and supportive resources that can be maximized; and, to acknowledge where supplemental support is needed. A high functioning staff is one that is well-trained in topics relevant to their work, which, in the case of expectant and parenting youth, can include adolescent development, reproductive health, positive youth development, and trauma-informed approaches.
  • Holding staff accountable – after staff are hired and trained, program leadership should develop guidelines to maintain quality of service delivery and staff-participant interactions. Program leaders should monitor and track services provided, evaluate staff performance, and hold staff accountable in the process.
  • Maintaining staff morale -- direct service staff have articulated the following as desirable qualities for long-term employment: relevant skills training, technical assistance, appropriate infrastructure supports, and comparable benefits and salary. Notably, most of these qualities relate to support – staff also benefit from a warm and appropriate environment!

Support

If the secret to success in real estate is “location, location, location,” in the field of youth development, the mantra is: “relationship, relationship, relationship.” The relationships between young people and adults and among youth and their peers are the single most influential contributor to the success of any youth serving organization. Youth may be attracted to the program for various reasons, but they will remain engaged because of their relationships with program adults and other youth they encounter.

Program staff should strive to become “adult allies;” adult allies are those who take a strengths-based approach to working with youth (meaning, when they work with youth, they recognize and utilize the strengths that youth have to offer), those who endeavor to share power and decision-making with youth, and those who will advocate on behalf of youth when others portend negative stereotypes and assumptions.

Becoming an Ally

Strong and effective adult allies will:1

  • Work alongside youth as allies and build authentic relationships. These mentors build the bridge between young people and the adult world. The key to successful youth-adult relationships is an understanding of the concept of partnership. In many youth-adult relationships experienced by expectant and parenting youth, adults either dictate the “agenda” of the relationship, or they neglect the young person and abdicate responsibility for what happens to them. In a strong youth-adult partnership, the adult ally and young people work “shoulder to shoulder,” sharing ideas and expertise, translating information about one another’s worlds, creating a mutual agenda, and taking joint responsibility for outcomes. Effective partnerships establish clear goals and an understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities. They also include balance control; if youth have no power to make decisions their participation is not one of partnership. Authentic relationships are particularly important for vulnerable populations who may be disconnected from stable adults (or any adults, for that matter), or who have lost trust in adult relationships due to their negative past experiences with adults.
  • Model positive behavior. Relationships in the teen and young adult years pave the way for future relationships. Given the tendency of young people to mirror the behaviors of those around them, program staff should model healthy relationships by treating young people and each other with respect and courtesy. Ideally this should be effortless – respect and courtesy should be the default. In challenging situations, it can be easy to lose one’s cool, but these situations offer an additional opportunity to model positive and productive ways to compromise, negotiation, and, of course, respect other people’s views and beliefs. Modeling healthy relationships skills is especially important when working with select and vulnerable populations who may have had limited access to positive adult role models throughout their lives. Consistently modeling positive and healthy behavior will help these young people to navigate difficult situations, change negative behaviors, and continue to display positive behavior into adulthood.
  • Use motivational interviewing techniques to help expectant and parenting youth envision a better future. Motivational interviewing is a person-centered, non-directive form of communication that promotes individual change. It is a collaborative communication technique, which can include pointing out ambivalent or contradictory statements and reframing thoughts into opportunities for change. The technique of motivational interviewing seeks to help people think differently about their behavior and ultimately to consider what might be gained through change. The strategy is to help expectant and parenting youth envision a better future for themselves and their families and to become increasingly motivated to realize that vision. Adult allies should help open doors for youth and increase their access to the resources needed to achieve their goals.
  • Empower program participants to be program ambassadors and share their stories with other youth and encourage participation. Program staff should recognize that young people are assets and are oftentimes willing and able to advocate on behalf of youth and the program. Of course, program staff should consider the fact that young people vary widely in their development and in their ability, readiness, and willingness to assume responsibility. Like adult program staff, program ambassadors should be committed, reliable, and effective. Adults should prepare youth to meaningfully engage in the decision-making and leadership roles available while they participate in programming and once they become alumni.

Strategies for Effective Programs

To work effectively with select populations of youth – especially vulnerable youth who may not have access to supportive networks and resources – program staff can employ the following strategies:

  • Be open to and nonjudgmental about young people's insights and suggestions. Letting expectant and parenting youth know that their perspective, opinions, and involvement in a program matter can help promote program engagement and can ensure that youth will participate in meaningful ways.
  • Set realistic and overt expectations. Be honest about program expectations, including what youth are expected to contribute and how they should participate. Expectations should be realistic, and hold youth accountable.
  • Remain flexible and offer support. Expectant and parenting youth have numerous needs – their own and their families.’ Programs should account for their diverse needs and the kinds of support (financial, logistical, training, emotional, and so forth) it will take to keep youth engaged and for who will be responsible for responding to these needs and providing this support.
  • Take time to build a relationship. Remember that it takes time to develop trust and rapport with youth; many youth are unsure about adults' intentions, especially those who have been neglected, abandoned, or abused by adults in the past. Take the time and make the effort to develop a good relationship with youth at the onset of the program.
  • Make the work interactive, fun, and valuable. Like adults, youth are more likely to get involved and remain active and engaged in projects that are interesting and fulfilling. Having fun is important. Whenever possible, find a way to balance learning, work, and fun in program services.

Other Suggestions

Concrete suggestions for strengthening participant-provider relationships include:

  • Ensure staff retention -- maintaining a consistent staff and minimizing turnover ensures program quality and continuity and makes it possible for participants and providers to develop strong relationships.
  • Train on best practices -- providers can benefit from technical assistance and training that provides examples, case studies, and success stories of successful strategies and best practices for communicating and building relationships with youth.
  • Be transparent and consistent -- participant-provider relationships will thrive when trust is present. With openness, consistency, and honesty, young people and adults can develop trust within their relationship, which will in turn facilitate strong working relationships and youth-adult partnerships.
  • Use what you learn -- deliberate inclusion of teen feedback in program planning can improve program delivery and, ultimately, increase youth engagement. Programs should have a specific plan on how to include and foster the input expectant and teen parents provide. A stronger relationship is forged when youth feel their voice is heard and respected.

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Promising strategies and existing gaps in supporting pregnant and parenting teens: Summary of expert panel workgroup meetings January and July 2013. Washington: D.C. 

Structure

As noted earlier, expectant and parenting youth – especially vulnerable youth – face many barriers to service access and utilization. To improve program recruitment and engagement, program providers should identify the range of barriers that select youth populations face, and think strategically about how to overcome these barriers. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come – program structure must preempt or account for factors that would impede upon successful engagement. Adults who endorse the concept of engaging youth and forming youth-adult partnerships must be willing to identify and alter the program structure and organizational environment that act as barriers for select populations.

Consider the following structural factors that might inhibit engagement of select population of expectant and parenting youth:

  • Meeting and Work Hours – An agency’s hours of operation usually coincide with times when young people are at school or work. To engage youth, program planners must find nontraditional times at which to hold important meetings or provide services. Often, scheduling conflicts can be difficult to overcome. However, compromise is vital if an organization is to create youth-adult partnership. For adults, this may mean altering schedules to hold meetings in the late afternoon, early evening, or on the weekend.
  • Transportation – Many young people do not have access to transportation. Program planners should schedule meetings or programs in easily accessible locations. They should also provide youth with travel vouchers and/or immediate reimbursement for the cost of travel.
  • Food – Few young people have the income to purchase meals in business districts or dinners in restaurants. When a meeting occurs at mealtime, the organization should provide young people with food or with the means to obtain food. For example, a gift card for a nearby restaurant.
  • Equipment and support – Agencies should provide youth with the same equipment as other employees, such as computer workstation, mailbox, voice mail, E-mail, and business cards. Failure to do so carries a powerful message that these youth – whether they are volunteers, interns, or peer educators, full-time or part-time – are not important or, at least, are not as important as adult employees.
  • Procedures and policies – With input from both youth and adults, organizations should develop policies on youth/adult interactions. Organizations may consider establishing policies requiring the consent of a parent or guardian for youth’s participation in activities or for youth being transported by organization staff, for example. The setting and purpose of each youth-adult partnership will help determine other institutional factors that may need to be addressed in the organization’s policies and procedures.

Suggestions

Concrete suggestions for improving program structure include:

  • When possible, outreach should come from peers, program alumni, or trusted adults.
  • Allow for adaptability and flexibility (locations, hours, modes of service delivery, etc.) Adaptability means that staff should continuously review material and strategies to ensure they are culturally sensitive and appropriate and make adaptations such as modifying role plays in existing curricula to fit the population. Flexibility means that programs can engage select populations more effectively if they are flexible in the times they offer services, provide food during meeting times, and are bi-lingual and/or bi-cultural. Programs should strive to be gender diverse to engage male and female youth – such that both are able to participate in activities.
  • Consider offering incentives when working with vulnerable expectant and parenting youth (including food, diapers, condoms, gas cards, and so forth). Take transportation barriers into account and provide support for youth to get to program services within reasonable amounts of time.
  • Work with partner and referral agencies to offer critical services such as child care, so that expectant and parenting youth can stay in school, or housing options for homeless and runaway youth. Young people are more likely to remain in programs if their needs are being met. Programs need to develop capacity/partnerships in the community to respond to the concrete needs of expectant and parenting youth (e.g., food, health care, and paying internships).
  • When possible and appropriate, involve the teen’s whole family in the program. Programs should integrate a focus on establishing healthy relationships -- youth may need to learn ways to maintain and, in some cases, re-establish healthy family relationships. Programs should also take into account changing perspectives -- programs may need to broaden the client definition, from the individual teen to recognizing and embracing the whole family as a unit in need of service. For example, programs can include grandparent support groups, offer intergenerational parenting education, and target younger siblings who are at increased risk for pregnancy.

To make youth engagement feasible, authentic, and impactful, these elements of a workable and intentional structure should be taken into consideration to support a system of opportunities. This combination of setting, support, and structure ensures that youth are seen as valuable participants, are prepared to take on meaningful roles in addressing relevant issues, and work in partnership with adults who respect, listen to, and support them. These elements set the stage for youth to engage in the design, delivery, and implementation of programming.

Strategy

Programs fare better when they offer accessible and meaningful activities. This is especially true for serving select populations who may face additional barriers to participation or who feel marginalized by programming that is not relevant to them. Youth are more likely to participate if the program is:

  • Serving their needs
  • Supporting their ability to participate
  • Addressing issues which are important to them, and
  • Fostering strong adult-participant relationships

Like adults, many youth want active, hands-on activities that can be accomplished in short-term timeframes and easily-accessible settings. Others are interested in longer commitments that provide increasing opportunity to share ideas, influence decisions, or support their growth.

Working in partnership

To make a program approachable for diverse youth, agencies can create a continuum of opportunities for engagement that increase the extent to which youth share authority and accountability in program activities, planning and decision-making. It is also important to avoid "tokenism" in which one or two youth are consulted or invited with little expectation that anyone will heed their suggestions.

Consider these four strategic pathways to engagement:1

  1. Involvement–youth involvement includes allowing youth to actively participate in volunteer opportunities and meetings initiated by adults, to have input on the program activity planning and day-to-day operations, or to take on projects within initiatives.
  2. Consultation–youth consultation is the intentional creation of mechanism for youth input and advice on important issues facing their neighborhoods, schools and communities while the adults retain the authority to make final decisions.
  3. Representation–youth representation means providing youth with the opportunity to participate in ongoing program planning on behalf of their peers, with the ability to help set the agenda and vote in decision making.
  4. Shared leadership–shared leadership is when youth share positions of authority with adults as colleagues and share accountability for the goals and outcomes of the activity.

The pyramid shape does not imply that any one pathway has a greater value than another, but rather to demonstrate that activities increase in their depth and intensity as they move from the base to the apex. The pyramid shape is also indicative of the fact that the potential number of opportunities and the corresponding number of youth involved tends to decrease as the type of involvement increases in complexity.

Avoiding tokenism

Too often, the attitudes of well-intentioned adults undermine effective youth involvement. Programs may involve young people merely as token representatives. Programs may involve youth without sufficient preparation of either staff or youth. Tokenism and insufficient preparation are both recipes for failure. Both youth and adults may have high expectations about successful cooperation. However when planners put little time and effort into building the skills of both adults and youth to work in partnership or attempt to use young people in meaningless ways, efforts to involve youth will seldom succeed.

Tokenism can appear in many forms such as:

  • Having young people around with no clear role to play;
  • Assigning youth only those tasks which adults do not want to fulfill;
  • Having youth make media appearances without any voice in developing the messages, programs, or policies that the youth are expected to talk about; or
  • Having one youth on a board of directors or council to point to as “youth involvement.”

Tokenism will leave young people feeling used rather than empowered. The key to avoiding tokenism is to share with youth the power to make real decisions. Youth-adult partnerships are not ways to hide or obscure the fact that programs are designed, implemented, and run only by adults, but should be meaningful and beneficial for all involved: youth, adults, and the program/organization/agency as a whole.


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 National League of Cities, Institute of Youth, Education & Families. (2010). Authentic youth civic engagement: A guide for municipal leaders. Washington: DC. Retrieved from: http://www.nlc.org/Documents/Find%20City%20Solutions/IYEF/Youth%20Civic%20Engagement/authentic-youth-engagement-gid-jul10.pdf

Exercise 1

What are some potential benefits to serving a diverse population? Select all that apply:

Exercise 2

Which of the following are examples of a workable and intentional program structure? Select all that apply:

Exercise 3

True or False: Good youth mentors are adults who tell them what to do and correct mistakes as they see them, helping guide young people toward appropriate behavior and goals.

Exercise 4

Which of the following describes a technique for avoiding tokenism in youth engagement?

Strategies

Go to Section: Introduction > Communication > Partnerships > Exercises

Introduction

In general, youth can be a difficult group for program providers to reach – and with the time and financial demands of parenting, expectant and parenting youth can be even more difficult to reach! When you add the various vulnerabilities of diverse populations (and the barriers to service access and utilization that they often face), reaching select populations of youth can be a daunting task. This section describes promising strategies for engaging youth.

  • Develop partnerships with pediatrician offices -- pediatric waiting rooms offer an opportunity for reaching out to teen parents either to provide resources or to introduce subsequent pregnancy prevention materials. The information could be presented on the screen in the waiting room or in the form of flyers and brochures. Additionally, the information should be culturally and developmentally appropriate as well as friendly and enriching.
  • Visit hospital emergency rooms -- for those teen mothers without health insurance, babies are often seen in emergency rooms; therefore hospital emergency departments could provide opportunities for reaching out to expectant and parenting youth. A similar strategy is to offer services at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program locations; expectant and parenting youth use this Federal program for food and health assistance, education about nutrition, and obtain help with finding health care and other community services. Offering programs or services at WIC sites may be an avenue for reaching select populations of expectant and parenting youth.
  • Work with the social service systems – as noted earlier, expectant and parenting youths’ lives often intersect with social service systems, such as the criminal justice system. Working with these systems provides an opportunity to reach the most vulnerable populations (and, thus, the populations who are most in need of program services). Reaching these populations also offers an opportunity to affect positive intergenerational change; for instance, children of incarcerated parents are at higher risk of teen pregnancy. Targeting this group could be a good avenue for reaching youth and offering services to expectant and parenting youth and their families.
  • Go where youth congregate -- youth gathering places, which can vary widely across groups and regions, offer a direct way to reach youth where they congregate. Examples could include shopping malls, nail salons or Native American youth powwows. For this strategy to be most successful, program staff should consider working with youth or community liaisons and partners in identifying and gaining access to these locales.
  • Use social media -- utilizing social media sites that youth frequent to advertise programs could be helpful. Given today’s technology-driven youth, social media could be used to reach out to youth virtually. (Popular sites will vary regionally but may include sites such as Foursquare, Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, Meetup, LinkedIn, etc.). When using social media to recruit program participants, it is imperative that program staff take into consideration the safety of the youth they are digitally reaching. For example, identifying these youth as expectant or parenting youth might put them at risk of negative reactions from parents, peers, and other members of the community.
  • Develop partnerships with the faith-based community -- religious communities and programs for expectant and parenting youth can work together productively. Both have a shared interest in strong families and in the healthy development of young people, and this shared interest can be leveraged to gain access to youth settings, to reach youth groups, and, in some cases, to develop partnerships for ongoing program service delivery. This partnership provides an excellent foundation for mutually-beneficial activities.

Communication

When working with select populations of youth, effective communication can facilitate active engagement. Effective communication is dependent on appropriate communication styles, meaningful consultation and roles, and openness and responsiveness to feedback from youth.

Communication styles in content delivery

Working with diverse and vulnerable youth can often highlight language and communication differences. Different styles of communication can create communication barriers – which can lead to misunderstanding or misinterpretation and, ultimately, disengagement. But differing communication styles are not necessarily indicative of disrespect, disinterest, or different goals and expectations. Youth and adults say that the best way to resolve conflicts that arise out of different communication styles is to ask questions when one does not understand what is being said or why.

Good communication can produce strong youth-adult relationships, which can improve program engagement. Take the time and make the effort to create shared meaning through communication and to develop a good relationship with youth before expecting things or making demands of them. A common metaphor used among youth workers is “young people as a bank account” – you cannot expect to withdraw something without having made any deposits.

The activities, services, expectations and roles of programs may be new to youth; take the time to explain. When information is presented in a hurried manner, youth can interpret this as a sign of disinterest in youths’ participation; so, go slowly and explain what's going on. Understanding, being able to identify, and being responsive to the communication styles of diverse and vulnerable populations will aid in the ability of staff to communicate with these groups effectively and remain open to hearing youth, thereby reducing conflict or miscommunication and encouraging program engagement.

Good communication leads to meaningful engagement

Consider these strategies when seeking to meaningfully engage youth:

  • Consult and involve youth in the design and development of programs. A core premise of youth development is that young people gain more from experiences with which they have active involvement. Research also suggests that programs for youth that are developed through youth-adult partnerships are highly effective in building young people's skills and have a greater impact on the young people served than do programs who do not involve youth. Program providers should also elicit ongoing feedback from youth participants.
  • Make youth an integral part of the implementation of the program. If youth cannot be involved in the design and development, attempt to involve them in program or service delivery. This allows youth to move beyond passively receiving the program to actively gaining a sense of self and agency.

Partnerships

What are important elements of effective youth-adult partnerships? It can be challenging to build effective, sustainable, genuinely collaborative youth-adult partnerships.

Successful partnerships have some important elements in common:

  • Establish clear goals for the partnership. Youth and the adults must understand what their roles and responsibilities will be in achieving the goals. Ensure that each adult and young person enters the partnership with a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Not all adults will want to work with youth and not all youth will want to work with adults in a partnership capacity.
  • Share the power to make decisions. If youth have no power to make decisions, their participation is not one of partnership. Get the highest levels of the organization to commit fully to youths’ participation in the organization’s work. Treat youth as partners. Ensure that all members of the group, regardless of age, share the decision making power, having an equal voice and equal vote.
  • Select carefully. Young people vary widely in their development and in their readiness and willingness to assume responsibility. Being clear about the goals of the partnership and the roles that youth will play will help in identifying young people who are committed, reliable, and effective. At the same time, effective partnerships are selective about adult participants. Adults must believe that young people are assets and be willing and able to advocate on behalf of youth when stereotyping or negative assumptions about youth arise.
  • Provide capacity building and training. Effective partnerships don’t set young people up for failure by throwing them into situations for which they are not prepared. Youth may need training in skills, such as communication, leadership, assertiveness, or interviewing, as well as in topic areas, such as HIV prevention education, teen pregnancy prevention, or substance abuse, to name a few. Similarly, effective partnerships don’t set adults up for failure by throwing them into situations for which they are not prepared. Adults may need training in communication, collaborative work, interviewing, or working with youth as well as in specific areas of expertise, such as HIV prevention education or teen pregnancy prevention.
  • Value youths’ participation and what they bring. Effective partnerships hold high expectations for participating youth and are not afraid of holding youth accountable for their responsibilities. Welcome, encourage, and affirm contributions and insights from both youth and adults. Include room for growth – next steps. Where can youth and adults go next? For example, peer education programs are often great vehicles for empowering young people and helping them develop important skills. However, these programs seldom include opportunities for advancement or for peer educators to assume more responsibility over time. Effective programs ensure that youth and the adults who work with youth have opportunities for advancement. Both youth and adults will have valuable experience and insights to bring to more senior positions in the organization.

Exercise 1

What are some of the potential barriers to achieving successful youth engagement? Select all that apply.

Exercise 2

Which of the following are ways of effectively engaging youth through communication?

Exercise 3

True or False: Youth engagement is more beneficial to youth than to organizations or agencies in practical application.

Summary and Resources

Go to Section: Conclusion > Resources

Conclusion

This course provided you with an overview of the challenges and opportunities of engaging select populations in programs and services. You learned:

How to identify select populations of expectant and parenting youth

  • Select populations of expectant and parenting young people have diverse experiences and characteristics that sometimes make them vulnerable or put them at risk of developing negative outcomes.
  • Common examples of select populations that are considered to be vulnerable include homeless and runaway youth; youth in foster care; youth who experience abuse, neglect, or other trauma; undocumented or non-US citizen youth; and expectant or parenting youth.

How to recognize diversity and vulnerability

  • Program staff should be trained in cultural competence, meaning an attitude of acceptance, respect, and appreciation for another’s cultural uniqueness and a willingness to learn about another’s culture.
  • Diversity can refer to many individual characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, language, culture, gender identity, faith-based beliefs, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.
  • More than simply being tolerant of differences, valuing diversity requires respecting, appreciating, understanding, and accepting the varying characteristics of individuals and understanding the dynamics of privilege, power, and oppression.
  • Some aspects of diversity are static and rarely change across the life course whereas as others may evolve as an adolescent transitions to adulthood.

How to utilize the four S’s for engaging youth

  • Program providers can improve engagement through setting; they can harness the power of diversity, set the stage with highly trained staff, and develop community partnerships to reach select populations.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through support; they can foster healthy relationships between young people and adults and among youth and their peers.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through structure; programs should be workable and intentional and should allow for adaptability and flexibility.
  • Program providers can improve engagement through strategy; they can utilize the four strategic pathways to engaging select populations: involving youth, consulting youth, ensuring youth are represented in planning, and establishing shared leadership among youth and adults.

How to develop strategies for engaging select populations

  • Recognize and utilize the benefits of youth involvement (to young people and adults).
  • Successful engagement is often a function of careful communication.
  • Be attentive to logistical and organizational barriers that can hinder engagement. Develop a plan for overcoming these barriers.
  • Successful youth-adult partnerships are formed with purpose and intention, have clear goals and roles, shared responsibility, capacity building and training, and contributions from youth and adults.

Expectant and parenting youth are considered vulnerable by definition, but when they also represent other diverse or vulnerable populations, engaging them successfully in programs and services requires additional effort and commitment on the part of the entire organization.

Resources

Adolescent Males

Black Youth

Foster Care

Hispanic Youth

Homeless

Intimate Partner Violence

LGBT

Native American/Alaska Native Youth

Podcasts

Tips and Tools

Other Resources

The views expressed in written training materials, publications, or presentations do not reflect the official policies of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Any statements expressed are those of the parties responsible for developing this training content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Final Exam

Go to Section: Final Exam Intro > Final Exam

Final Exam

You have nearly completed the Engaging Select Populations E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 14 of the following 16 questions.

Question 1

Which of the following is an aspect of diversity?

Question 2

True or False: Being culturally competent meanings ignoring your own biases about people who are different from you.

Question 3

“Ethnocentrism” can be defined as when someone:

Question 4

True or False: Individuals may have many different (and sometime conflicting) cultural identities.

Question 5

Which of the following is a true statement about diverse identities?

Question 6

True or False: Oppression occurs when there is an imbalance in power and privilege between minority and majority groups.

Question 7

Which of the following groups does NOT represent a “vulnerable” population?

Question 8

True or False: Youth of color are overrepresented in vulnerable populations due in part to their exposure to poverty, crime, racism, and lack of access to systems of care.

Question 9

Which of the following is a true statement?

Question 10

True or False: Diversity among youth groups should be avoided – differences between group members will lead to conflict and lack of group agreement and subsequent lack of group engagement.

Question 11

Effective and authentic youth-adult partnerships do NOT involve:

Question 12

True or False: Even when adults involve youth in program or group decisions, adults should always determine the “agenda” of the youth-provider relationship, so that the program or services that are being delivered do not get off-track.

Question 13

Which of the following BEST represents “shared leadership” among youth and adults?

Question 14

True or False: Youth involvement can enhance the credibility of an organization to both youth and advocates.

Question 15

Which of the following is NOT an example of “tokenism”?

Question 16

True or False: Differing communication styles are indicative of different goals and expectations.

Performance Management E-Learning Module



Introduction

Go to Section: Overview > Objectives

This Toolkit is intended to support organizations in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and expectant and parenting teen fields in developing and improving internal performance management systems and practices that harness the power of data for informed, strategic decision-making and quality improvement. It includes information, helpful tips and examples of concepts and tools such as logic models, performance dashboards, and indicator development. The process of performance management is also highlighted for organizations as they move towards implementing or refining these concepts.

An important first step for grantees is to determine personal and organizational levels of understanding and commitment to performance management. The Office of Adolescent Health has developed an assessment to help grantees determine where their organization is strong in performance management and what might need improvement. Taking this assessment before you complete these sections will be helpful.

Such systems and practices support the ongoing operational success of grantees, support strategic planning efforts, and improve grantees' understanding of their own organizational strengths and challenges - a key tenet in strategic partnering. Performance management also allows grantees to better demonstrate their stated goals and measure identified outcomes.

The Toolkit provides information and resources that will enable organizations to achieve the following objectives:

  • Improve existing performance management knowledge and infrastructure by learning key performance measurement concepts;
  • Identify strengths and areas for organizational improvement through the examination of performance management processes and practices; and
  • Increase awareness of available performance management resources.

The first section covers key concepts in performance management and focuses on developing a logic model as a guiding tool, implementing performance dashboards, and developing key indicators. The second section discusses organizational practices that are essential to a successful performance management system and how to implement them. Lastly, specific resources have been gathered to assist grantees in developing their own performance managment procedures and learning more on performance management.

Concepts

Go to Section: Logic Models > Performance Dashboards > Indicator Development

Logic Models

Key Term: Logic Model

A logic model is a visual representation of the underlying assumptions and anticipated outcomes related to an organization's work.

One of the most helpful tools an organization can create to begin practicing performance management is a logic model. Logic models are visual representations of underlying assumptions and anticipated outcomes related to an organization's work. Logic models are widely used in both nonprofits and the business world, with good reason. With a one page document, an organization can convey to staff, organizations, key stakeholders, clients, and funders what it is they do, why they do it, and how they accomplish stated goals. Many funders like to see a logic model when they consider funding an organization because it shows that the organization has thought seriously about the work they are doing and set attainable goals and outcomes that will be regularly evaluated.

Logic models can take on many different visual forms, but they all have the same core components. To illustrate the components of a logic model, an example of a school-based program working with pregnant and parenting teens will be used. The ultimate goal of this example program is to reduce subsequent unplanned pregnancies thereby increasing the likelihood that the teens graduate from high school. See the template below as an example logic model based on this program.

Inputs

These are the resources that an organization invests to make their work happen. Examples include staff time, office space, and funding.

Activities

Activities are the daily operations of an organization. These are actual things an organization does such as providing services, offering trainings, and community outreach.

Outputs

Outputs are what are produced by the organization or program as a direct product of the activities. Outputs are quantifiable and are usually easy to verify with basic program data.

Outcomes

Outcomes are the effects and changes achieved by the program. They are often separated into short term and long term outcomes. Short term outcomes are the immediate effects of a program while long term outcomes are meaningful changes, often in a person's status in life or effecting a large population of society. Outcomes are the key components of a program that can be evaluated to determine if an organization's underlying assumptions are correct about the change their work produces.

Finally, an important component of a logic model and performance measurement process is the feedback loop or evaluation process. Once an organization has undergone the practice of determining their actual outcomes and evaluating their performance, using this information to inform future work is key. This ensures that the time, energy, and resources put into performance management are not wasted by data sitting unused on a shelf. A logic model should be a living document that staff refer to often and use when making decisions regarding operations and services. Particularly in an environment where funds are scarce, having a logic model in place helps leaders justify the allocation of resources and funds towards the organization's primary goals and allows other staff to see the basis for these often tough decisions. This ensures that an organization's work is aligned with its primary objects and keeps mission creep at bay.

Performance Dashboards

Key Term: Performance Dashboard

A performance dashboard is a powerful tool that allows management to gauge progress on the objectives they have determined are important to their operations and goals.

Another tool that was first created in the business world but remains applicable to human services is a performance dashboard. A performance dashboard is a powerful tool that allows management to gauge progress on the objectives they have determined are important to their operations and goals. These objectives can be taken from the development of a logic model or determined through other types of strategic planning. A dashboard is an electronic system that is able to provide the user with a visual representation of how a program or organization is performing both at a specific point in time and over a period of time. It provides a way for organizations to monitor, analyze, and manage their programs and gain a quick snapshot of performance.

Dashboards allow organizations to monitor their program’s processes and activities. This can include day to day operations such as how many clients each case manager has or the number of attendees at parenting classes. In addition to daily operations, users can monitor their strategic goals. These goals could include reaching a target audience, achieving a fundraising level or expanding program operations. An approach called a “balanced scorecard” is a common way to monitor strategic goals and can be considered a type of dashboard. In addition to using historical data, a balanced scorecard offers reliable information about future performance to enable organizations to make informed decisions that will better benefit their agency and program. This is done by developing a measurement tool that provides the user with combined information from across the organization; utilizing data from an organization’s financial, client, business, and human capital processes/perspectives. Again, a balanced scorecard is just one approach but is a common performance measurement tool and one worth considering when deciding to implement a performance management system. To read more about balanced scorecards, see the “Strategy” section in the Resources section at the end of this toolkit.

In addition to simply viewing an organization’s performance data, dashboards allow users to analyze this data across the different departments or layers within an organization. This can be used to find the root cause of any issues an organization or program may be experiencing or attempt to predict the outcome of a specific management decision. In order to implement this step, a dashboard must have the capability to integrate data from a variety of sources.

Organizations are also able to manage their programs and organizational information via dashboards. Dashboards facilitate communication, often allowing managers and their staff to interact via performance notes, threaded discussions, and formulation of action plans. They can be created with the ability to produce graphs and charts related to the program’s performance so that managers can view performance quickly and create visuals to depict performance for other interested stakeholders such as administrators, funders, and other staff.

Dashboards can either be built internally by an organization or can be purchased from an outside vendor and then customized to fit an organization’s needs. These systems are often a significant financial undertaking, particularly if an outside vendor is hired to create one for an organization, so the decision to pursue one should be considered in light of financial resources. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has developed a dashboard to keep the public informed of progress on a variety of key indicators of community health and well-being. The dashboard provides one example of how this tool can be utilized. It can be viewed at: http://dashboard.dhs.state.mn.us/default.aspx.

Indicator Development

When setting up a performance management system, it is important to decide how success will be defined and how progress towards that success will be measured. In the field of performance management, this measurement is referred to as a performance indicator. To decide what should be used as performance indicators, organizations must ask themselves what is most important to our organization or program? This can be influenced by many factors, including what outcomes funders wish to see, the organization’s mission, a strategic goal the organization has committed to work towards, or the environment within which the program is operating. This is when it is very helpful to have a logic model for your program because this question can often be answered by reviewing the short and long term outcomes. These may not be the only significant indicators but are a good place to start the process of indicator development. Though indicators can vary and be developed from different sources, they should always be quantifiable. Once indicators are created, they can be used within a dashboard or other performance management system to monitor progress.

Practices & Implementation

Go to Section: Overview > Plan > Measure > Analyze > Improve > ...Repeat

Overview

Though each organization’s performance management procedures may look different, it is helpful to follow the basic process of performance management to ensure that all the proper steps are in place. By following these recognized steps, those outside an organization can easily see and understand that performance management is a priority. The process is cyclical (see diagram) because, as discussed in the previous module on logic models, the information gained from analyzing and evaluating the organization’s work should be used to both improve existing work and inform new work. However, it is often possible, even necessary, to move back and forth between each step as an organization’s needs dictate. The process is also important as it allows time and space for challenges to be addressed. The basic phases of the performance management process and tips on implementing a process follow.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

Plan

During the planning phase, identifying goals and appropriate benchmarks for success are the key activities. Consider how success will be defined- by a number, by satisfaction of clients, by meeting a specific outcome? These will be the goals that are evaluated through the performance management process. During this phase, staff should also identify the resources that will be deployed in support of the goals and be sure enough of the resources (time, space, funding) are available.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

Measure

Once an organization has planned what benchmarks need to be measured, processes need to be designed to collect data and measure progress towards the benchmarks. This can include designing an instrument or using one that has already been created, perhaps with a few tweaks. Examples include surveys, forms, case logs, and electronic tracking systems. There are a variety of electronic performance management systems (such as the dashboards discussed in the previous section) that exist to help program administrators track and measure their work. These are usually available for a cost and are often a significant investment. Something administrators may wish to consider is the amount of time it will take staff to utilize the measurement instrument. If it is a form already in place, then obviously the time investment is minimal. However, if they need to learn an entirely new electronic system, that will require additional staff time and training.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

Analyze

This process takes the raw data collected in the Measure phase and examines it for trends, goal completion and other needed data. Then, it is important to compile it into a consumable format for stakeholders. The format can be a report, presentation or even an email if that is all the stakeholder requests. Electronic performance management systems (mentioned previously) often include an analysis component that easily provide the user with trends, averages and progress towards programmed benchmarks. The analysis phase is based on what the organization feels is important to know. This can be dictated by funders, such as a need to know the total number of clients served, but it can also be based on an organization’s goals and information needs. Even if data is easily collected, consider if it’s relevant to the specific goals and benchmarks set by the organization and if not, there isn’t a need to spend time analyzing and reporting it.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

Improve

Once the analysis is complete, it is important to integrate the findings into regular program operations. For example, if a program offers four parenting classes a week and one is found to have significantly lower attendance than the others, perhaps the less popular class is cut so that resources can be directed elsewhere. This ensures that the ultimate goal of performance management, improved performance, is achieved. To achieve this step, organizations should set aside time to discuss how the data gathered effects current work. This could be in the form of a standing meeting or the responsibility of one key staff member. During this phase, organizations can also address any program challenges that were found during the performance management process.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

...Repeat

Much like a logic model shouldn’t sit on a shelf once it’s developed, a performance management system should be an ongoing process. Once findings are integrated into program operations, the process begins again so that an organization is constantly improving its services and operations.

The Performance Management System: A cycle of Plan, Measure, Analyze, and Improve

Summary

Go to Section: Conclusion > Resources

Conclusion

Effective performance management systems support the ongoing operational success of grantees, bolster strategic planning efforts, and improve grantees’ understanding of their own organizational strengths and challenges. In order to implement effective performance management practices, it is critical to have a clear understanding of how your organization will define success. It’s also important to recognize that effective performance management is an ongoing process that relies on data in order to ensure that programs are achieving their intended outcomes. Remember, not only do effective performance management practices assist organizations in managing their programs in systematic ways, but they also help to ensure the sustainability of those efforts.

In this toolkit, you've been introducted to:

3 Key Performance Management Concepts

  1. Logic Models
  2. Performance dashboards
  3. Indicators

4 Steps for Effective Performance Management

  1. Plan
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Improve

...Repeat!

Make sure to explore the resources section of the toolkit where you will find links to a number of resources to assist your efforts to implement, or fine-tune, your organization’s performance management system.

The resources below are provided as a supplement to this toolkit for those who wish to find more information on performance management and associated tools. They are organized into sections to make finding the type of resource simpler.

Understanding

This section provides information on the basic precepts and premises of performance management.

Strategy

This section provides information on performance management practices and strategies organizations can use to enhance their performance management system.

Tools

This section provides links to virtual tools that help organizations make performance management more effective and efficient.

Quality Improvement

Quality Improvement is the ultimate goal of performance management. This section explores activities that facilitate positive change based on accumulated performance data.

The views expressed in written training materials, publications, or presentations do not reflect the official policies of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Any statements expressed are those of the parties responsible for developing this training content, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Adolescent Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Exam

Go to Section: Exam Intro > Exam

Final Exam

You have nearly completed the Performance Management E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 13 of the following 15 questions.

Question 1

A logic model is:

Question 2

The order of the components of a logic model is:

Question 3

True or False: All logic models look the same no matter which organization is creating them.

Question 4

A performance dashboard is:

Question 5

True or False: A performance dashboard can be created within an organization or developed using an outside vendor that specializes in such applications.

Question 6

One common type of performance dashboard is called a:

Question 7

True or False: A performance indicator is a measure of important factors related to an organization’s work.

Question 8

True or False: Performance indicators can be used within a performance dashboard once they are created.

Question 9

The process of performance management follows the following steps:

Question 10

True or False: The process of performance management is cyclical.

Question 11

True or False: It is not important to plan what is going to be measured when undertaking performance management.

Question 12

True or False: It is not a good idea to use instruments and forms an organization already has in place (such as case logs, forms and electronic tracking system) to measure data for performance management.

Question 13

When data is analyzed for performance management, it is then put into a consumable format such as:

Question 14

Once data analysis is complete:

Question 15

True or False: Logic models and performance management systems are living, ongoing processes that should not sit unused on a shelf.

How to Select an Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program



Introduction

Go to Section: Objectives > Overview of the Steps

Objectives

So you want to implement an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program...

Excellent news! The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) has developed this e-module to help you choose the program that is best suited to meet your specific needs and goals. Program selection does not occur in a vacuum; it is a process that involves thought, planning, and coordination. The steps laid out in this module will walk you through the process of program selection, the first in a series of steps involved in implementing evidence-based programs (EBPs). We also touch briefly on aspects of implementing an EBP in the section entitled "After Program Selection."

At the conclusion of this e-learning module, participants will be able to:

  1. Define the term "evidence-based";
  2. Discuss the importance of implementing evidence-based programs;
  3. Identify the four main steps in selecting the most appropriate evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program for their particular needs; and
  4. Describe how program selection fits into a larger process of high quality program implementation.

Overview of the Steps

There are four main steps involved in the selection of an EBP. The sections that follow will cover each of these steps in greater detail. You may want to download the Program Selection Checklist handout to assist you throughout the process of selecting an EBP. You should consult it regularly and frequently for reminders and guidance from start to finish.

1. Identify the problem(s)

Key Questions: What issue(s) or concern(s) do you want to address? What are your specific needs and what resources do you already have in place to begin to address them?

In this section, you will learn about the critical role that needs and resource assessments play in achieving sustainable impacts in teen pregnancy prevention, including why they are important and how they relate to the EBP selection process.

2. Develop a logic model

Key Questions: What process will you use to address this issue? What are the long-term outcomes you hope to eventually achieve? How do you plan to achieve them? What resources will you need in order to achieve those outcomes?

In this section you will learn about the role and importance of developing a logic model as part of your EBP selection process. The development and use of a logic model will provide you with a detailed roadmap for reaching your goals and outline the criteria by which you will judge the success of your initiative. Your logic model will also provide you with criteria you will use to judge the appropriateness of potential EBPs for teen pregnancy prevention.

3. Identify potential programs

Key Questions: What interventions could you implement as a part of your process for addressing your issue of concern?

There are quite a few EBPs for teen pregnancy prevention out there. How will you narrow your search to find the program that is right for you? This section will walk you through the process of using the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Evidence-Based Programs Database and accompanying implementation reports to identify potential programs. You will become familiar with information that is provided on each program, learn how to set search parameters, and sort through results.

4. Assess fit

Key Questions: Of the different interventions you have identified, which are most applicable to your population of interest and community.

Once you have identified programs that meet your basic criteria using the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database, you must assess whether they are pertinent for your priority population and whether they are relevant and acceptable to both the specific implementation setting and the broader community. This section will teach you how to assess the various dimensions of population and environmental “fit” to find the program that is best possible match for you.

It may be tempting to rush through the first two steps of this process so that you can jump right into reviewing programs. However, these steps are critical to ensuring that the decisions you make in steps 3 and 4 are well-informed and will best position you to successfully impact teen pregnancy prevention in your community. Organizations that don’t spend adequate time identifying the problem and developing a clear understanding of how they plan to address that problem among their target population may end up investing time and money in a program that looks great but isn’t actually a good fit for their community, organization, or target population.

The following video, developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence at Cornell University, helps to demonstrate the importance of careful program selection. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]

Before we get started with these steps, however, we should have a clear understanding of what it means to be an EBP and why we should limit our selection to programs that meet these criteria.

About EBPs

Go to Section: Introduction > Study Criteria > Key Outcomes > Testimonials from Practitioners > Activity

Introduction

Regardless of background or professional role, we all want our efforts to improve the lives and trajectories of adolescents to be successful. If we spend time or money to address a problem, we want to ensure that we will see a return on our investments. This is where evidence-based programs (EBPs) come in. The teen pregnancy prevention programs in the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database are proven to reduce teenage pregnancy, behavioral risks underlying teenage pregnancy, or other associated risk factors among teens age 19 and younger. In other words, if you select an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program that is appropriate for your setting and population and implement it with fidelity, you are more likely to experience the same results as those described in the program evaluations.

Study Criteria

In order to understand the benefit of using an evidence-based program, it is helpful to know how programs become evidence-based. Not only will you have a better idea of what sort of information to look for when assessing the effectiveness of a particular program, but you will also be able to explain the benefits of using an EBP to your staff and other key partners, such as school administrators, teachers, funders, and other community partners.

A program is deemed evidence-based if:

  • Evaluation research shows that it produces positive results;
  • The results can be attributed primarily to the program itself, rather than to other extraneous factors or events.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintains a list of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that is located in the Evidence-Based Programs Database. HHS considers the following criteria and others to determine if a program is evidence-based (for more information on the HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review criteria, please refer to the systematic review by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the Resources Section):

Type and Number of Participants

Rigorous evaluations include a minimum number of participants in both the treatment and control groups. If a study has too few participants, it is difficult to say that the same results could be reliably achieved again. Evaluations of teen pregnancy prevention programs, specifically, must also limit their study participants to individuals ages 19 or younger. When a program is evaluated among a well-defined population, the confidence that comparable results can be achieved when implementing the program among individuals with similar characteristics is increased.

Study Design

To be designated as “evidence-based,” a program must be evaluated using an experimental or quasi-experimental design and sound statistical methods. Experimental designs randomly assign participants to a treatment and a control group and assess whether the outcomes for the treatment group are statistically significantly different from those in the control group. Random assignment allows researchers to claim that the intervention is responsible for the difference, instead of other reasons (e.g., that people who choose to be in the study are more motivated to change). Quasi-experimental designs also divide participants into treatment and control groups, but do not do so randomly. Consequently, experimental studies provide stronger evidence for program success than do quasi-experimental studies, though both are considered more rigorous than non-experimental evaluations.

Key Outcomes

An EBP for teen pregnancy prevention will have demonstrated change on one or more of the following outcomes:

  1. Sexual activity
    • Delay sexual initiation. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program wait longer to begin having sex? How much longer?
    • Decrease the frequency of sexual intercourse. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program have sex less often? How much less often?
    • Decrease number of sexual partners/increase monogamy. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program have fewer sexual partners? How many fewer partners?
  2. Increase use or consistency of use of contraception. Compared to individuals in the control group, did adolescents who received the program use contraception more frequently (count of overall usage) and/or more consistently (ratio of usage to sexual encounters)? How much more frequently/consistently?
  3. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Did the incidence (and prevalence) of STIs among adolescents significantly decrease following implementation of the program?
  4. Pregnancies. Did the incidence (and prevalence) of pregnancies among adolescents significantly decrease following implementation of the program?

The following video was developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence at Cornell University and describes in a bit more detail what makes a program evidence-based. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]

Funders have placed increased pressure on organizations to implement EBPs because of their increased likelihood of success. However, as you could see from the video, EBPs are not one-size-fits all, and the growing number of EBP options can make identifying the right program a challenge. The remainder of this e-learning module will focus on the process of identifying and selecting the EBP that is right for you.

Testimonials from Practitioners

The following testimonials come from OAH TPP grantees with experience selecting and implementing EBPs. In the following testimonials they discuss the benefits and challenges they have experienced:

Linda Rogers (Iredell-Statesville Schools)

As an OAH grantee, we replicated two evidence-based programs: Making Proud Choices and Be Proud! Be Responsible! Be Protective! Using these programs enabled us to deliver a consistent, medically accurate, and age appropriate curriculum to over 3,500 middle and high school students in Iredell-Statesville Schools. We set our initial goals based on the research findings of these programs. We are proud to say that we have seen positive outcomes in our teen pregnancy rate, intentions on using birth control and condoms, and an increased intention to be abstinent. Without using these evidence-based programs, we do not believe we would have had these positive results.”

 

Francine Levin (Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County)

Providing our EBP with fidelity seemed like it would be nearly impossible in our conservative community at first. We weren't sure how the inclusion of a condom demonstration would be received by school boards and parents. We spoke directly to the program developer who insisted that the condom use skills were essential skill-building for program effectiveness, and that not including this important aspect was essentially a "deal-breaker." When approaching schools, and later garnering parent permission, our approach was total transparency. We provided the evidence that supported the program’s effectiveness, the importance of implementing the program with fidelity, and explicitly stated that a condom demonstration using an anatomically correct penis model were part of the program. Only two school districts opted out, and both have since decided to offer the program after learning about its success at other local schools. Of the permissions slips returned by students, less than 1% of parents did not allow their child to participate. When students were asked which activity they liked best, the condom demo was listed more than any other activity. When students were asked what was the most important thing they learned, "correct condom use" was listed more than anything else. The requirement to follow the EBP with fidelity gave us the courage and credibility needed to advocate for a more comprehensive program in schools. To our surprise, the community not only saw the need but overwhelmingly gave support for a truly comprehensive approach.”

 

Melissa Peskin, Ph.D. (University of Texas School of Public Health)

We are implementing an evidence-based sexual health curriculum that provides detailed step-by-step lessons about building skills, changing attitudes, and increasing knowledge about healthy relationships and adolescent sexual health, which may be challenging topics. The response from teachers, students, and parents to the curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers have reported not only the successes achieved by their students, but also their own successes in becoming better all-around teachers. It is truly amazing to see the reach of the curriculum and the positive impact it is having on both students and teachers.”

 

Jasiel Fernandez (Vale Esperar)

Implementing an evidence-based program has provided great learning opportunities for our grass-roots organization. It has allowed us to establish more consistent standards to ensure the medical-accuracy of program content as well as more effective delivery. Likewise, it has afforded leadership and staff clear metrics for development and improvement of our department. Training on our EBP model allowed for consistency in terms of increasing the capacity of community partners and their facilitators. It takes a bit of effort to manage the different elements at first, but it is well worth it.”

 

Andrea Gomez, RN (Tulare Community Health Clinic)

[An] evidence based curriculum reduces the risk for adolescents; it helps decrease pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STDs) rates. Reducing the Risk (RTR) and Draw the Line/Respect the Line enhance the ability for students to comprehend the importance of making informed decisions. RTR emphasizes the importance of having a healthy relationship. It gives the students the opportunity to think about the future and their goals in life, and allows them to practice skills to get out of situations they are uncomfortable in. Students are encouraged to initiate a conversation with their parents and guardians regarding sexual health. Independent evaluation of our OAH TPP Grant has shown that students consistently (over the 4 year study) have a high increase in knowledge of STD/HIV after completing the lessons in the evidence based curricula. Our team has seen a positive impact in our students. The following are examples of the students’ ‘I learned’ statements completed on the last day of class: ‘I learned that there are diseases that come from having sex;’ ‘I learned that sexual intercourse has a lot of consequences and things that can affect you, your partner, and you and your partner’s body and future;’ ‘Abstinence is the only way to stay protected 100%;’ ‘I noticed that I wanna wait to have sex. I’m not trying to have a kid at 15.’”

Activity

Now that you have heard about some of the benefits and challenges that other OAH TPP grantees have experienced when implementing an EBP for teen pregnancy prevention, complete the Benefits and Challenges to Implementing an Evidence-Based TPP Program  worksheet to help you start thinking about how your organization might benefit from implementing an EBP and what challenges you might face.

Step 1: Identify the Problem(s)

Go to Section: Key Questions > Needs and Resource Assessment > Example Needs and Resource Assessment

Key Questions

What is the problem(s) you would like to address? Think beyond simply “high number of teen pregnancies in my school district/community.” Are there particular groups in which the high rates are more prominent, (e.g., age groups, race/ethnic groups, specific schools or neighborhoods)? Are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) of concern as well? Are adolescents simply uninformed about the existence of services or resources in their area, or is there a lack of relevant services? Do adolescents even know what these services and resources are or what purposes they serve? Be as specific as possible. You can’t identify solutions until you understand your problem(s).

Needs and Resource Assessment

A needs and resource assessment is a systematic way of gathering information that describes, in detail, the needs and resources of the target population and larger community. A need is a lack of some resource, tool, or program that puts adolescents at a disadvantage or places them at risk for negative health or social outcomes, including teen pregnancy. Resources are types of support, services, or programs that are available in the community, such as a reproductive health care clinics or out-of-school-time programs.

Conducting a needs and resource assessment provides a sound understanding of the needs and conditions of a priority population, which is critical in implementing a program that addresses those needs. Needs and resource assessments are helpful – even if you have already selected or are implementing a program – and should be conducted on a regular basis. Some of the benefits of conducting such an assessment include the following:

  • Identify a priority population by assessing the data
  • Learn more about suspected needs and possibly uncover new ones
  • Identify common sexual risk-taking behaviors
  • Identify the determinants (i.e., the risk and protective factors) of those behaviors
  • Design programs more strategically
  • Gather baseline data that can help with program planning and evaluation
  • Strategic use of resources (i.e., staff, funding, materials)
  • Gain support from stakeholders through strategic planning
  • Update information about your priority population and program participants
  • Review for program improvement
  • Use for future program planning

The following are good sources of data for your needs and resource assessment (refer to the Best Practices for Conducting a Needs and Resource Assessment for additional sources of data):

Local Data

  • County or municipal public health reports
  • School district reports

State Data

National Data

Refer to the Needs and Resource Assessment Checklist to help you assess the comprehensiveness of your data collection plan. Remember, the more thorough your needs and resources assessment is, the better informed you will be when it comes to selecting an EBP that will truly make a meaningful difference in your community. Consider conducting focus groups with youth, parents, or community leaders to gain insights about attitudes, values, and norms, and identify potential barriers to implementation; learn about existing and previous teen pregnancy, STI, and HIV/AIDS prevention efforts; assess the existence and accessibility of health services for teens in your specific area; ascertain the important determinants (i.e., risk and protective factors) that influence sexual risk-taking behaviors; and identify potential collaborations or partnerships you could leverage to support your efforts.

Example Needs and Resource Assessment

The following is an example of a community that was able to better target their teen pregnancy prevention efforts through a careful assessment of community needs and resources.

A community that is currently targeting high school students with its teen pregnancy prevention efforts is still experiencing high pregnancy and STI rates. A needs assessment reveals that many students are already engaging in risky behaviors in middle school, highlighting the need for starting teen pregnancy prevention efforts at earlier ages. In this example, conducting a needs assessment revealed why an existing intervention was not having its intended effect and helped identify more relevant foci for prevention efforts.

Now that we understand the importance of doing a careful and comprehensive needs and resource assessment, we will explore how that information can be used to develop a logic model that can help to guide the EBP selection process.

Step 2: Develop a Logic Model

Go to Section: What is a Logic Model? > Outcomes > Outputs, Activities & Inputs

What is a Logic Model?

A logic model is a graphical depiction of your desired outcomes and your plan for obtaining them. Logic models consist of four major components—inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes—and serve two purposes.

First, program staff use logic models as tools to strategically, purposefully, and scientifically identify the causal pathways between goals and interventions. In other words, they allow program staff to make sure that there is scientific evidence and theory to support a link between a particular intervention and the outcomes that are being targeted.

Second, they also point program staff to the process and outcome indicators to be measured and evaluated, helping them to evaluate the fidelity of program implementation and make corrections along the way. This process of using data to inform program implementation is a key component of performance management. To learn more about performance management, you can check out the performance management resources on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center.

Why are Logic Models Important?

Logic models are the foundation of all good program planning and implementation. They are an important planning tool that will help you identify all of the resources and actions necessary to achieve your goal(s). The development of a logic model facilitates the program selection process by honing in on the specific outcomes of interest and thinking critically about the actions necessary to attain these outcomes and the resources and capacities necessary to carry them out.

Selecting a program without first developing a logic model leaves organizations vulnerable to a number of difficulties and problems later on. For example, the individuals implementing the program may discover upon starting that they lack certain resources or capacities to carry out the program with fidelity. Alternatively, implementing a program with a different population than it was originally designed for may not yield similar results to those achieved in the evaluation study. Logic models help to prevent such pitfalls by establishing an informed framework for program selection. Logic models are also useful for evaluation of your efforts later on.

Outcomes

Working Backward

In developing a logic model, it is important to work backwards and begin at the end with your desired outcome(s).

Logic model: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes

Outcomes

Outcomes are the benefits for participants during or after their involvement in a program. They should be directly related to the problem that you identified through your needs and resources assessment, as described earlier in this module. Examples include delay of sexual initiation, decreases in the frequency of sexual activity or number of partners, increases in condom/contraceptive use, and reductions in the incidence of teen pregnancy. Outcomes can be measured at different points, ranging from immediately following the conclusion of a program to several years later.

Remember, outcomes should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, a “SMART” outcome might be to reduce incidence of teen pregnancy in Smith County by 20% within six years. By denoting the amount of reduction desired, the outcome is specific. It is also measurable as the information needed to assess it is available via vital statistics for Smith County. A 20% reduction over a period of six years is a realistic undertaking, making the outcome an achievable one. Assuming Smith County has a high teen pregnancy rate compared to neighboring counties or within the state, it is a relevant goal as well. Finally, specifying a deadline of September 2020 makes the outcome time-bound.

Clearly identifying and articulating the teen pregnancy prevention outcomes that you hope to address will help you to narrow your search for TPP programs that are known to impact the outcome you have identified.

  • Short-term outcomes. Short-term outcomes are the immediate effects of a program and often focus on change in knowledge, attitudes, and skills. For example, an organization wishes to reduce teen pregnancy by delaying sex. A short-term outcome in this example would be an increase in teens’ positive attitudes about delaying sex.
  • Intermediate outcomes. Intermediate outcomes are achieved within 3-5 years of program initiation, and often include change in behavior, norms, or policies. In the example, an intermediate outcome would be adolescents’ delaying of sex (a behavior).
  • Long-term outcomes. Long-term outcomes are achieved within 4-6 years of program initiation and include changes in organizations and systems. In the example, the long-term outcome would be a reduction in the incidence of teen pregnancy (a systemic change).

Outputs, Activities & Inputs

Working Backward Continued: What Leads to Outcomes?

After deciding what you want your short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes to be, you can keep working backwards to see what will get you there:

Logic model: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes

Outputs

Outputs are the products of a program’s activities. While this is an important part of the logic model, you won’t be able to fill most of this part in until you have selected your program. However, you may be able to identify targets such as the number of youth you hope to reach and the number of locations you plan to implement the program. Examples of outputs include the number of classes taught, participants, or brochures distributed. Being able to identify expected outputs makes it easier for you to assess whether you need to make adjustments in how you are implementing your program. For example, if you intended to deliver the program to 50 participants but have only recruited 30 youth, you may need to adjust your recruitment strategies accordingly.

Activities

Activities are what a program does —the actual events that take place—to fulfill its mission. This section is where you will document the activities that are associated with the program that you select. Examples of activities can include lessons, condom distribution, etc. While you won’t know the specific activities until you have selected your program, you should note any restrictions to keep in mind. In particular, you should use this section to document community norms and values, such as parent attitudes about sexual health education or local policies about sexual health education in schools that will influence which program activities you can conduct. For example, if your community requires abstinence-only education, you should not select a program that includes condom demonstrations. Similarly, if time constraints require you to limit class sessions to 50 minutes, you should not select a program with 90-minute sessions.

Inputs

Inputs are resources a program needs to achieve its objectives. Examples include staff, volunteers, facilities, equipment, curricula, and money. This component is especially important because you will need to consider all of the resources that will be required, including training, in order to implement the program with fidelity. Once you have determined the necessary inputs, you must assess your current resources and capacities and identify where gaps or deficits occur. Doing a thorough job of assessing your current capacities will be critical as you move on to Step 3: Identifying Potential Programs.

For additional assistance in designing your own logic model, refer to the Logic Model Template and Logic Model Data worksheets.

Step 3: Identify Potential Programs

Go to Section: Identify Potential Programs > Using the Database > Implementation Reports > Activity

Identify Potential Programs

HHS’s searchable database of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs provides an efficient way to filter through the myriad interventions by program type, setting, length, age, race/ethnicity, outcomes affected, and study rating. You may want to start your search by only excluding programs that you know don’t apply. For example, you should have already identified both an outcome and a target population, so you may be ready to exclude programs that don’t target your particular outcome or that are not designed for the age group you are targeting.

As you narrow down your search by including more parameters, you will obtain a shorter list of potential programs. If you make your search too specific, you may not end up with any programs that match all of your criteria. In that case, you should consider which of your criteria are absolutely necessary, and which criteria are merely preferences. Remember, the decisions about your search criteria – including things like age of participants, setting, and target outcomes – should be informed by the needs and resource assessment that was described in “Step 1: Identify the Problem(s).

Upon retrieval of your search results, read through each program’s implementation report for more detailed information to further narrow your options and ultimately decide on a program selection. You can do this by clicking the program name in the list of search results. First, let’s turn to the database itself and walk through the various search criteria.

 

Using the Database

Filter Options

You can filter programs through the following options:

Program Type

What type of program are you looking to implement? Teen pregnancy prevention can be a goal of several types of programs, including abstinence programs, clinic-based programs, programs for special populations, sexuality education programs, or youth development programs.

Abstinence programs are those that focus on delaying sexual initiation. Clinic-based programs are designed to be implemented in clinical settings, such as health centers. Programs for special populations are those that target specialized groups, (e.g., expectant and parenting teens, youth in juvenile detention). Sexuality education programs generally include information on (or otherwise promote) both the benefits of abstinence and risk mitigation through condom and contraceptive use for sexually active adolescents. Finally, youth development programs combine elements of abstinence and sexuality education with broader services, such as mentoring, health services, or case management. You may want to select “all” to begin with, unless you are targeting a specific population.

  1. Abstinence
  2. Clinic-Based
  3. Sexuality Education
  4. Youth Development
Implementation Setting

Where are you looking to implement your program? Not all programs are designed to be implemented in all settings, though some can work in more than one. The database will allow you to choose one or more implementation settings. These settings include after school/community-based organizations (e.g., YMCA), schools (elementary, middle, and/or high schools), health clinics, or other specialized settings. If you have not already identified a particular setting, you may want to select all to begin with. However, if you know that you will be partnering with a school or a local after school program, you can specify that here.

  1. In School: Elementary School
  2. In School: Middle School
  3. In School: High School
  4. Alternative School
  5. After School
  6. Community-based Organization
  7. Health Clinic
  8. Home-based Case Management
  9. Correctional Facility
  10. Online
  11. Other
  12. Show Me All Types of Settings
Age Group

What are the ages of the adolescents with whom you work? Here again, not all programs are designed for all youth. Younger adolescents (e.g., 13 -year-olds) differ quite dramatically in terms of development, cognition, and physical attributes from older adolescents (e.g., 18-year-olds). Be sure to select the age range that most closely matches your participants in order to filter out programs that were not designed or evaluated with adolescents in that range. In general, you should consider specifying this criterion at the start of your search.

  1. 13 years or younger
  2. 14 to 17 years
  3. 18 to 19 years
  4. 20 years or older
  5. Show me all age groups
Population

Another important demographic characteristic to consider during program selection is population. Programs designed for and evaluated with African-American adolescents may not yield the same outcomes for Latino adolescents, for example. If your priority population includes adolescents of varied populations, select each applicable option to limit your results to those evaluated with these different sub-populations.

  1. Female
  2. Male
  3. Latino
  4. African American
  5. White
  6. Asian
  7. Any race/ethnicity 
  8. Pregnant or parenting
  9. Incarcerated youth
  10. Foster care youth
  11. Homeless youth
  12. Sexually active
  13. LGBTQ
  14. Show me all target populations

Implementation Reports

Each program has an associated implementation report that provides you with the following information:

  1. Developer(s): Name(s) of the individual(s) who initially authored the program
  2. Program description and overview: Brief and general introduction of the program
  3. Core components: Key program components, including content, instructional techniques (e.g., lecture, role plays, video), and implementation requirements (e.g., number of lessons, number of facilitators required)
  4. Target population: Specific population with which the program was evaluated as well as any other potential target populations identified by the developer for which the program may be applicable
  5. Program setting: Specific setting in which the program was evaluated as well as any other potential program settings identified by the developer that may be applicable
  6. Program duration: Time frame required to implement the program (i.e., number and length of sessions)
  7. Curriculum materials: All of the materials necessary to implement the program (e.g., manual, worksheets)
  8. Adaptations: Any allowable adaptations to the program authorized by the developer(s) and/or OAH that have been determined not to interfere with the program’s integrity or results; note that allowable adaptations are not available for all programs
  9. Program focus: Program’s type or approach (e.g., abstinence, sexual health, youth development)
  10. Research evidence: Citation for the article or report of the program evaluation, setting in which the program was evaluated, characteristics of the participants evaluated, study design utilized in the evaluation, strength of the evidence yielded by the evaluation, and the evaluation’s overall findings

You can access each program’s implementation report by selecting the program of interest in the “Find a Program” menu on the Evidence-Based TPP Programs page of the OAH website. The implementation reports will be immensely useful during your program selection decision-making process. The information they offer goes far beyond what a simple database search can yield. For instance, while some programs have only been evaluated in one setting, the program developers may have identified other settings in which the program could be implemented without interfering with its efficacy. While this information would not come up during your initial database search, you would be able to acquire it by reading through the program implementation reports.

Activity

Now it’s your turn to practice using the database to search for EBPs based on specific criteria. Consider the following examples:

Scenario 1: A community that has already established after-school teen pregnancy prevention initiatives now needs a program that can be implemented within its middle schools during the school day. In the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database, use the search functions to narrow programs by implementation setting to obtain a list of programs that will meet this community’s new needs.

Scenario 2: A community-based organization partners with a school district to provide a teen pregnancy prevention program after school to middle school students. Based on time constraints, they must select a program that has no more than 15 sessions. Use the search functions in the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database to identify programs that satisfy the implementation setting, age, and intervention length criteria.

Scenario 3: A school board authorizes the implementation of a teen pregnancy prevention initiative in its middle schools, but specifies any program implemented must be an abstinence-based program. Use the HHS Evidence-Based Programs Database to sort by program type to view only abstinence programs

Step 4: Assess Fit

Go to Section: Assess Fit > Population Fit > Environment Fit > Adaptations > Activities

Assess Fit

Once you have conducted your search and narrowed down your list of program options, it is time to assess the degree to which they fit your target population and the larger environment in which they are to be implemented. This section will provide you with a number of items to consider as you assess the fit of each potential program.

As discussed previously, the implementation reports developed by HHS for each program in the database present a range of information that will help you to assess how well each potential program fits with your population, community, and organization.

Before you read the implementation reports for the programs that you identified in Step 3, you should develop criteria based on the “Population Fit” and “Environmental Fit” items presented here. Remember, the criteria you develop should be based on your needs and resource assessment and your logic model. It can be tempting to read through each program to see if any seem particularly relevant, but spending the time to develop your criteria will help you to select the program that is best suited to your particular situation.

Population Fit

At this stage in the program selection process, it is important to verify that your program of interest is actually applicable to the population with which you are working. For example, implementing an EBP that was determined to be effective among low-income African American students in urban environments may not yield the same results for tribal youth in rural settings. How does your population compare to that in the study of that EBP? If there are differences, are they likely to compromise your results? (Remember, you can get more detailed information about the adolescents involved in the evaluations by referring to the implementation reports.) Assessing population fit includes consideration of the following:

  1. Age
  2. Race/ethnicity
  3. Sex
  4. Socioeconomic status
  5. Language
  6. Immigration status
  7. Sexual orientation
  8. Culture
  9. Other considerations (e.g., juvenile justice, parenting teens)

Environment Fit

In addition to assessing the extent to which an EBP fits your target population, you must also consider how it fits within the environment in which it is to be implemented, by answering the following questions:

Mission

Does this program fit within the organization’s overall mission? Examine the organization’s broader goals (often captured in a mission statement) and consider whether your potential program(s) will help work toward the attainment of these broader goals. If not (or if they are in some way counter to those goals), it may be best to return to your search until you find one that is a better fit.

Context

Are there local laws, policies, or other norms that would be violated by certain components of this program? For example, are there laws prohibiting condom demonstrations in schools? Is it administratively feasible, given the policies and procedures of the implementing organization? Does the program align well with local norms and customs? Are there community cultural considerations you should take into account?

Setting

Is this the appropriate setting for this program? If you are planning to implement your program in a school but the program you are considering is designed to be delivered in an after school setting, you should make sure that it is also acceptable for delivery in a school. Consider whether any differences in setting are likely to compromise the intervention’s effectiveness. The program implementation reports will let you know if program developers have identified other potential settings.

Capacity

Based on your needs and resource assessment, do you have the capacity to implement this program with fidelity? Four key capacity concerns include (1) training, (2) implementation requirements, (3) time, and (4) cost. For example, will you be able to obtain all of the resources required? Will you be able to provide adequate training for your staff? Do you have enough staff members to implement with fidelity, and if not, do you have the resources to hire more? For instance, if a program requires two facilitators and you know that your organization will not be able to hire more staff, you may need to consider a program with fewer staffing needs.

Be honest and realistic in your assessment of fit. Wishful thinking is just that, wishful. An accurate appraisal up front can save time and energy later attempting to hastily and retroactively make modifications that will likely compromise the integrity of the program. Find a program that will work with the population and setting with which you are actually working to strengthen your odds of success. If the fit is not appropriate, you may have to go back and re-evaluate your program selection.

The following video, developed by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence, describes some important elements of program implementation and demonstrates how important it is to thoroughly assess both population and environmental fit when selecting a program in order to avoid some of the challenges of implementation. [This video was produced by the ACT for Youth Center for Excellence. HHS is not responsible for the content of this video and does not endorse or recommend any products, processes, services, manufacturers, or companies referenced therein.]

Adaptations

A Note about Fidelity & Adaptations

Implementing EBPs with fidelity increases the likelihood that participants served by programs will experience similar outcomes to those found in the original evaluation study. Implementation with fidelity minimizes the need for adaptations, but does not mean never making adaptations.

Adaptations are changes made to the core components of the program including the program content and program delivery. Adaptations are often proposed because the EBP selected for implementation is a poor fit for the needs of the target population, implementation setting, and/or capacity of the implementing organization. To reduce the need for adaptations, organizations should focus on selecting EBPs that are a good fit - that is, the program matches the needs of the community and population to be served, the implementation setting, the capacity of the implementing organization, and the targeted outcomes.

Some adaptations are minor (i.e. do not significantly change the core components) and may be necessary to make the program culturally relevant, current, and/or more engaging. Examples of minor adaptations (often referred to as green light adaptations) include:

  • Adding icebreakers, team-builders, energizers, or reflection activities
  • Adding a session on general reproductive anatomy
  • Providing updated statistics or information about local statistics
  • Providing information about local resources (e.g. teen friendly health centers)
  • Adding implementation strategies to better engage youth population (e.g. using more music)
  • Revising materials to ensure LGBTQ inclusivity (e.g. creating gender neutral language in role plays)
  • Changing minor wording (e.g. the term “group rules” to “group agreement”)

Other adaptations are major and do significantly change the core components of an EBP. Major adaptations could compromise a program’s fidelity and might affect the intended outcomes. As a result, major adaptations should be avoided, if at all possible. If not possible to avoid, major adaptations should be carefully considered and implemented with great caution. Examples of major adaptations (often referred to as yellow light or red light adaptations) include:

  • Omitting a lesson or activity such as a condom demonstration
  • Decreasing the number or length of sessions
  • Increasing student to teacher ratio
  • Shortening or eliminating program videos

Adaptations to extend the program to a new population or setting are unique and could be classified as either minor or major depending on the circumstances. Since it is impossible to evaluate all potential settings and populations for which a program might work, it is to be expected that some implementers will propose extending the program to a population and/or implementing it in a setting in which the program has not been tested. Implementing an EBP with a different population or in a different setting is considered a minor adaptation, as long as the developer has indicated that the EBP is appropriate for the population or setting.

In the event that adaptations may be necessary to proceed with program implementation, it is important to think about them ahead of time, rather than making unplanned adaptations. Resources available to help organizations in planning for adaptations are available in the Adaptation Section of the OAH TPP Resource Center. Program-specific adaptation kits are also available for select programs from ETR Associates.

Activities

Now that you are familiar with the process of selecting an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program – including how to use a needs and resource assessment and a logic model to guide your selection process – it is time to put your knowledge into action. Read through the following scenarios and see if you can identify how each organization should proceed, based on the information provided.

Population Fit: Other Considerations

An organization is charged with working with a special population, expectant and parenting teens. How should this organization proceed with its program search?

Population Fit: Sex

Question: An organization is interested in implementing the Aban Aya Youth Project program, which has only demonstrated impact on males, but the organization reaches both males and females. How should the organization proceed with its selection process?

Population Fit: Context

An organization would like to implement Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) in schools but only has 45-minute class periods instead of the 90-minute periods required for BART. Recognizing that some programs require more time than others (e.g., 45-minute sessions in Making Proud Choices versus 90-minute sessions in Becoming a Responsible Teen), what is the best course of action for this organization?

Population Fit: Capacity

An organization shows interest in the program, Project AIM, but learns that the program requires two facilitators. To ensure environmental fit, the organization must assess whether they have the resources to implement a program that requires two facilitators. If they find they do not have the resources to provide a second facilitator, what is their best course of action?

After Selection

Go to Section: Evaluation and Monitoring > CQI and Sustainability

Evaluation and Monitoring

Program selection on its own will not lead to the outcomes envisioned in the logic model. It is important to view this element in context, understanding that the most successful teen pregnancy prevention programming efforts are those that evaluate the implementation of the program as well as its outcomes; use evaluation data to continuously improve their programs; and plan in advance how they will sustain the program past its initial implementation.

Organizations may find it useful to use a program planning framework, like Getting to Outcomes (GTO), Communities that Care, SAMHSA’s Strategic Planning Framework (SPF), or PROSPER to guide their work. While each framework is slightly different (e.g., PROSPER is intended to provide guidance for University partnerships), they generally include the steps that were covered in this module, as well as activities and planning related to the following:

Process/Implementation Evaluation

Process evaluation is the ongoing assessment of the quality of program implementation. Process evaluations examine the “outputs” segment of the logic model and assess whether (1) program activities were carried out in the manner prescribed (i.e., with fidelity); (2) levels of participant attendance, satisfaction, and retention; and (3) external circumstances that may have interfered with the quality of implementation among other things. Process evaluation should take place throughout the implementation of the program and is useful both for informing future implementation and making links between the program and its outcomes. You can check out these resources related to program implementation on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center. You can also refer to OAH's Fidelity Monitoring Guidance for more information on monitoring your activities to ensure that you are implementing your selected program with fidelity.

Outcome Evaluation

Outcome evaluation is the process of assessing the success of the program in achieving its desired goals. As mentioned in the section on developing a logic model, outcomes are written to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). By framing your outcomes this way in advance, you are able to specify the indicators you will measure to determine whether or not they have been achieved. Conducting an outcome evaluation can provide you with results that you can share with community stakeholders and funders alike to increase interest in your program and obtain funding to maintain it. You can check out the evaluation resources on the Office of Adolescent Health website.

CQI and Sustainability

Continuous Quality Improvement

Outcome evaluation is the process of assessing the success of the program in achieving its desired goals. As mentioned in the section on developing a logic model, outcomes are written to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). By framing your outcomes this way in advance, you are able to specify the indicators you will measure to determine whether or not they have been achieved. Conducting an outcome evaluation can provide you with results that you can share with community stakeholders and funders alike to increase interest in your program and obtain funding to maintain it. You can check out the evaluation resources on the Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Resource Center.

Sustainability

Sustainability refers to the plan of action to keep the program in place after its initial implementation. Unfortunately, a common reality we face is that even successful programs may not continue if/when their initial funding runs out. Planning for sustainability from the very beginning of this process will help ensure that you can continue to provide high quality programming for youth regardless of issues like financing. For more information, see OAH’s Built to Last: Planning Programmatic Sustainability tip sheet and Building Sustainable Programs: The Resource Guide.

Conclusion

Go to Section: Review > Resources

Review

Reducing rates of teen pregnancy is no easy undertaking. Applaud yourself for taking the first steps to address this issue within your organization. Even the most effective programs will not make a difference by themselves, which is why forethought and planning are so critical. Taking the time and effort to (1) identify your specific needs and existing resources; (2) develop a strong plan for action with steps that are directly connected to your desired outcomes; (3) filter through program options based on your relevant characteristics; and (4) ensuring that your final program selection is applicable to the adolescents you serve, makes sense, and is acceptable within the larger community, puts you on the path for success.

The Program Selection Checklist handout will assist you throughout the process of selecting an EBP. Consult it regularly and frequently for reminders and guidance from start to finish.

Resources

Refer to the following resource list for additional information on any of the topics presented in this module:

Introduction

What Does it Mean to be "Evidence-Based?"

Identify the Problem(s)

Develop a Logic Model

Identify Potential Programs

Assess Fit

After Program Selection

Quiz

Go to Section: Quiz Intro > Quiz

Quiz

You have nearly completed the How to Select an Evidence-Based TPP Program E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer the 8 of the following 10 questions.

Question 1

Which of the following is not a requirement of an EBP?

Question 2

True or false: As long as you implement an EBP, you can be guaranteed to see positive results.

Question 3

Which of these is not a component of a logic model?

Question 4

The component of a logic model that is most important to consider when selecting an EBP is:

Question 5

Which of the following is not one of the four steps to selecting an EBP that were discussed in this module?

Question 6

Which of the following is the best option if a program requires more time than you will have available?

Question 7

Which of the following is not a criterion that you can use to sort programs in the HHS database?

Question 8

Which type of adaptation can you make without affecting the core components of the underlying EBP?

Question 9

Which of the following should not be considered when selecting an evidence-based program?

Question 10

Which of the following is not an important aspect of implementing an evidence-based program?

Collaboration Toolkit



Introduction

Introduction

Getting Started

This module includes three chapters, each with several sections:

  • Chapter 1 talks about building strategic partnerships.
  • Chapter 2 covers effective outreach strategies.
  • Chapter 3 explains how to craft effective communications.

Move through the module in the order that makes sense to you.

Please take the Pre-Module Knowledge Assessment Survey before beginning this module.

This Toolkit is intended to assist organizations in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting field with cultivating strategic partnerships, implementing innovative outreach strategies, and developing robust communications that target the diverse organizations and populations in their communities. The Toolkit offers guidance for performing self-assessments of current partnership and outreach strategies that organizations are using to collaborate with and engage agencies and individuals in their communities. The Toolkit also offers tools for building on these strategies to boost organizational capacity.

Such strategies are vital in order for adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting organizations to improve the health and social outcomes for vulnerable adolescents, build support and capacity within their local communities for these adolescents, and foster increased awareness of the important services these organizations provide to vulnerable youths. Although many of the examples provided throughout the Toolkit focus on adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting organizations, the concepts in the Toolkit are applicable to a wide range of organizations that provide services to vulnerable adolescents.

The Toolkit provides information and resources that will enable your organization to achieve the following objectives:

  • Identify opportunities for forming strategic partnerships with other organizations in your community;
  • Identify priority target populations for outreach; and
  • Develop action-oriented messages tailored to specific audiences that will help engage your community in your efforts.

By achieving these objectives, your organization will be able to attain the following long-term capacity-building goals:

  • Stronger partnerships with other organizations working with vulnerable adolescents;
  • Increased awareness of the services offered by your organization;
  • Expanded access to a wider range of resources for adolescents and their families; and
  • Enhanced support for vulnerable adolescents.

Chapter 1: Building Strategic Partnerships

Go to Section: Summary > Defining Strategic Partnerships > Building and Implementing Partnerships > Resources > Case Study

Summary

At a Glance

This chapter provides information on how to:

  • Bolster your organization's understanding of the diverse types of partnerships
  • Identify potential partner organizations, negotiate and build strategic partnerships
  • Maintain these partnerships in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties

Strategic partnerships with other organizations can be vital to the success of your organizations goals and initiatives. Partnerships with other organizations have the potential to concentrate the community's focus on a particular problem, create alliances among organizations that might not normally work together, and keep the community's approach to issues consistent. Most importantly, partners can advocate for your organizations goals while contributing their own contacts, skills, talents and assets, allowing your organization to broaden its impact while accessing new audiences.

Recognizing the importance of partnerships is not difficult, but understanding how to build those partnerships is critical. Partnerships with other organizations take time and effort, but if managed well, they can help your organization achieve its goals more effectively and with fewer resources. Remember, when forming partnerships your organization should strive for quality, not quantity. Not all partnerships result in accrued benefits for your organization or your clients. Partnerships should be formed strategically, based on the value the partnership brings to your organization and your clients. Working with organizations that do not have a mission or values that complement your own does not typically bring added value to your organization.

The tools and resources provided with this chapter will supply your organization with worksheets, assessment tools, and examples to facilitate your partnership building process.

The case study at the end of the chapter centers on a community based program that seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers. It details their use of the tools in Chapter 1 in forming a strategic partnership to pool resources, developing political clout to push their agenda, and creating long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy.

Defining Strategic Partnerships

Definition

The term partnership and related terms such as collaboration, coalition, network, task group, work group, cooperation and others, are used to describe a wide variety of relationships and structures. For purposes of this Toolkit, partnership refers to a group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. That goal could be as narrow as obtaining funding for a specific intervention, or as broad as trying to improve the overall quality of life for pregnant and parenting adolescents in the community. Likewise, the organizations involved might be drawn from a narrow area of interest, or might include representation from every segment of the community.

Key Term: Partnership

A group of organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal.

A partnership is strategic when it provides your organization with the means and methods for advancing your mission. Strategic partnerships can later develop into stakeholder groups that can leverage greater influence in reaching elected officials and policymakers. Civic leaders, policymakers and other key influencers tend to have priorities that organizations can leverage to underscore the urgency of improving programs and services to adolescents including:

  • Improving access to education to foster economic development and work skills;
  • Enhancing public safety by preventing crime and reducing risk behaviors; and
  • Encouraging civic engagement and service to a new generation.

Types

Partnerships may consist of loose associations in which member organizations work for a short time to achieve a specific goal. In contrast, they can be long-term, and may even become organizations in themselves, with governing bodies, particular community responsibilities, funding, and permanence. Partnerships may draw from a community, a region, a state, or even the nation as a whole. Regardless of their size and structure, they exist to create and/or support efforts to reach a particular set of goals. Some common types of partnerships are:

Community-based

Look to organizations working alongside you on the front lines of your community. Local nonprofits may find that your values fit well with theirs, even if you are offering different types of services.

Government-based

Local governmental institutions may also be an excellent partner organization to explore. In particular, schools and educational institutions may be excellent partners and provide access to the populations your organization serves. State-wide Departments of Health and Education partnerships are also important because of their data repositories.

Faith-based

If their mission aligns with yours, partner with local religious institutions. Places of worship are often regarded as important resources for a community, and have diverse congregations with various skills.


Purpose

There are a number of reasons why developing a partnership with other organizations might be beneficial. In general terms, partnerships can concentrate the community's focus on a particular problem, create alliances among those who might not normally work together, and keep the community's approach to issues consistent. Some more specific reasons for forming a partnership might be:

  • To bring about more effective and efficient delivery of programs and eliminate any unnecessary duplication of effort. Gathering all the organizations involved in a particular issue can result in a more cohesive and comprehensive intervention. Rather than duplicating efforts, organizations can split up or coordinate responsibilities in ways that afford more participants access to programs and allow for a greater range of services.
  • To pool resources. Together many organizations may have the resources to accomplish a task that none of them could have accomplished independently. In general, organizations form partnerships to do just that—accomplish together what they cannot do alone.
  • To increase communication among groups and break down stereotypes. Bringing together organizations from many sectors of the community can create alliances where there was little contact before. Working together toward common goals can help organizations break down barriers and misperceptions, and enable them to trust one another.
  • To build networks and friendships. Partnerships result in social benefits for staff, volunteers and clients in that people can form networks and friendships through involvement with the organization.
  • To revitalize wilting energies of members of groups who are trying to do too much alone. A partnership can help to bolster efforts around an issue. For organizations who have worked too long in a vacuum, the addition of other hands to the task can be a tremendous source of new energy and hope.
  • To plan and launch community-wide initiatives on a variety of issues. In addition to addressing immediately pressing issues or promoting or providing services, partnerships can serve to unify efforts around long-term campaigns. To develop and use political clout to gain services or other benefits for the community. A unified community partnership can advocate more effectively than a number of disparate organizations working alone. In addition, a wide-ranging partnership can bring to bear pressure from all sectors of the community, and wield a large amount of power.
  • To create long-term, permanent social change. Real change usually takes place over a period of time through the process of individuals gaining trust, sharing ideas, and getting past their preconceptions in order to understand the real issues underlying community needs. A partnership, with its structure of cooperation among diverse groups and its problem-solving focus, can ease and accelerate the process of change in a community.
  • To obtain or provide services. It may take a partnership either initially or over the long term to design, obtain funding for, and/or run a needed intervention in the community.

Continuum

Partnerships can range from informal, minimal work between two organizations to very formal, contractual arrangements with the exchange of funds. There is sometimes an evolution with specific partners that grows into an active relationship of exchange and support.

Continuum: Coordination to Cooperation to Collaboration to Partnerships

The continuum of steps that results in a partnership often starts with coordination, progresses to cooperation and collaboration, and ultimately results in partnerships. Each and every step is important and worth pursuing. Your organization will likely work with organizations in each stage of the continuum outlined below, but you will not necessarily work through all steps in the continuum to form a partnership with every organization you develop a relationship with. Some of your efforts toward developing partnerships with other organizations will only progress through a couple of stages and result in cooperation among the organizations; whereas, others might result in a full partnership.

Coordination

At this level, organizations learn about the services and clients served by the other organizations. They also learn about each organization’s motivation for participating in a partnership. There is a lot of organizational independence. Self-interests and resources are defined. Coordination may include an exchange of information and materials.

Cooperation

Cooperation among organizations brings increased understanding of target audiences and motivations to participate in a partnership. There might be a minimal agreement, and the organizations may still be defining their roles and contribution. There is usually a greater appreciation of resources and skills that the partnership can bring. Joint strategies start to emerge.

Collaboration

With collaboration, there is increased recognition of the values of each organization, trust, respect, a clear understanding of the benefits for each partner, and innovative ideas are presented to meet a common problem. There can be challenges, but they are usually well worth the effort to benefit a group of clients or the community. At this stage, organizations are able to work together on a specific project to reach clients, provide education, or develop a marketing campaign. Often organizations in collaborative relationships start to put plans in writing.

Partnerships

In a partnership, there is a high level of trust and communication. Roles and responsibilities of each organization are well-defined and developed. There is a feeling of “us.” There might be shared space and staff, shared authority and decision making, and plans and agreements are in writing. Overall, there is a vision. Challenges continue especially in the area of funding streams and support.

It is important to note that the continuum process may sometimes be cyclical due to changes in the nature, type and extent of the partnership. For example, partnerships with school districts often require modification due to changing personnel at all levels and locations, as well as social and political factors influencing decision-making of administrators.

Building and Implementing Partnerships

Readiness for Partnering and Identifying Prospective Partners

Are You Ready?

The first step in pursuing a strategic partnership is to know your own organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The first step in pursuing a strategic partnership is to know your own organization’s strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine the type of partnership that will be the most beneficial. Once these have been identified, involve your staff in narrowing down a list of organizations within your community that may fill your needs (compliment your strengths and address your weaknesses). Aids such as the Organizational Readiness Assessment and the Barriers and Challenges to Partnerships tool in the Tools and Resources section can serve as a helpful guide for assessing your organizational readiness, defining your organization’s goals, and identifying prospective partners.

Do not ignore the strengths of your organization. A partnership is a two-way street, and you have valuable resources to offer.

Because you have a deep understanding of an adolescent’s needs, your organization’s greatest asset is the ability to help these adolescents deal with the challenging situation they find themselves in, and you bring these strengths to the partnership.

Before entering into a partnership, give some consideration to how you will evaluate the effectiveness of such a relationship in the future. Knowing what success will look like before you start will help you know when you achieve it.

It is important to assess potential partnerships at the beginning to ensure that you will work well together and that you are striving for the same goal. The tool Evaluating Potential Partners can guide your organization through this analysis.


Negotiating

Align Interests

All parties in a partnership negotiation may need to compromise on particulars. Making sure all parties have similar interests helps compromise succeed.

Negotiating a Partnership Agreement

Partnership negotiations should be oriented toward finding solutions or dealing with problems in a mutually beneficial way.

To ensure that organizations get what they need from a partnership, partners must come to the negotiation table with a sincere interest in working together and drawing from one another’s strengths. Your organization should clearly articulate what they can bring to the partnership, as well as understand what potential partners offer. The Collaborative Practices Inventory is designed to help individuals or groups who are involved or about to be involved in collaborative efforts understand their practices and behaviors when working with others.

Negotiation is a skill that must be practiced. The following guidance can help advance partnership negotiations and produce desired results:

Honor the relationship. The negotiation process involves partners you may work with over many years. If, in addition to the process of negotiating, your priorities include developing the relationship with your partners—for example, developing honest communication and trust—it can be easier to know when bending on a particular point may yield short-term gains but long-term costs.
Create a negotiation environment that encourages innovation. Partners expand partnership options by engaging in brainstorming techniques and thinking outside the box. If partners can respond to new ideas and be open to the unexpected, they will find unlimited opportunities to take a fresh look at their practices and beliefs about serving their clients.
Be realistic and fair. Partners are more likely to follow up on their commitments and less likely to circumvent the negotiation process if they feel the agreement is fair. Sometimes a neutral, external facilitator can help to ensure that the negotiations are realistic and fair to all. Partners should always consult with their programs’ legal and financial advisers before finalizing an agreement.
Recognize that each partnership is unique. Each partnership needs to be structured to meet the needs of the organizations involved. Although you may know of an interesting and successful partnership in a nearby community, the partnership you are designing need not be the same.
Engage in active listening. Focus on what others say, both on their actual words and the underlying meaning. This will help you understand the interests upon which agreement can be based. When your response makes it clear that you have really been listening, your partners, too, may be more prepared to listen. Active listening can produce better, more long-lasting relationships.
Know your bottom line. We all enter negotiations knowing what we ideally want. Thinking through alternatives to the ideal outcome, however, allows you to understand your points of flexibility. Be clear about fallback positions and their consequences before you start to negotiate. Also, evaluate your partners’ options beforehand. In negotiation, it is important to think several moves in advance and anticipate your partners’ needs.
Know the difference between positions and interests. When you focus on your organization’s motivation for partnering and your potential partners’ motivation, then you are looking at interests. When you get bogged down in achieving a particular goal, then you are distracted by positions. Interests form the building blocks of lasting agreements.
Come prepared to commit resources. Any request to take on greater responsibility must be accompanied by an offer of resources. Approach this issue with an earnest commitment to supporting the goals and the needed change. Resources can take the form of funding, staff, materials, supplies, transportation, and facilities, often in combination. An adequate commitment of funds and other resources demonstrates your commitment to, and full support of the partnership.
Take a fresh look at practices and standards. Use the negotiation process to address areas that need improvement, such as increased outreach activities and staff development activities. Challenge yourself to examine existing practice: Is this truly the practice that needs to be adopted by all, or is there a new way to meet standards? Set short-term, realistic goals, yet keep sight of where the partnership needs to be.
Allow sufficient time for partners to work out details. Remember that the negotiation process is not a one-time meeting that results in a partnership agreement. Partners often need several meetings to develop an agreement that reflects everyone’s needs and capacities and provides sufficient detail to ensure success and enhanced services.

Partnership agreements should be put in writing, and reviewed annually. The agreement should contain sufficient detail to guide the partnership and serve as a mechanism by which partners assess the fulfillment of their commitments and contributions. As a legal document, the agreement protects all partners’ best interests. Many partnership agreements also include an addendum that describes how the partnership conducts business. This addendum might specify who does what, when, how, with whom, and for what purpose. It may also contain specific outcome goals and a plan to measure achievement.


Implementing & Maintaining

When the right organizational partners are identified and established, start building the relationship slowly. A good idea would be to start working on small projects together instead of jumping into the big ones. These can be scaled over time once each organization understands its role. As noted in the partnership continuum described previously, collaborative relationships are the building blocks for the vast majority of partnerships. Organizations should strive to establish these collaborative relationships before they are needed and maintain these relationships, even if they are not immediately actionable.

One way to grow a relationship between partners is to involve them, where appropriate, in the culture of your organization. Help them understand what you have learned about the issues surrounding adolescent pregnancy and parenting and why your organization does the things it does. This may include client meetings or internal strategy meetings. Turn the tables and attend some of their meetings, as well. By understanding how each organization operates, you will foster a mutual understanding of the challenges each face.

5 steps to implementing a partnership:
  1. Identify and engage the stakeholders.
  2. Establish personal relationships, and begin to build trust.
  3. Clarify the goals and objectives each partner wants to accomplish.
  4. Choose and implement a partnership that is mutually beneficial.
  5. Establish governance, procedures, ground rules, and decision-making structure.

Successful Partnerships

In summary, successful partnerships germinate from these common seeds:

A Shared Purpose

Carefully consider the compatibility of the purpose and goals of the partnering organizations, the value-added by partnering and expectations around each organizations participation. Make these clear in the partnership. Examine how each organization defines the partnership. Discuss your professional ethics. Developing a partnership is not unlike developing a personal relationship. Choose your partner with forethought and mutual understanding.

Complementary Strengths

All partners are accountable, and it is necessary to award equal opportunity and participation for all involved. Holding a preliminary information-sharing meeting for all participating staff is recommended. Expectations, roles and responsibilities, and available resources should be clarified and put in writing.

Agreed Upon Boundaries

Thinking through and negotiating differing work styles, organizations and management structures can be challenges faced by organizations attempting collaboration. A simple, written memorandum of understanding (MOU) may be helpful in articulating a partnership agreement.

Flexibility and Willingness to Collaborate

Once partnership participants have been identified, it is important that the process be transparent reflecting the nature of the partnering organizations, appreciating the structures already in place and the development of new structures the partnership may require. The following efforts will help in creating any necessary new structures:

  • Staff members need to be aware of their own organizational systems, management structures and work styles. By understanding their own organization, they are better able to help themselves and their partners appreciate and understand the value and expertise they bring to the partnership.
  • Organizational charts, mission statements, job descriptions and other materials should be exchanged between partnering organizations, allowing all organizations to better understand each other’s goals and objectives, as well as the time and effort that goes into each other’s jobs.
  • A broadly defined structure often works best, providing guidance while permitting partners to make periodic adjustments, assess effectiveness, and allow for creativity and learning. Periodically review the partnership in relationship to where it’s headed and what it will take to get there.

Case Study: Building Strategic Partnerships

Preface

The following case study centers on a community based program that seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers, with the goals of helping them obtain a high school diploma and preventing or delaying a second pregnancy. The case study details the use of the tools in this chapter in forming a strategic partnership to pool resources, developing political clout to push their agenda, and creating long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy.

Mary is the current director of the community based program Delivering Education, Leadership and Training Assistance (DELTA) 4 Girls, in Mississippi. The program, in existence for 9 years, seeks to provide training and education to teenage mothers, with the goals of helping them obtain a high school diploma and prevent or delay a second pregnancy. With a staff of seven and approximately ten volunteers, the program has been successful, with over 70% of girls graduating high school and preventing over 80% of girls from experiencing a repeat pregnancy during their high school years. This program appeared to be making a positive impact on the community.

The program itself was influenced by Mary’s own childhood experiences, when she witnessed two of her sisters experience teenage parenthood and struggle to finish high school. Mary saw that two of the largest barriers to finishing high school for her sisters were childcare during school and lack of free time to study. The DELTA 4 Girls program offers free and reduced childcare for its program participants and an after school study room for them to use to complete their homework. Further, the program develops and hones the participants’ business skills, offers résumé building assistance and tutoring, as well as other skills.

Unfortunately, consistent with many other community-based programs, the presence of a nationwide recession was threatening the program’s funding. With 35% of the program’s funds coming from government grants (federal and state funds) and 65% from private foundations and groups, it was likely that some of the funding would be eliminated.

To prepare for this possibility and build the best case for continued support, a member of Mary’s staff suggested that DELTA 4 Girls consider partnering with other community based organizations and services to a) pool resources, b) develop and use political clout to push their agenda, and c) create long-term community-level change that would lead to a decrease in adolescent pregnancy. During a special staff meeting devoted to brainstorming the possible partnerships, Mary used the Organizational Readiness Assessment and the Barriers and Challenges to Partnerships worksheets to determine if a partnership was wise and if her organization was ready to engage. After group discussion about the pros and cons of such an endeavor, the organization decided to move forward with a plan to develop a new partnership.

The DELTA 4 Girls team brainstormed about their collective strengths, weaknesses and organizational values to identify which organizations would be best to partner with. Based on these findings, the biggest weakness identified for their program was its narrow focus on pregnant teens. It neglected addressing needs of other related at-risk groups such as the partners of teenage mothers, the parents of teenage mothers, or children living in abusive environments, thereby limiting the organization’s understanding of the overall challenges in adolescent pregnancy prevention. By the same token, the program’s main strength was their ability to identify and obtain resources to run their program, as their funding had increased 300% over the previous seven years. Therefore, DELTA 4 Girls decided to identify programs, persons, and organizations that addressed other at-risk groups and who could also benefit from their expertise.

After this decision was made, Mary and her staff used the Evaluating Potential Partners Worksheet to identify potential organizations to partner with. Based on their current program and identified strengths and weaknesses, DELTA 4 Girls identified high schools (specifically school counselors in the schools), the county health department, the social services administration, local business organizations, area religious organizations, the local Boys and Girls Club, and area prevention specialists as possible partners. Once complete, the team used the Evaluating Potential Partners worksheet to conduct a preliminary analysis of how well each group would mesh with their organization.

As part of this research, they examined the organizations’ official mission/values statements, their past activities, and their personal experiences with the organization itself. Further, they surveyed their program’s current and former clients about their experiences with each entity. Once the research was completed, two local religious organizations, a local school counselor, the social security administration and health department, the local Boys and Girls Club chapter, the Delta Business Administration and the local sexuality education coordinator, were chosen to be approached.

Mary began to set up meetings with identified leaders at each organization. This was done to 1) introduce the idea of collaboration to the organizations, 2) discuss what DELTA 4 Girls had to offer to a potential joint effort, 3) discuss the proposed goals of a collaboration and 4) determine if the other groups were able and willing to partner. All but one group agreed that adolescent pregnancy prevention was a goal they shared and were willing to work collaboratively to affect adolescent pregnancy in their community.

After the partner list was settled, Mary began the task of assessing where in the partnership continuum each group was, what the partnership’s overall goal should be and, ultimately, Mary began developing a working agreement amongst the partners. A half-day introductory meeting was planned for the new partners to meet one another. Prior to the meeting, Mary asked each partner to brainstorm 1) the strengths and weaknesses of their organization, 2) the skills or resources they were willing to contribute, and 3) the goals or outcomes they would like to see achieved from the partnership. The results of each individual analysis were to be brought to the first team meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Mary asked each partner to introduce themselves and explain their program or organization to the group and discuss why the issue of adolescent pregnancy prevention was important to them. After completion, the group discussed the results of the pre-meeting brainstorm exercise. Finally, Mary asked each partner to complete the Collaborative Practices Inventory to determine where each group would fall in the partnership continuum and how to proceed with the work. Overall, the majority of individuals indicated they were at the cooperation stage, as many were comfortable working with other organizations and agencies to accomplish their goals, but were still protective of their own resources to ensure the viability of their programs.

The results of this exercise were used to inform the next phase of the project: Partnership Agreement. However, based on the majority of the partners being on in the cooperation stage, everyone agreed that they needed more time to get to know each other, better understand their respective programs and goals, and negotiate what could be accomplished. The items in the How to Negotiate a Partner Agreement section were distributed for each individual organization to review in order to determine their position, interests, and the bottom line for each.

Armed with this task, Mary returned to DELTA 4 Girls and discussed each element with the staff. It was agreed that their primary interests were to prevent pregnancy (both first and repeat) among teenage girls and increase the graduation rate among teenage moms. However, their bottom line was that a commitment to developing and implementing effective educational strategies for teen moms must be included in the final mission of the partnership.

Over the next three months, the members of the newly developed partnership met several times. Each meeting was spent discussing what the primary goal of the partnership should be and how they would meet this goal. As the partners became more comfortable with one another, the group began to find new ways of compromising and combining resources to make their partnership a reality. In the course of negotiations, secondary pregnancy prevention became a back burner issue, with primary prevention becoming the focus of the partnership. However, the final mission did include the goal of providing mentoring and educational services to girls to help them graduate high school or obtain their GED. Further, the school counselor agreed to develop a program where high school students could get course credit by tutoring teenage mothers.

Finally, after three months of talks and negotiation, the partnership was comfortable with developing a partnership agreement. Mary, having already identified the Developing a Partnership Agreement tool, distributed it to the group. Over a day-long retreat at a local hotel, the group addressed each component of the tool to ensure each item was met, culminating in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide their current and future collaborations.

Chapter 2: Effective Outreach Strategies

Go to Section: Summary > Performing Assessments > Leveraging Assets > Outreach Strategies > Resources > Case Study

Summary

At a Glance

This chapter provides strategies to:

  • Increase your organization’s understanding of the community you serve
  • Enhance the community’s general knowledge of your organization’s mission
  • Maintain these partnerships in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties
  • Coordinate your outreach to community members
  • Set objectives for outreach efforts
  • Engage your staff in outreach efforts

Chapter 2 of the Toolkit is designed to help your organization bolster your efforts on forming relationships with individuals in your community. To do so, this chapter will provide information, resources and tools that will assist your organization to first understand the dynamics of your community and subsequently develop effective strategies for community outreach and engagement.

For those who work in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting field, it is essential to have a robust understanding of the particular community you work with. Taking the time to get to know your community assets and deficiencies is crucial, because engaging the community in your efforts to improve services will require that you are familiar with the people, the issues, and the history of the community.

This chapter will provide methodologies to help you increase your organization’s understanding of the community you serve and conversely design strategies to enhance the community’s general knowledge of your organization’s mission and goals. Strategies for coordinating your outreach to community members, engaging your staff in outreach efforts, and setting objectives for your outreach efforts are also included.

The tools and resources provided with this chapter will supply your organization with worksheets, assessment tools, and examples to enhance your understanding of your community and facilitate your implementation of effective outreach strategies to engage community members in support of your efforts.

The case study at the end of the chapter centers on a community-based organization that coordinates local adolescent pregnancy prevention services. The Case Study details the organization’s efforts to perform a community assessment in order to delve deeper into their community’s issues, and describes the organization’s campaign to leverage their community’s assets and strengths.

Performing Assessments

Community Assessments

In order to enhance your outreach efforts, you should understand how community needs and trends affect your services. This information will contribute to the overall success of your outreach strategy. A community assessment process can also provide the baseline rationale for creating new programs and eliminating duplication of services and programs. Some of the following information can help your organization obtain more accurate insights into your community:

  • Demographic data (e.g., age, race, socioeconomic and educational attainment data, family structure, and language use)
  • Homelessness statistics
  • Substance abuse trends
  • Teen pregnancy statistics
  • Other service providers’ attitudes and policies about pregnant and parenting teens
  • Geographic boundaries of the community
  • Length of time the community has been in existence
  • General history of the community
  • Key people and leaders in the community
  • Issues of most concern to the community
  • Morale and involvement levels
  • Key allies and rivals

Formal or Informal?

Use a formal or informal Community Assessment to better understand how your services fit into your community.

A community assessment will help your organization’s overall outreach efforts by mapping trends, getting to know key players in your neighborhood and community, and collecting information about other services that are available in the community.

The assessment process can be a good opportunity to showcase your organization and its programs and services as well as build trust within the community. A community assessment will also be essential in understanding community strengths. For example, despite high adolescent pregnancy rates, the community may have low premature birth rates. A community assessment will aid in identifying and delineating these strengths in order to build on your organization’s understanding of the community.

Formal/Informal Assessments

The formal approach to a community assessment entails review of data and statistics as well as potentially running your own survey of the community. While this can be costly, city and county health boards, school boards, and public health agencies often have some of this information publicly available.

The informal approach to community assessments focuses on building relationships with other organizations in the community and pooling knowledge and insight. This includes connecting with those public agencies that have data publicly available as well as non-governmental organizations that have compiled their own statistics or could compare anecdotal information with you. Having a group of organizations pool information on their clients can result in a useful body of data that can guide coordinated program, funding, and outreach decisions.

Assessing this information can help you target your own survey to fill in any gaps.

Whether you do a formal or informal assessment, the community assessment will require your organization to engage in and maintain an ongoing dialogue with community members. The findings of the assessment can help you better build and frame awareness of your program and services. The Preliminary Community Engagement Strategy tool guides you through the questions and priorities that your organization should be aware of in developing your community outreach strategies.

Leveraging Assets

Key Term:
Community Assets

Anything that is used to improve the quality of community life.

While a community assessment typically focuses on identifying gaps in services in the community, another key factor that will contribute to the development of successful outreach strategies for community engagement is gaining an understanding of your community’s existing resources or assets and leveraging them to support your outreach efforts. The members of your organization can be more powerful community actors when they are not exclusively focused on needs, problems, and deficiencies.1

A community asset or resource is anything that is used to improve the quality of community life. 2 Broadly defined, there are five different categories of community assets. These include:

  1. Local residents: their skills, experiences, passions, capacities and willingness to contribute to the project.
  2. Local voluntary associations, clubs, and networks: e.g., all of the athletic, cultural, social, faith-based, groups powered by volunteer members – which might contribute to the project.
  3. Local institutions: e.g., public institutions such as schools, libraries, parks, police stations, along with local businesses and non-profits – which might contribute to the project.
  4. Physical assets: e.g., the land, the buildings, the infrastructure, transportation, etc. which might contribute to the project.
  5. Economic assets: e.g., what people produce and consume, businesses, informal economic exchanges, barter relationships3 – which might contribute to the project.

These assets can be used by your organization to meet community needs and improve community life. They are especially important when external resources (e.g., federal and state money) are not available or are not specifically targeted for the services you wish to implement or the population you wish to reach. Identifying and mobilizing community assets enables community residents to better influence, gain control and become active shapers of change. Improvement efforts are more effective and longer-lasting when they are from programs based on assessment efforts that focused on gaps between what a community has/d (assets) and what it needs/ed (deficits) to achieve the desired change. Community Assets: Potential Uses and Engagement Strategies contains a list of potential ideas your organization can utilize to engage and mobilize your community’s assets in order to further your efforts.

Understanding community assets plays a critical role in outreach because:

  • a) it allows your organization to better target gaps or factors that limit your capacity to be effective;
  • b) it provides a means to cost-effectively enhance your efforts through the use of existing resources and;
  • c) by their very nature, community-assets are already being used to form and maintain efforts that increase the probability of your outreach strategies and tactics to be successfully implemented.

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Kretzmann, J. and McKnight, J (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/images/kelloggabcd.pdf
2 The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/index.aspx
3 Kretzmann, J. and McKnight, J (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/images/kelloggabcd.pdf

Outreach Strategies

Community Outreach

Strategic Communication

Integrated, orchestrated, and ongoing outreach can persuade your audience to engage with your mission.

Community Outreach

An outreach strategy is a way in which your key messages are delivered. Every conversation about your organization is an opportunity to deliver these messages; if your outreach efforts can successfully incorporate your mission and goals into your communications, more people hear your messages over time and come to recognize your organization.

The term “strategic communications” encompasses the means – the plans, goals, practices, and tools – by which an organization delivers consistent messages about its mission and values to its key target audiences and partners. Community outreach is strategic when it is integrated, orchestrated, and ongoing. The various pieces of your outreach strategy should “fit” together, complement and reinforce each other; and not contradict or unnecessarily repeat each other.

Organizations sometimes struggle to clearly articulate values and mission in a way that enables distinct target audiences to relate to your mission, connect to your values, trust in your services, and take action to support your organization. It is important to remember that community outreach is not about sound bites, glitzy brochures, fancy annual reports, and animated websites. Your organization’s outreach strategy should focus on advancing your mission, advancing support for your work, and increasing awareness in the community.

Strategic communications are critical to your outreach strategy because, if done right, they can help you strengthen your partnerships and increase awareness by: persuading, moving, and convincing your target audiences to help your organization achieve its mission.


Engage Your Human Resources in Your Outreach Strategies

As employees of a community organization dependent upon philanthropy and public funding, increasing awareness of and support for your program is part of every staff member’s job, without exception. Strategic communications provides a framework that ensures every staff and board member is working from the same set of assumptions and understands how their work relates to your organization’s core values and goals.

Your employees and Board members interact with current and potential clients, other organizations, funders, and the general public on a daily basis. Ensuring that they can communicate how important your work is to the community is vital to your success. They are already positioned to reach a number of your target audiences. Doing so will help you build public understanding, confidence, trust and can better prepare you to deal with routine challenges. In unexpected circumstances, it may even help your organization be better equipped to address and overcome a crisis.

Strategic communications can be employed across your organization with all staff to:

  • Help set priorities and provide future direction. As strategic communications become integrated, the staff will be selective about developing projects that are within the scope of the strategic communications plan. Board members will begin to think more strategically about how they can integrate their other community ties into the organization’s work.
  • Improve performance and stimulate creative thinking. With everyone focused on the importance of certain audiences and what actions the organization wants from those audiences, it is easier to focus planning and creativity on common goals.
  • Build teamwork and expertise. When highlighting the synergy of communications activity, staff and board begin to collaborate and share information in new ways. They look for ways to set priorities, coordinate resource allocation, and improve internal communications.

Your organization should strive for all staff and Board members to know the right message, use the right channels and ultimately be the right messengers. This will require you to equip your staff and Board members with the tools and skills to know the audience they are addressing, know the needs of the audience, know how to communicate with them and know the importance of their work as it relates to your organization’s mission. In turn, your staff and Board will be more credible to the audience; they will feel that they know them and be more inclined to trust their message.

The worksheets My Organization and its Community Outreach Activities and Priority Communities for My Outreach guide you through the questions and priorities that your organization should be aware of in developing your community outreach strategies. It is essential to begin with outlining your purpose or goals for engaging the community, defining the optimal scope of your outreach and generating the objectives and strategies that will achieve your desired outcomes.


Objectives for your Outreach Strategies

Key Term: SMART Objectives

SMART Objectives are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-framed

During the course of planning your outreach efforts you identify critical areas for strategic communication and define communication objectives that will result in the outcomes you desire as the objectives are operationalized. In order to increase the effectiveness of your objectives, it is important to make your objectives SMART. That is, objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Having SMART objectives makes it easier to clearly define what you are supposed to achieve through implementation of the objective, hence facilitating the monitoring and evaluation process.

Your communication objectives should address issues such as awareness, knowledge, attitude, practice, behavior and participation. Each of these represents a communication level, which needs to be dealt with separately. If for instance your objective is to induce change in behavior, first you need to make individuals aware that there is a problem with the previous behavior. You then take steps to ensure that the knowledge and the attitude necessary for the change to take place are present. It is only when all these prerequisites are met that you can hope to achieve your communication objectives.1

Example of a SMART communication objective:
Distribute outreach material to 70% of all women in the community between the age of 13 and 19 by the end of the next year.

The worksheet Develop SMART Communications Objectives can guide your organization through the brainstorming and development of SMART objectives.


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

Case Study: Performing a Community Assessment

Preface

The following case study centers on a community-based organization that coordinates local adolescent pregnancy prevention services. In spite of its wide range of members and diverse representation of local groups, the organization’s community continued to experience a climbing adolescent pregnancy rate. The case study details the organization’s use of the tools in this chapter to perform a community assessment in order to delve deeper into their community’s issues, and describes the organization’s subsequent campaign to leverage their community’s strengths.

Robert is the director of a community-based organization in Franklin County that links and coordinates local adolescent pregnancy prevention services. The organization, entitled F-CAPP (Franklin’s Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention), has over 30 member organizations representing mental health, local faith organizations, the primary school system, university professors and students, adolescent pregnancy prevention programs and family members. In spite of its wide range of members and diverse representation of local groups, the county continued to experience a climbing adolescent pregnancy rate and ranked the third highest statewide. Additionally, the program was located in a southern county which had a higher than average unemployment rate and the high school graduation rate was below average, with current projections showing the rates worsening in coming years.

Robert raised the issue of the county’s increasing teen pregnancy rate at F-CAPP’s monthly Board of Directors meeting. After much discussion, it was decided that F-CAPP needed to redirect its efforts and develop new outreach efforts so as to better prevent unplanned pregnancies from occurring.

Robert was tasked with completing a new, up-to-date community assessment. With his task in hand, Robert began gathering the most accessible data: community demographics, socioeconomic data, employment and graduation rates and adolescent pregnancy data. Using several resources, including www.city-data.com, the Census Bureau’s website, and state vital statistics, current information was gathered about the county’s population. In addition, community members were surveyed to identify leaders and determine what issues were most important to them. Finally, to get a more in-depth look at adolescent pregnancy, unemployment and graduation rates, Robert contacted the local health department’s environmental health division and worked with them to conduct an analysis of the county’s zip codes to determine the neighborhoods most at risk and used the Geographic Information System (GIS) to display these neighborhoods on a county map.

Based on this assessment, Robert found that a disproportionate amount of adolescent pregnancies were located in the central and eastern parts of the county. Not surprisingly, many of the neighborhoods with both high rates of unemployment rates and low rates of high school graduation also had the highest adolescent pregnancy rates. The community survey found that people were most concerned about the lack of employment opportunities and adolescent pregnancy. It also found that they were largely unaware of the adolescent pregnancy prevention resources and services that existed. Through discussions with the local business administration, Robert was informed that there were two reasons why potential new businesses settled elsewhere: the high adolescent pregnancy rate and low graduation rates.

Armed with this new information, Robert presented the data to F-CAPP’s Board of Directors at the next meeting. Disappointed but not surprised by the results, the Board decided that a coordinated effort to leverage and advertise current community assets was needed to address those areas of concern raised by the community.

To start their effort, the Board first began by defining what they were concerned with and what they wanted to accomplish. Using the Preliminary Community Engagement Strategy, the Board determined that their problem was that adolescent pregnancy and low graduation rates were a part of a cyclical problem whereby increases in one created more negative results in the other. Therefore, an effective approach to addressing the issue needed to include programs and services targeted at each aspect in the cycle. The Board found that current programs represented by their organization were mostly targeted at youth, with very few including components to raise awareness among adults about the resources offered by the community. They used the Preliminary Community Engagement Strategy tool to identify new potential partners who would benefit from a decrease in the community adolescent pregnancy rate. Once complete, the final goal was to increase awareness around the linkage between education, employment and adolescent pregnancy through both broad and targeted social marketing campaigns geared at adults and teenagers.

As part of this effort and as recommended by Community Assets: Potential Uses and Engagement Strategies, the Board decided to extend F-CAPP membership invitations to several potential partners whose assets could be leveraged in addressing the issue. These included members of the education, media and marketing and business communities as well as community leaders. Robert tasked the Board members with reaching out and educating these organizations about F-CAPP’s mission and the linkage between adolescent pregnancy and their area of interest. Finally, the Board developed talking points and reviewed the mission and goals of F-CAPP to ensure they were current and relevant to the organization’s work.

Over the next month, four new individuals joined the Board of F-CAPP and seven more joined the organization. These individuals represented the education, marketing and business communities and assisted in bringing fresh perspective and more importantly resources to F-CAPP’s activities. The first order of business was to develop possible outreach strategies to raise awareness about the linkages between education, employment and adolescent pregnancy and get key stakeholders interested in developing a community-wide effort to combat the problem. Using the worksheet, three different strategies were chosen. First, they developed a booklet to distribute that listed the available employment, education and adolescent pregnancy prevention services and programs in the community. The completed booklet, entitled The Community Guide to Education and Pregnancy Prevention Services was provided to all member groups, all organizations identified within the booklet and to local doctor offices, community organizations and schools for use by their staffs. Further, an interactive website was established which contained the booklet’s information with a visit counter to track the number of individuals accessing and using the site’s resources.

Second, the new member of the Board that was from the social marketing firm agreed to donate their services towards a pregnancy prevention campaign. Prior to starting work, Robert and the firm sat down with the tool Priority Communities for My Outreach to ensure the neighborhoods most at risk received targeted outreach efforts. Community leaders from these neighborhoods were invited to join the conversation to ensure efforts would be effective. They worked to develop commercials, radio ads, bus signs, and billboards with broad messages; however additional ads were run in the priority communities. Each ad included the website and a toll-free number to contact F-CAPP for more information on available resources. Finally, the local media and businesses were contacted and F-CAPP was able to negotiate reduced advertising and development rates for their ads.

Prior to the start of the campaign, the Board developed an evaluation plan to determine the number of people reached by the campaign and track program usage for one year prior to the campaign and one year following its launch. In order to effectively evaluate the program, Robert realized that objectives had to be developed to guide the project. Once complete, the Board used the worksheet Develop SMART Communications Objectives and created five objectives for the campaign. These objectives were created to measure changes in education, employment and adolescent pregnancy trends within the community before and after the new efforts. A Board member, Stephen, from the local university, volunteered to develop and run the evaluation at a substantially reduced rate.

The result of the leveraging of community assets to support the campaign’s efforts was substantial. Over the following year, local pregnancy prevention organizations saw a 40% increase in service uptake among the community, with a full 50% increase among the most at-risk populations. Further, fewer students dropped out of school due to pregnancy-related issues, leading to an increase in the graduation rate. It is projected that in the next five years, the local unemployment rate will decrease, some of which can be attributed to these efforts. Finally, business leaders are watching the results closely so that they can have a better package to present to prospective businesses when they consider Franklin County for their location.

Outcomes:

  • 40% increase in service uptake, 50% among most at-risk
  • Increased graduation rate
  • Projected decrease in unemployment
  • Business constituents interested in positive results

Chapter 3: Crafting Clear Communications

Go to Section: Summary > Step 1: Identify Your Purpose > Step 2: Choose Your Audience > Step 3: Know the Four Learning Types > Step 4: Craft Your Message > Step 5: Tailor Your Message According To Your Medium > Step 6: Plan for Communications Emergencies > Step 7: Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Message > Resources > Case Study

Summary

At a Glance

This chapter will help your organization:

  • Prepare compelling, valuable communications
  • Deliver them to the right audience using the appropriate medium

Chapter 3 guides your organization through the process of crafting clear communications to engage your community partners as well as individuals in your community in support of your efforts.

With so much information competing for our attention, your organization needs a clear and consistent message to communicate to your target audience. If your organization’s message is clear, finding partners who share your goals will be much easier. A clear and consistent message is also critical in developing strategic communications for your community outreach strategies.

This chapter will assist your organization with determining those key points that will help your audience clearly understand your mission, goals, and strategies. It will also provide steps that guide your organization through the process of creating and disseminating your message.

Tools and resources provided in this chapter will supply your organization with worksheets, assessment tools, and examples to facilitate crafting clear communications.

The case study presented at the end of this chapter describes the efforts of an adolescent pregnancy prevention and education outreach program that is working to change the dynamics of unhealthy relationships in a Hispanic community. The case study details the organization’s process of setting their goals, identifying their target audience, and crafting and tailoring their message to fit their target audience.

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 1: Identify Your Purpose

What you want to say depends on your mission and what you are trying to accomplish with your communication strategy. There are some communication goals that may be ongoing – raising your profile in the community, informing people about your program – while others may vary, depending on circumstances. Most organizations develop several complementary but distinct messages based on target audience and purpose.

First, establish a framework for what you are trying to communicate – the who, what, and why.

  • Who is your audience?
    It is important to assess the audience you are trying to reach. Your key target audiences go hand in hand with your purpose: who needs to hear what you have to say in order for your organization to achieve its intent?
  • What are you offering to your audience?
    Think about the community you serve. What are its needs and available resources? If you are trying to reach multiple audiences, realize that each will have different answers to this question. Learn what motivates them and determine what you want them to take away about your organization.
  • Why does your message matter to your audience?
    This is a crucial part of your message: why your audience should care about what you have to say. Think again about the what and the benefits your audience may receive. There are different kinds of benefits you may want to highlight:
    • A feeling: a sense of generosity when they donate their time or money;
    • A material benefit: better community economy;
    • An anticipated benefit: getting school credit for community service or volunteer hours.

Both leadership and staff should work together to develop a clear message. Staff at all levels will bring a unique perspective on your community’s needs and resources.

You can engage your staff members by having them tackle important questions: What are the most important accomplishments of our organization? Can you describe in simple, short and clear terms what the organization does?

  • How will funders/stakeholders/clients react to our message?
  • How does your message help shape public perception on controversial issues?
  • What statements and sound bites will be most memorable and persuasive to your key audiences?
  • How does the message fit with your mission/vision and services?

Answering these questions will make it easier for your target audience to recognize your organization’s unique message. With so much information competing for space, having a clearly branded message will make outreach efforts much easier. It helps to distinguish your organization from others. Once everyone in your organization understands what your message is, your organization can choose the appropriate audience and begin crafting the language in your message.

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 2: Choose Your Audience

Audience Assessment

As you craft your message, think about who you want to communicate with and understand what motivates them to listen and act on your message.

Knowing your audience makes it possible to plan your communication logically. First, choose which key audience your message will focus on. You’ll need different messages for different groups and different channels and methods to reach each of those groups. Next, consider whether you should direct your communication to those whose behavior, knowledge, or condition you hope to affect, or whether your communication needs to be indirect. Sometimes, for instance, in order to influence a population, you have to aim your message at those to whom they listen – clergy, community leaders, politicians, etc. Sometimes policy makers are the appropriate target, rather than those who are directly affected. These are only a few of the many possible ways to identify your audience. Once you’ve done that, it will give your organization ideas about how to reach them.

Persons who create policy, fund, develop and run programs and services for teen pregnancy prevention and pregnant and parenting adolescents each brings to the table their own approach and reason for their efforts that is a reflection of how they listen to, learn from and eventually act upon messages they hear. Attention to how and why your audience listens and learn is called andragogy and was introduced and advanced in the United States by Malcolm Knowles (‘andragogical model of learning’ a model of human learning, 1990). As noted by Lawson (2009) this model is based on five assumptions that should be considered as you plan and execute your communication strategy(ies):

The first assumption involves a change in self-concept from total dependency to increasing self-directedness. Because your partners are more likely to be self-directed, and would want to take responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating the message, you should establish that the information provided is a collaborative effort. Throughout the communication process, you should be engaged with partners in ongoing, two-way communication that will allow them to adopt and adapt the message that best fits them and their intended audience.
The second assumption addresses the role of experience. Each partner or audience member brings a wealth of experiences that provide a base for hearing and using a targeted communication. Finding out what your audience already knows and how your communication will be perceived to help them build on their experiences will facilitate adoption. Use of the tools Identify Your Target Audience and Create a Profile for Your Target Audience, as well as your own (your team’s) experience can assist you in this discovery effort.
The third assumption is that your audience is ready to listen and learn when they perceive they need to know or do something in order to perform more effectively in some aspect of the execution of their work. That is, they are more likely to listen and learn from the message if it is practical and realistic, problem-centered rather than subject-centered (e.g., just on pregnant and parenting teens or just on father involvement). The effective message helps your audience understand how integration of the message can lead to learning a particular skill or task that will help them be more successful in their work.
The fourth assumption is that your target audience(s) is most likely to listen to a message that has immediate, real-world applications. Practitioners are very much real time learners and users of information. They want information that can lead to obtaining skills and knowledge that will help them solve problems or complete tasks. People working in this field are motivated to listen and assimilate information when they see relevance to their real-life situations and are able to apply what they have learned as quickly as possible. Therefore, messages need to be clearly relevant to the immediate needs of the audience. Here both the Crafting Clear Communications Checklist and Message Development can be effective in assisting you in crafting just-in-time messages that emphasize how the message is going to make the audience member’s jobs easier.
The fifth and last assumption is that audiences are motivated to listen and learn because of internal factors such as self-esteem, greater self-confidence in their own knowledge and skills and opportunities to improve their own worth. Messages must allow the audience member to perceive a personal benefit.

Please note: These five assumptions and understanding of how your audience learns are also true as you plan your outreach strategy.1


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Lawson, K (2009) The Trainer’s Handbook, 3rd Updated Edition, Pfeiffer An Imprint of Wiley; San Francisco, CA; Jacobs, R. T. & Fuhrmann, B.S. (1984). Learning Style Inventory. In J.W. Pfeiffer & L.D. Goodstein (Eds.), The 1984 annual for group facilitators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.); Knowles, M (1990) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (Building Blocks of Human Potential) Gulf Publishing Co; Houston, TX

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 3: Know the Four Learning Types

In addition, in crafting and targeting your message it is critical that you have rudimentary understanding of your audience’s learning style. Learning style refers to the way in which an audience member approaches and responds to a message and learning experience. Larson (2009), based on the work of Jacobs and Fuhrmann (1984), suggest there are four types of learners:

Feelers

Feelers are very people-oriented, expressive and focus on feelings and emotions and gravitate toward learning experiences that explore people's attitudes and emotions so they are more likely to benefit from communications that give them the opportunity to interact, share opinions and experiences.

Observers

Observers are more likely to watch and listen, be reserved and quiet and will take their time before responding to or acting upon what they hear – however, when they do respond or act they are generally right on target. They are more likely to benefit from communication experiences that allow them to consider various ideas and opinions, and they seem to thrive on messages that are more open and allow them to learn through discovery.

Thinkers

Thinkers are persons who rely on logic and reason as well as the opportunity to share ideas and concepts and prefer messages that challenge them to analyze and evaluate what is being communicated, so like Feelers they appreciate interactive communication, especially an approach that allows them to question the rationale behind what is presented. They are more likely to challenge messages they perceive to be too general or without substance.

Doers

Doers have a learning style that is very common in this field since they are likely to be persons who want to actively be involved in the message development and delivery process, they want to take charge of the message and they are particularly interested in knowing how they are going to apply what is being communicated to their and other real world situations – so they like information that is presented clearly and concisely and will become impatient with messages that provide ‘additional’ or broad audience-focused information.

Keep in mind that no one learning style is right or even better than another. To be effective, you must design and target communication strategy to accommodate style differences.1

The Learning Style Inventory worksheet can guide you through this process.


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Lawson, K (2009) The Trainer’s Handbook, 3rd Updated Edition, Pfeiffer An Imprint of Wiley; San Francisco, CA; Jacobs, R. T. & Fuhrmann, B.S. (1984). Learning Style Inventory. In J.W. Pfeiffer & L.D. Goodstein (Eds.), The 1984 annual for group facilitators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.); Knowles, M (1990) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (Building Blocks of Human Potential) Gulf Publishing Co; Houston, TX

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 4: Craft Your Message

Content & Style

You communicate with content — but also with style, structure, tone, and more. You can improve the success of your message by considering all aspects when crafting communications.

Your message may be one of inspiration, pure information, education, persuasion, request, and/or explanation. It can vary in content, mood, language, and design. The possibilities are:

Content. Planning the content of your message is necessary to making it effective. Your message will be very different if you are recruiting participants than if you are trying to rally the public, or if you are trying to convince a population at risk to change their habits.

The Suggested Messaging tool can guide your organization through the process of crafting your message.

Mood. Consider what emotions do you want to appeal to? Your message may be upbeat—Look at all the wonderful things our participants have accomplished! Your message may be angry—We're tired of seeing our community's educational attainment decline, and were not going to stand for it anymore. Your message may be determined—It's time to roll up our sleeves and make teen pregnancy a thing of the past in our community.

The mood of your message will determine how people react to it. In general, if the mood is too extreme (too negative, too frightening, or tries to make your audience feel too guilty), people will not pay much attention to it. It may take some experience to learn how to strike the right balance.

Recently, foundations, government agencies, and public officials have been making use of research and outcomes measurement to determine the effectiveness of programs. This has led to a shift in targeting funds and support toward effective programs and organization's that are measurably improving the communities they serve. Therefore, it would be prudent to include evidence-based goals and outcomes in your organization's messaging (i.e., 70% of program graduates complete their high school degree compared to 25% of adolescent mothers nationally.)

Focusing your message to potential funders, community influencers and other stakeholders on the negative perceptions related to adolescent pregnancy is risky. Rather, consider approaching your message from a positive angle and highlight solutions that such partners can help you achieve. Recognize the potential, capabilities, and contributions of pregnant and parenting adolescents in the community instead of overemphasizing their liabilities, deficits and needs; this is a much more effective way to mobilize them into action.

Consider using personal stories, case studies and real-life examples. Support these with facts and data to help your intended audience see how you are making a difference in the community. Clients who have successfully completed your program can also be great communicators of your message. Training them with some basic public speaking skills can benefit you and also give them a leg up for the future.

Language and styles of communication. Different audiences will require different communication styles. It is important for your organization to consider your audiences perception of your motives.

There are two aspects to language: one is the actual language — English, Spanish, Korean, etc. — that your intended audience speaks; the other is the kind of language you use — formal or informal, simple or complex, referring to popular figures and ideas or to obscure ones. You can address the language people speak by presenting your communications in both the official language (English in the U.S.) and the spoken language(s) of the population(s) you are hoping to reach.

The second aspect, the kind of language you use in your messaging, can be more complicated. If your message is too informal, your audience might feel you are talking down to them, or, worse, that you are making an insincere attempt to get close to them by communicating in a way that is clearly not normal for you. If your message is too formal — too stiff, too many educated words — your audience might feel you are not really talking to them at all. You will usually do best by using plain, straightforward language that says what you want to say simply and clearly.1

When developing your message, consider the following:

  • What is the primary language of the community? If English is not the primary language, how is communication translated?
  • How does your target audience receive its information (Internet, newspapers, radio)? Where do they access such information (libraries, schools, etc.)? How often is this information accessed?
  • How do they share information with each other?
  • How does the community discuss adolescent pregnancy issues? Do they discuss the issues at all?
  • What are cultural norms that need to be considered? Would a certain phrase be offensive?

Language and communication styles are especially important to consider as your organization reaches out to increasingly diverse communities. Translating and pilot testing materials intended for non-English speakers is a good first step, but it is important that the staff also mirrors the populations cultural diversity. It is essential that your organization have staff members who understand the language and cultural environment of each ethnic group in your target population, as well as the cultural skills to relate to your audience. Especially as issues of sex and sexuality are considered taboo in many cultures, it is crucial that there are as few barriers between your organization and your intended audience as possible.

Consistency. To ensure a consistent message, review your organization's strategy and goals. If these are unclear, it will be more difficult to determine the right audience(s) to engage. Both leadership and staff should work together to develop a clear and consistent message.

Some tips on maintaining consistency:

  • Select one or two messages and keep them simple. If you tailor the message to a specific audience, ensure that staff, board members and others working with your organization are promoting the same messages.
  • Use the messages in all materials including: e-mail signatures, web sites, printed materials, etc.2

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/index.aspx
2 Building Partnerships Tool Kit. Region 8 Family Planning, www.region8familyplanning.org/index.htm

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 5: Tailor Your Message According To Your Medium

Channels of communication relate to the medium through which you convey your key messages. There are numerous channels to choose from in order to reach your target audience depending on what the members of your audience read, listen to, watch, and engage in. It is critical that your organization understand what works effectively with different audiences. The Communications Channels worksheet will help you brainstorm and provide ideas for potential communications channels.

The individuals that can help you spread your message can vary and include community leaders, elected officials, CEOs of local businesses, clergy, community activists and ordinary people who are nonetheless respected and listened to by their neighbors. Institutions and organizations, such as colleges, hospitals, service clubs, faith communities, and other health and community organizations all have access to groups of community members who might need to hear your message.

As mentioned in Chapters I and II, developing ways of contacting and establishing relationships with influential individuals and institutions in the community and/or the population you are trying to reach is an important part of your outreach plan. You have to make personal contacts, give the media and others reasons to want to help you, and follow through over time to sustain those relationships in order to keep communication channels open.

The Checklist for Effective Brochures and Characteristics of Quality Educational and Promotional Materials tools will help your organization ensure that the materials being produced are effective. Remember that your organization offers a unique benefit to the community that no other organization can claim. If you keep this in the front of your mind as you develop your message, you will have great success in reaching those who can help you fulfill your mission.

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 6: Plan for Communications Emergencies

Any number of things can happen in the course of a communication effort. Someone can forget to e-mail a press release, or can e-mail the wrong information. A crucial word on your posters or in your brochure can be misspelled, or the phone number or e-mail address of your organization might be incorrect. A reporter may misunderstand important information, or simply get it wrong. Worse, you might have to deal with a real disaster involving the organization that has the potential to discredit everything you do.

It is important to try to anticipate these kinds of problems, and to create a plan to deal with them. Crisis planning should be part of any communication plan, so you will know exactly what to do when a problem or crisis occurs. Crisis plans should include who takes responsibility for what – dealing with the media, correcting errors, deciding when something has to be redone rather than fixed. It should cover as many situations, and as many aspects of each situation, as you can think of, so that you will not be too surprised and upset to do the right thing when one of them comes up.1

Some tips for managing controversy include:

Before taking action, define the real problem: Obtain copies of the article, television transcript, information from the state or federal agency or other documents that describe the situation. Follow-up with telephone calls to the original source to verify the facts and get more detailed information.
Determine the scope of the problem: Assess whether the problem is a local, regional or national concern. This will entail anticipating the extent of the media coverage and evaluating whether an issue, such as an allegation about a policy, is national or confined to one area.
Determine the potential impact on your organization: Assess if the problem can be isolated to one department or issue, or if it will affect your entire agency. Assess if the problem has "staying power" or is limited to a "one-time" story.
Mobilize your issues management team: When a controversy develops, these individuals should be allowed to devote themselves entirely to the situation. An issues management plan should be in place and ready to go.
Centralize the control of information: Make sure your messages are consistent and clear.
Appoint only one spokesperson, backed up by experts as appropriate.
Communicate with internal audiences: Besides the media, be sure to communicate with your employees, local officials, service recipients and other government agencies throughout the controversy. By providing information quickly, it will be possible to speak "with one voice" and avoid confusion.
Be flexible: Try to accommodate journalists, reporters and producers by providing timely and accurate information. Local media do not treat stories in the same way as national reporters. Make sure your spokesperson understands the different needs of these media and can anticipate the kinds of information they are seeking.2

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/index.aspx
2 Building Partnerships Tool Kit. Region 8 Family Planning, www.region8familyplanning.org/index.htm

Steps to Crafting Clear Communications:
Step 7: Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Message

As a health or community service organization, evaluation should be part of any initiatives undertaken. The evaluation methodology can employ focus groups, key informant interviews, SurveyMonkey and Facebook polls, surveys, and/or street interviews. The Focusing Your Evaluation tool can guide your organization through an evaluation. If you evaluate your communication plan in terms of both how well you carry it out and how well it works, you will be able to make changes to improve it. It will keep getting more effective each time you implement it. No plan is ever perfect, but you can make yours as effective as possible if you monitor and evaluate it continually.

As with just about every phase of health and community work, your organization must continually adjust its communications plan. Memories are short and your organization must keep reminding the community of its key messages, that your organization performs important and successful work, and that the problems and issues in question have not gone away.1

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Telfair, Joseph. (2010). “Fostering Collaboration Along the Continuum.” Presentation given at the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs National AFL Care Grantee Annual Conference.

Case Study: Crafting Clear Communications

Preface

The following case study describes the efforts of a adolescent pregnancy prevention and education outreach program that is working to change the dynamics of unhealthy relationships in a Hispanic community. The case study details the organization’s use of the tools in this chapter in setting goals, identifying a target audience, and crafting and tailoring messages to fit their target audience.

Selena is the director of the Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices adolescent pregnancy prevention and education outreach program in San Diego County, California. Targeted at young adolescent and teenage Hispanic girls, the goal of Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices is to prevent unwanted adolescent pregnancy, delay the onset of sexual activity, and if pregnancy occurs, to provide linkages to services to assist clients in caring for their child. Finally, vouchers for free or reduced cost medical services, free condoms and birth control are made available to teens who want them.

Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices has been in existence for eight years, with Selena as its founder and director. With the heavy migration of Hispanic individuals into the area, the demand for services has increased. With this influx of new clients, Selena noticed that the girls who sought assistance were often three or more years younger than their sexual partners and that a traditional male-dominated culture assisted in fostering unhealthy relationships. To make matters worse, these unhealthy relationships, which at times included physical, mental and/or emotional abuse, appeared to be reinforced by the girls’ friends, families and the greater community. Conversations with young girls found that they were often afraid of losing or upsetting their boyfriend, causing them to consent to sex at younger ages or that their desire to have unconditional love and support made them want to have a child. Concerned by this, Selena decided that she would work to change the dynamics of these unhealthy relationships in her community.

Identifying the Purpose

The first thing Selena did was meet with her staff and identify the exact campaign message needed. A conversation was started around what the overall purpose and goal(s) were. Selena engaged the group in an exercise to clearly lay out Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices’ values and goals and what the organization tries to accomplish. The following questions were posed to the staff:

  • What are the most important accomplishments of our organization? Can you describe in simple, short and clear terms what the organization does?
  • How do funders/stakeholders/clients react to our message?
  • How does our message help shape public perception of controversial issues?
  • What statements and sound bites will be most memorable and persuasive to our key audiences?
  • How does the message fit with our mission/vision and services?

During discussion, the group realized that the current model for male-dominant relationships was being taught and reinforced by the following groups: faith organizations, media, peers and family. The staff became aware that some of their potential funders were community leaders with traditional viewpoints, which could affect the overall success of the campaign and that open discussion about sexual relationships was still taboo in their community. The issue appeared to be ingrained in the community, making Selena realize that several different audiences needed to be targeted. Because of this, they decided a more positive approach to the issue would be beneficial, where they would focus on the benefits of a healthy relationship, including communication and respect between partners. Therefore, staff decided that the official purpose of the message would be to promote the benefits of healthy relationships in their community.

Choosing Your Audience

Once the purpose was chosen, Selena began work to identify which audiences needed to be included in their campaign. Using the Identify Your Target Audience worksheet, the Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices staff discussed the importance of targeting a range of audiences and how effective they had been in the past. While the majority of the audiences were deemed as being “somewhat important”, because of the community’s cultural norms and values and by virtue of who the girls interacted with the most, the following audiences were ranked as the most important: health care providers, faith communities, recreational clubs, public institutions and media.

Upon completing the worksheet, Selena set out to better understand each audience through use of the Create a Profile for Your Target Audience. The tool proved to be very useful, as she realized that in order to be effective, each audience would require a different strategy and approach. For instance, health care providers would be interested in healthy relationships as it contributes to better physical, emotional and mental health outcomes both now and in later life while faith communities would be interested in delaying sexual debut, which has been found to be influenced by healthy relationships.

Crafting the Message

Now that the purpose was identified and the audiences profiled, Selena worked on crafting her messages. In order to ensure that each message was appropriate, Selena focused on their content. First, Selena used the Crafting Clear Communications Checklist for each audience to ensure the message(s) addressed the principles described. Keeping the Crafting Clear Communications Checklist on hand, she used the Message Development worksheet to clarify the issue, why each audience needed to care about the issue, and what she wanted them to do about the issue. Finally, she used the Suggested Messaging tool to ensure that the language and content would be appropriate for the targeted group.

While crafting the messages, Selena made sure that the mood of the messages appealed to the emotions she was attempting to elicit from each audience. Because the overall goal was to promote healthy relationships and their benefits, she decided to stay away from an angry tone and rather use one of determination and hope. For the faith community, the link was made between healthy relationships and decreased sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy. For recreational clubs, personal stories and messages from clients and teens were used to address the issue. Finally, for public institutions, the cost differences/savings of promoting healthy relationships over ignoring negative ones was addressed.

After the messages were reviewed and edits made, Selena and her group examined the language and chosen style of communication for each. To determine the most effective promotion language and communication styles for each, Selena did research into what had worked previously and engaged in discussions with members of the target audience to gauge their preferences. During this research phase, Selena set out to answer the following questions:

  • What is the primary language of the community? If English is not the primary language, how is communication translated?
  • How does the target audience receive its information (Internet, newspapers, radio)? Where do they access such information (libraries, schools, etc.)? How often is this information accessed?
  • How does the audience share information with each other?
  • How does the community discuss adolescent pregnancy issues, if at all?
  • What are cultural norms that need to be considered? Would a certain phrase be offensive?

Based on their findings, the decision was made to make the messages available in both English and Spanish, as much of the community was bilingual. Further, Selena found that groups preferred different modes of communication, all of which necessitated unique approaches. Finally, each group had varying cultural norms which led to different wordings of the same message. For instance, discussion of contraception was removed from messages targeted at religious institutions so members would not be offended.

Once the messages were developed, Selena set about ensuring that while different, each message was consistent with the overall purpose of promoting healthy relationships in the community. Both Selena and her staff reviewed the messages to make sure they did not contradict one another. A master list of each message and its target audience was developed for everyone to refer to in case questions were asked. All materials were reviewed to ensure the appropriate message was on the appropriate item based on the audience set to receive it. Finally, an informal focus group was held with a couple of members from each target audience to ensure the message was read and interpreted the way it was intended.

Tailor Your Message According to Your Medium

After crafting the messages, Selena set out to choose the appropriate medium for each. Using the Communication Channels tool, different approaches were chosen for each audience and for some audiences, multiple mediums were selected. Once selected, Selena approached members of each audience to ensure their leaders would assist Healthy Lives, Healthy Choices in delivering the message.

Selena drew on resources leveraged from Healthy Lives’ business partnerships to develop brochures for physicians to pass out to patients, brochures and posters for the recreational clubs and public institutions, an internet website, presentations at faith institutions, press releases and community events to inform the greater population. The tools Checklist for Effective Brochures and Characteristics of Quality Educational and Promotional Materials were used to develop the brochures.

Finally, members of each community were asked to review the tailored message to ensure that it appealed to the group for which it was intended.

Conclusion & Sources

Go to Section: Conclusion > Sources

Conclusion

Please take the Post-Module Knowledge Assessment Survey to confirm what youve learned in following this module.

This Toolkit is designed to be utilized by organizations that serve adolescents in their continued efforts to promote, implement, and evaluate innovative programs in the field of adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting.

The objectives of this toolkit are to aid your organization in identifying opportunities for increasing strategic partnerships and community outreach, conducting an audience profile that identifies priority communities and target populations for outreach, and developing action-oriented messages tailored to specific audiences. Indicators for success include:

  • Stronger partnerships with other organizations working in the adolescent pregnancy prevention and parenting field
  • Raised awareness in your community of the services offered by your organization
  • Expanded access to a wider range of resources for teen pregnancy prevention and for pregnant and parenting adolescents and their families
  • Enhanced support for teen pregnancy prevention, and pregnant and parenting adolescents

Through the partnership-building process and implementation of outreach strategies that engage your community, your organization will be empowered to bring about more effective and efficient delivery of programs, to increase communication among groups and break down stereotypes, and create long-term, permanent social change. Ultimately, the end goal of transforming communities to promote healthy adolescents can be achieved in large part through collaborative processes with local organizations and community members who share your interest and passion for change.

Sources

  • The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/index.aspx
  • Ray, Karen. The Nimble Collaboration St. Paul, MN. Fieldstone Alliance Publications, 2004
  • Building Partnerships Tool Kit. Region 8 Family Planning, http://www.region8familyplanning.org/index.htm
  • Kretzmann, J. and McKnight, J (2005). Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity. http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/images/kelloggabcd.pdf
  • http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y5794e/Y5794E04.htm
  • Lawson, K (2009) The Trainer’s Handbook, 3rd Updated Edition, Pfeiffer An Imprint of Wiley; San Francisco, CA; Jacobs, R. T. & Fuhrmann, B.S. (1984). Learning Style Inventory. In J.W. Pfeiffer & L.D. Goodstein (Eds.), The 1984 annual for group facilitators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.); Knowles, M (1990) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (Building Blocks of Human Potential) Gulf Publishing Co; Houston, TX
  • Telfair, Joseph. (2010). “Fostering Collaboration Along the Continuum .” Presentation given at the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs National AFL Care Grantee Annual Conference.

Fatherhood E-Learning Module



Overview

Overview

Please note: This course will take approximately 60 minutes to complete; do not refresh your browser window or you will have to begin again. Instead, use the next/previous buttons to work your way through the course.

Engaging fathers is a dynamic, ongoing process. This course provides an overview of key insights and data on the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers play in the well-being of their children. Effective father engagement requires consistent and long-term commitment on the part of organizations; this course will better equip you to begin to support fathers and reduce the ill effects of father absence in your community.

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the paradigm shift on involving fathers in childcare; and
  • Understand the scope and negative effects of father absence; and
  • Explore the benefits of father involvement in child development; and
  • Consider opportunities to involve fathers.

This course covers the following key areas:

  • Paradigm shift on father involvement
  • The facts of father absence
  • The benefits of father involvement
  • Male perspectives
  • Challenges for teen fathers
  • Perceptions of father involvement
  • Opportunities to engage fathers

Part 1: Paradigm Shift on Father Involvement

Go to Section: Father Involvement > Stages of Adoption: A Decision-Making Model > Learning Exercises

Father Involvement

Involving fathers in child care is a new focus for many programs. This section explores the steps necessary to make a shift towards including fathers in programs and services.

Traditionally, child-focused programs were designed to provide services addressing the needs of the mother-child dyad. These programs were often designed, structured, and staffed primarily by women.

Program evaluations and research continuously document the positive impact of responsible fathering on families and communities.1

Among program developers and policymakers, there is a renewed interest and focus on providing supports to better involve fathers in the lives of their children.

“Responsible, engaged fathers are critical to the financial, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being of children, and, therefore to the strength and health of American families and communities.”
President Barack Obama, Speech delivered Father’s Day 2008, Apostolic Church of God in Chicago


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: The White House, “Promoting Responsible Fatherhood.” June 2012.

Stages of Adoption - A Decision Making Model

Engaging fathers is a new approach in the maternal/child model of care. Changing an approach from “this is how we’ve always done it” to “we need to be open to change” requires education and effort. It requires helping people move from acknowledging a problem to considering what actions are needed to change it.

Stages of Adoption

Each of us makes decisions throughout the day, generally following an unconscious succession of thoughts that bring us to a conclusion. We follow this decision making model to make simple decisions as well as more complex ones.

The four stages of adoption in a decision making process are:

  1. Awareness—I know there is a problem.
  2. InterestI want to find out more.
  3. Decision—I have to do something.
  4. Implementation—This is what I am going to do.

The more complex an issue, the more time and information may be needed to move to the next stage.

Exercise 1

There are several models of decision making. Stages of Adoption is one such model. What are the stages of adoption?

Part 2: The Facts of Father Absence

Go to Section: Father Absence > Other Effects of Father Absence > Learning Exercises

Father Absence

Let’s take a look at what the research shows in the U.S.:

  • In 1960, 8 million children lived apart from their fathers.1
  • Today, over 24 million children live in homes without their fathers.2
  • One out of every three children in the U.S. lives apart from their father.3
  • 17% visit their fathers at least once a week4
  • 83% see their fathers less than weekly5

Children in Father-Absent Homes

In 2009, the U.S. Census found that approximately one in four U.S. children (about 17 million) lived with their mother but without their father.6

Of children with non-resident fathers:

  • 17% visit their fathers at least once a week
  • 83% see their fathers less than weekly
  • …and of that 83%, 40% have not seen their fathers at all during the previous year7

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years/1 and Marital Status of Parents, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin/2 and Selected Characteristics of the Child for All Children: 2010”. Table C3. Internet Release Date November, 2010. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010/tabC3-all.xls
2 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years/1 and Marital Status of Parents, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin/2 and Selected Characteristics of the Child for All Children: 2010”. Table C3. Internet Release Date November, 2010. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010/tabC3-all.xls
3 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years/1 and Marital Status of Parents, by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin/2 and Selected Characteristics of the Child for All Children: 2010”. Table C3. Internet Release Date November, 2010. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010/tabC3-all.xls
4 Source: Fagan, J., Laughlin, L., & Farrie, D. (2009). Involvement with children following marital and non-marital separations. Fathering, 7, 226-248.
5 Source: Fagan, J., Laughlin, L., & Farrie, D. (2009). Involvement with children following marital and non-marital separations. Fathering, 7, 226-248.
6 Source: Kreider, R. M. & Ellis, R. (2011). Living Arrangements of Children: 2009. Current Population Reports, P70-126. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC.
7 Source: Fagan, J., Laughlin, L., & Farrie, D. (2009). Involvement with children following marital and non-marital separations. Fathering, 7, 226-248

Other Effects of Father Absence

Effects on Mothers

Pregnant mothers without the child’s father in the home are:

  • 70% less likely to obtain prenatal care.
  • More likely to experience depression.
  • Less likely to breastfeed.1

Effects on Children

Early menarche

Separation or frequent changes in family formation increase a woman's risk of early menarche.1

Teen Pregnancy

Women who experience three or more changes in her family environment exhibit higher risk factors and are five times more likely to have an early pregnancy.2

Substance Abuse

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teens living in two-parent families who have fair to poor relationships with their fathers are sixty-eight percent (68%) more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs than teens living in a two-parent household with a good to excellent relationship with their fathers.3

Incarceration

Youth in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in homes with both a mom and a dad.4

“Every child has a hole in their heart in the shape of their father.”
— Roland Warren, President, National Fatherhood Initiative


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Albrecht, C. and Teachman, J. D. Childhood Living Arrangements and Risk of Premarital Intercourse.” Journal of Family Issues 24 (October 2003): 867-894.
2 Source: Quinlan, R. J. “Father absence, parental care, and female reproductive development.” Evolution and Human Behavior 24 (November 2003): 376-390.
3 Source: National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents. Columbia University. August 2009.
4 Source: Harper, C.C. and McLanahan, S. S. “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397

Exercise 1

Mothers in father-absent homes are what percent less likely than mothers who live with fathers to get adequate prenatal care?

Exercise 2

The risks to children who grow up in father-absent homes include (select all that apply):

Part 3: The Benefits of Father Involvement

Go to Section: Child Well-being and Self-Esteem > Child Educational Success > Pro-Social Behavior > Learning Exercises

Child Well-being and Self-Esteem

Father involvement benefits the child, the mother, and the community as a whole.

Premature infants whose fathers spent more time playing with them had better cognitive outcomes at age three.1

At six months old, children whose fathers had been actively involved from birth scored higher on a test of mental and motor development than children whose fathers were not involved during the first eight weeks. They also managed stress better during their school years.2

Adolescents between the ages of 14-19 have higher self-esteem and less depression when they have greater intimacy with their fathers.3

African American boys with married parents were found to have higher self-esteem, self-control, and feelings of personal power compared with boys who had only their mothers in the home, even when income, parental education, and the number of people living in the home were controlled. 4


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Yogman MW, Kindlon D, Earls FJ, “Father Involvement and Cognitive Behavioral Outcomes of Premature Infants,” Journal of the American Academy Child and Adolescent Psychology 34 (1995): 58-66.
2 Source: Pfiffner LJ, McBurnett K, Rathouz PJ, “Father Absence and Familial Antisocial Characteristics” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 5, 2001, pp. 357-367
3 Source: Field, T., et al. “Adolescents’ Intimacy With Parents and Friends.” Adolescence, 30.117 (Spring 1995): 133-140.
4 Source: Mandara, J. and Murray. C.B.. “Effects of Parental Marital Status, Income, and Family Functioning on African Adolescent Self-Esteem.” Journal of Family Psychology, 14 (2000): 475-490.

Child Educational Success

In two-parent families, father involvement exerts a distinct and independent positive influence on whether children get mostly "A"s, enjoy school, do not have to repeat grades, and participate in extracurricular activities, even after accounting for the mother’s involvement.1

In a study of third and fourth graders, a father’s provision of warmth and control was positively related to higher academic achievement.2

Greater father involvement also reduces the likelihood that children in 6th through 12th grade have ever been suspended or expelled from school.3

According to a study by the Department of Education, when fathers are actively involved with their children, the children:

  • Have higher school performance.
  • Have higher SAT scores.
  • Have 38% higher grades.
  • Demonstrate greater ambition.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities.
  • Enroll in college at a higher rate (daughters specifically).4

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Father Involvement for Healthy Child Outcomes: Partners Supporting Knowledge Development and Transfer, March 1, 2007.
2 Source: Coley, R. L. “Children’s Socialization Experiences and Functioning in Single-Mother Households: The Importance of Fathers and Other Men.” Child Development, 69 (February 1998): 219-230.
3 Source: Coley, R. L. “Children’s Socialization Experiences and Functioning in Single-Mother Households: The Importance of Fathers and Other Men.” Child Development, 69 (February 1998): 219-230.
4 Source: U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Father Involvement for Healthy Child Outcomes: Partners Supporting Knowledge Development and Transfer, March 1, 2007.

Pro-Social Behavior

Father involvement has a direct effect on a child’s behaviors. Differences in the levels of positive involvement have significant effects on the behavioral outcomes of the child. Overall, it is more beneficial when the father lives in the home with the child.1

Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their children can lead to less gendered roles. Traditionally feminine activities such as sewing, cooking, jumping rope, and art were more common for both boys and girls when a father was involved. Hence, a father’s approval may be effective in removing the stigma attached to femininity in any form, particularly for boys.2

Research tells us that a father influences his children in many ways, including:

  • The intellectual ability of his children.
  • The behavior of his children.
  • His children’s ethnic heritage.
  • The occupational choices his children will make.
  • The ways his children will parent their children.3

Children learn to be more empathetic when there is a father in the home. Father involvement creates a buffering effect, making it less likely that his child will bully others and also equipping the child to better recover if he or she is bullied.4

“In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence — both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference.

“That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.”
President Obama on the 100th anniversary of Father’s Day, June 21, 2009


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Carlson, M.J. Family Structure, Father Involvement and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes. Working Paper #05-10. Princeton NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-Being, 2005: 2, 20-23.
2 Source: Deutch, F. M., Servis, L.J. & Payne, J.D. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.
3 Source: FATHER FACTS, 6TH EDITION • © 2011 National Fatherhood Initiative
4 Source: Flouri, E. and Buchanan, A. “Life Satisfaction in Teenage Boys: The Moderating Role of Father Involvement and Bullying.” Aggressive Behavior. 28 (2002): 126-133.

Exercise 1

True or False: Premature infants whose fathers spent more time playing with them had better cognitive outcomes at age three.

Exercise 2

True or False: In a study of third and fourth graders, a fathers’ provision of warmth and control was negatively related to academic achievement.

Exercise 3

True or False: Higher levels of father involvement have been linked to higher levels of aggression in adolescent boys.

Part 4: Male Perspectives on Teen Sex & Fatherhood

Go to Section: What Do Men Think? > Learning Exercises

What Do Men Think?

In 2009, Seventeen Magazine, in partnership with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, conducted a survey of 1200 males ages 15-22. They labeled the results as “surprising” due to the fact that many of the results didn’t fit into the accepted stereotypes.1

  • One in five (21%) say they’ve been pressured by a girl to go further sexually than they wanted to (17% of younger men, 25% of the older group).
  • Nearly one in four (23%) admit they’ve lied about having sex to get friends to stop pressuring them about having sex.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) agree that there is "way too much pressure" from society to have sex.
  • Nearly three out of four (73%) say they have more respect for girls who say no to sex.
  • More than half (56%) say they are "relieved" when their female partner wants to wait to have sex.
  • 83% would gladly wear a condom if a girl asked (only 6% would refuse).
  • 66% would gladly go get birth control with a girl if she asked (only 11% would refuse).
  • Two-thirds of young men (65%) who have talked to their parents about preventing pregnancy say it was helpful. Unfortunately, only slightly more than half (53%) report having had such conversations.
  • Young men are more comfortable talking to their moms about their feelings (how to treat girls, their feelings about girls, etc.), but want to talk with their dads about sex and protection.2

Other research findings also challenge stereotypes about teen boys:

  • 90% of teen males believe that male responsibilities include talking about contraception, using contraception, and taking responsibility for a child they fathered.3
  • Approximately two-thirds of teen boys agree that it is better to get married than to go through life single, compared to just over half of teen girls.4

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

3 Source: Urban Institute Publication - Involving Males in Preventing Teen Pregnancy, 1999.
4 Source: Flannigan, C., Huffman, R., & Smith, J. , Teens' Attitudes Toward Marriage, Cohabitation, and Divorce, 2002, in Science Says. 2005, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: Washington, DC.

Exercise 1

What percentage of teen males believe male responsibilities include: talking about contraception, using contraception, and taking responsibility for a child they fathered?

Part 5: Challenges for Teen Fathers

Go to Section: Challenges > Learning Exercises

Challenges

Teen fathers have a unique set of challenges. Although there are many support programs designed to address the teen mother’s needs, there are few support systems designed to assist the teen father with his challenges.

Limited Contact with Children

In a study of 45 children of mostly white teenage fathers in a mid-sized urban area in Oregon, only 42% were living with their fathers at 18-24 months of age. Fully 40% no longer had any contact whatsoever with their fathers.1

Low Academic Achievement

Poor academic performance was the strongest predictor of who would later become an unwed, teenage father.2

Less than half of all young men who have fathered children in high school finish high school. Those who do are highly unlikely to seek any higher education.3

Lack of Self Worth

Teen depression often takes the form of anger and irritability, making it difficult for parents as well as social service providers to see that depression is the force at work.4

Boys are particularly susceptible to suppressing feelings because society does not validate feelings in boys. A boy can become the subject of ridicule if he expresses feelings he may be having.5


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Fagot, B. I., Pears, K.C. Capaldi, D.M., Crosby, L. & Leve, C.S. “Becoming an Adolescent Father: Precursors and Parenting.” Developmental Psychology, 34 (1998): 1209-1219.
2 Source: Fagot, B. I., Pears, K.C. Capaldi, D.M., Crosby, L. & Leve, C.S. “Becoming an Adolescent Father: Precursors and Parenting.” Developmental Psychology, 34 (1998): 1209-1219.
3 Source: 2004 Kids Count Data Book: Moving Youth From Risk to Opportunity. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2004: 11.
4 Source: Berlinger, N.T. Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression: New York: Harper Resource, 2005, pp 304.
5Source: Berlinger, N.T. Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression: New York: Harper Resource, 2005, pp 304.

Exercise 1

What percentage of all young men who have fathered children in high school finish high school?

Part 6: Perceptions of Father Involvement

Go to Section: Survey Data > Do Dads Have the Skills? > What are the Obstacles to Father Involvement? > Learning Exercises

Survey Data

The following section explores both mother and father attitudes about father involvement. Let’s explore the attitudes on fathering that were found in these surveys.1 Although these surveys were focused on adults, these attitudes were intensified in the teen population. Moms and dads agree that there is a father absence crisis. Over 50% of mothers expressed the belief that fathers are replaceable, both by mothers (55%) and by other males (66%).


Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Surveys available from: http://www.fatherhood.org

Do Dads Have the Skills?

What Dads Think:

  • Only a third of dads strongly agree with the statement that they have all the necessary skills and knowledge to be good fathers.
  • Only half of dads reported that they felt ready to be fathers when they first became fathers.
  • Over half of dads feel they are replaceable.1

What Moms Think:

  • Moms not living with dads reported "lack of knowledge about how to be a good dad" as the biggest obstacle to good fathering and "lack of parenting resources designed specifically for fathers" as 3rd highest. These obstacles ranked 3rd and 4th for moms overall.
  • Moms not living with dads were very dissatisfied with dad’s performance.2

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Pop’s Culture: A National Survey of Dads’ Attitudes on Fathering 2010
2 Source: Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers’ Attitudes on Fathering 2009

What are the Obstacles to Father Involvement?

Moms and dads disagree on the obstacles to father involvement.

Dads think the obstacles are:

  1. Work responsibilities
  2. Media/popular culture
  3. Financial problems
  4. Lack of knowledge
  5. Child’s mother

Moms think the obstacles are:

  1. Work responsibilities
  2. Dad’s relationship with own dad
  3. Lack of knowledge
  4. Lack of parenting resources for dads
  5. Lack of support from relatives/friends

In today’s culture of social media and high-speed internet, the messages reaching adolescents are often uncensored and inappropriate. TV dads are often portrayed as immature and less-than-intelligent followers who are rarely looked to for advice or guidance. Unfortunately, many young men may lack the appropriate role models.

The underlying message from the media is that dads are not very important or necessary which is completely contradicted by research studies documenting the critical role fathers play in helping children grow and develop.

Exercise 1

What percentage of mothers think that dads are replaceable by moms?

Exercise 2

Moms and dads agree that the number one obstacle to father involvement is:

Part 7: Opportunities to Engage Fathers

Go to Section: Barriers to Father Engagement > Strategies to Engage Fathers

Barriers to Father Engagement

Barriers to father engagement include:

  • Strong Maternal/Child model of care.
  • Assumption that fathers should know they are included.
  • Primarily female-run programs.
  • Staff fear or biases around engaging teen fathers.
  • Lack of programs for teen dads.
  • Lack of male social service providers.
  • Organizational policies that prevent engagement.
  • Intake process that requires limited information on fathers.
  • Staff capacity to expand services to fathers.

Strategies to Engage Fathers

There are many ways for your organization to engage fathers in programming.

Engaging fathers begins with a holistic approach to becoming father-friendly. Father inclusion should be a priority for the entire organization’s agenda and be stressed in leadership development, program development and community engagement.

Get Started

  • Assess how well your organization is currently doing at engaging fathers and create an action plan based on the results of the assessment. Sample assessment tools are available at Fatherhood.org.
  • Pull together an advisory team to develop ways for the organization to intentionally focus on fathers to increase their involvement.
  • Share research about the important role fathers play in helping children grow.
  • Promote the belief that fathers can learn how to be involved, responsible, and committed dads.
  • Assess staff on their ability to engage fathers as a performance metric.
  • Offer continuing education for staff on engaging fathers. Educate mothers on the importance of father engagement for child well-being.

“The primary task of every civilization is to teach the young men to be fathers.”
-Margaret Mead

Summary

Go to Section: Conclusion > Course Summary

Conclusion

This section includes the conclusion, a summary of each section and resources.

This course provided you with an overview of the challenges and opportunities of including fathers in programs and services. Engaging fathers and achieving a sustainable paradigm shift towards father inclusion requires an ongoing effort on the part of the entire organization.

In the effort to reduce teen pregnancy, men (whether they be the teen father, the father of the teen mother or a potential father) need to be equally and intentionally included in programs and services.

Course Summary

This course covered the following key areas:

Paradigm Shift in Father Involvement

  • Traditionally, child-focused programs were designed to provide services addressing the needs of the mother-child dyad.
  • There is a renewed interest and focus on engaging and involving fathers in the lives of their children. Engaging fathers is a new approach in the maternal/child model of care.
  • Stages of Adoption is one decision-making model that can describe the paradigm shift towards including fathers. The four stages are awareness, interest, decision and implementation.

The Facts of Father Absence

  • One out of every three children in the U.S. lives apart from their father. The number of children in father-absent homes has increased from 8 million in 1960 to over 24 million today.
  • 40% of children in father-absent homes see their fathers less than once weekly.
  • Mothers who lack the father as a partner are less likely to breastfeed and/or seek prenatal care.
  • Children who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely to engage in substance abuse, become teen parents, and be convicted of crimes.

The Benefits of Father Involvement

  • Children who grow up with fathers have higher self-esteem, educational success, and pro-social behavior.
  • Differences in the levels of involvement have significant effects on the behavioral outcomes of the child.

Male Perspectives

  • Seventeen Magazine, in partnership with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, conducted a survey of 1200 males ages 15-22.
  • Boys responded that there was too much pressure for them to have sex.
  • Over 90% of boys surveyed agreed that male responsibilities include talking about contraception, using contraception, and taking responsibility for a child they fathered.
  • Most teen boys found conversations about sex and contraception with their parents helpful, but many have not had these conversations.

Perceptions of Father Involvement

  • Moms and dads agree that there is a father absence crisis.
  • Both moms and dads feel that dads are replaceable, either by moms or by other men.
  • Moms and dads agree that work responsibilities are the number one obstacle to father involvement. They disagree on other obstacles.
  • Moms not living with dads are very dissatisfied with the dad’s performance.

Challenges for Teen Fathers

  • Challenges for teen fathers include lack of strong role models, lack of social supports, and lack of resources.
  • Poor academic performance is the strongest predictor of who will later become an unwed, teenage father.

Opportunities to Engage Fathers

  • Engaging fathers begins with a holistic approach to becoming father-friendly. Father inclusion should be a priority for the entire organization.

Final Exam

Go to Section: Intro > Final Exam

You have nearly completed the Fatherhood E-Learning Module!

To finish the module, you must correctly answer 8 of the following 10 questions. After you have submitted your answers, click "Submit Final Exam" to see your results.

Question 1

Why is there an increased focus on father involvement in children’s lives? Select all that apply.

Question 2

According to U.S Census Bureau figures, the number of children living without a father in the home has increased from 8 million in 1960 to 24 million in 2010.

Question 3

What ratio of children in the U.S. currently live in fatherless homes?

Question 4

Which of the following statements are true? Select all that apply:

Question 5

True or false: Children learn to be more empathetic when there is a father in the home. Father involvement creates a buffering effect, making it less likely that his child will bully others and also equipping the child to better recover if he or she is bullied.

Question 6

Which of the following statements reflect the ideas and feelings of teen males who were polled about sexuality? Select all that apply.

Question 7

Which of the following statements are true for teen fathers? Select all that apply.

Question 8

True or False: Mothers and Fathers agree that the biggest obstacle to more father involvement is work responsibilities, and they also agree that the second biggest obstacle is lack of knowledge.

Question 9

There are many opportunities to improve engagement of fathers. Some ways to do this include (select all that apply):

Question 10

Eliminating the barriers is also important to engage more fathers. Some of the barriers include (select all that apply):

Talking with Teens About Reproductive Health: How To Tackle the Tough Topics



Introduction

Introduction

Please note: This course will take approximately 30 minutes to complete; do not refresh your browser window or you will have to begin again. Instead, use the next/previous buttons to work your way through the course.

It’s not always easy to speak with young people about sensitive topics, such as reproductive health or teen pregnancy. This course provides staff working with young people a concrete protocol and steps that can be followed to ease discomfort and create an open, supportive environment for sharing.

Course Overview

This course covers the following areas:

  • Purpose and objectives of the online course
  • Distinguishing among values, beliefs and facts
  • Managing personal beliefs, personal values and facts
  • Using the Values Question Protocol Tool to answer values-based questions
  • Course summary

Course Goal and Objectives

The course goal is to strengthen skills for identifying and communicating about challenging topics in reproductive health.

By the end of this online course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the difference between a fact, a belief, and a value;
  • Answer value-based questions using the Values Question Protocol; and
  • Identify sources of medically accurate reproductive health information.

Part 1: Distinguishing Between Facts, Beliefs and Values

Go to Section: What's the Difference? > Examples > Learning Exercises

What's the Difference?

Definitions

A fact is:

  • A piece of information presented as having objective reality
  • A true piece of information; something that truly exists or happens

For example:

  • According to the CDC 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 63.1% of 12th grade students reported having ever had sexual intercourse.1

A belief is:

  • Something that a person accepts as true or right
  • A strongly held opinion about something

For example:

  • Some people believe adolescents are too young to handle the potential consequences of engaging in sexual relationships.

A value is:

  • A strongly held belief about what is valuable, important, or acceptable — usually plural

For example:

  • Sexual intercourse should only take place within the context of adult romantic relationships.

Discussion

The previous examples of facts, beliefs, and values demonstrate the potential conflict between the facts as supported by public health data and possible individual/community beliefs or values.

For example, take this fact from the CDC 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: 63.1% of 12th grade students reported having ever had sexual intercourse.

This fact may conflict with an individual or community’s belief that teenagers are too young to handle the potential consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse, or may go against an individual or community’s value that sexual intercourse should only take place within the context of adult romantic relationships.

Beliefs and values are present at the individual, family and community level. Each individual is part of a variety of communities (religious, cultural, family, school, etc.) that may have conflicting or mutually re-enforcing beliefs and values.

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2011.

Examples

Carla and Ben

The following is an example of a scenario in which individual, family and community beliefs conflict:

Carla and Ben have been dating for two years and are in their senior year of high school. They have a healthy, respectful and exclusive relationship. For the past few weeks, Ben's been asking Carla if she feels ready to have sex.

Carla loves and trusts Ben and knows they will use protection. She values the love and trust that they share and believes that sex would be taking the next step in their relationship.

Carla's family is traditional, and they feel that Carla should focus exclusively on academics. Her parents believe that Carla is an obedient daughter and are proud of her accomplishments. They believe that Carla is spending too much time with Ben and do not believe that relationships should be a priority for teenagers.

Carla comes from a conservative, family-centric community centered around frequent cultural gatherings and events. Her parents are seen as informal leaders and model citizens. The community values tradition and rewards achievements.

Carla is conflicted between her personal beliefs and values and those of her family and community.

Eric and Gabby

The following is an example of a scenario in which individual, family and community beliefs are mutually re-enforcing:

Eric's girlfriend, Gabby, has been pressuring Eric to have sex. Eric likes Gabby, but doesn’t feel ready. He believes that sex is an expression of love and values waiting for the right person.

Eric's parents were high school sweethearts who got married and are still happily together. They value commitment and believe that there is one right person for everyone.

Eric's community is based around his religious institution, which supports abstinence until marriage. The community values tradition and conformity.

In this case, Eric’s personal beliefs are re-enforced and supported by his family and community beliefs.

Discussion

It is important to acknowledge and respect the range of beliefs and values that individuals or communities may hold. It is also important to realize that we live in a diverse society and not everyone believes in the same things or holds the same values. Program staff must not let their own beliefs or values prevent them from sharing medically accurate information with program participants.

Staff members have a responsibility to ensure that all program participants receive accurate and objective answers to their questions. The following section introduces an effective tool for answering challenging questions.

Correctly label the following statements as a Fact, a Belief, or a Value:

Exercise 1

Physical aggression is a sure sign of an individual’s romantic interest in a partner.

Exercise 2

Consistent and correct use of male latex condoms can reduce the risk of STI transmission.

Exercise 3

Responsible intimate relationships should be consensual, honest, and protected (if shared sexual behavior occurs).

Part 2: Managing Personal Beliefs, Personal Values, and Facts

Go to Section: The Role of Staff > The Importance of Accuracy > Learning Exercises

The Role of Staff

Handling conflicts between personal beliefs, values, and facts can be uncomfortable for some staff to deal with internally and with program participants.

Staff may be uncomfortable confronting these conflicts because they may be related to topics that are perceived to be controversial or because they are rooted in strongly held, and sometimes very emotional, convictions.

Adolescents may receive misinformation and conflicting messages about their reproductive health. The facilitator’s role is to be an impartial and credible source of information that program participants can rely on.

The Importance of Accuracy

Overview

It is important that program staff be able to provide young people with medically accurate, factual information.

In a teen pregnancy prevention program, the goal is to make sure that medically accurate information is shared with program participants while acknowledging the range of beliefs and values that exist in our society.

Let's start by identifying what it means for information to be medically accurate.

Accurate Information

The definition of "medically accurate and complete" was adopted from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

Medically accurate and complete programs are verified or supported by the weight of research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals, where applicable; or comprising information that leading professional organizations and agencies with relevant expertise in the field recognized as accurate, objective, and complete.1

Best Practices

Whenever possible, and especially when in doubt, staff should verify the accuracy of a particular fact with a second reliable source.

Reliable Sources

To ensure that the information program participants are receiving is medically accurate, staff should ensure that facts are referenced from reliable sources.

Some reliable sources include:

  • U.S. Government sources
  • Publications from leading medical organizations
  • Peer-reviewed sources

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1 Source: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148; March 23, 2010)

 

Exercise 1

Which of the following are reliable sources for medically accurate information? Select all that apply:

Part 3: Using the Values Question Protocol Tool

Go to Section: Overview > Step-by-Step > Synthesis > Learning Exercises

Overview

Throughout the program, participants may ask questions with value components. It is important to address questions while being mindful of the overall lesson plan and time constraints.

The Values Question Protocol is one tool that staff can use to answer values-based questions in a respectful way.

Once the question is asked or the statement is said, follow these steps:1

  1. Legitimize the question/statement
  2. Identify the part that is a belief/value
  3. Answer the factual part
  4. Help participants identify the range of beliefs/values on the issue
  5. Refer to family, clergy, and other trusted adults
  6. Check to see if you answered the question
  7. Leave the door open

Next, we will go through the steps in more detail and provide suggestions for how to phrase responses.

Footnotes

To return to the page content, select the respective footnote number.

1Source: Adapted from the Values Question Protocol, Public Health—Seattle & King County

Using the Protocol: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Legitimize the Question or Statement

What Can You Say?
  • I am glad someone brought this up.
  • That's an interesting question.
  • People ask me this one every year.

This will encourage program participants to keep asking questions while discouraging snide remarks from other participants about the question or statement. It also gives you more time to think about how you will respond.

Best Practices: Legitimize the question or statement

Question: "Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?"

Answer: "That's a really good question. A lot of people have questions about their sexual behavior and what it means about them."

Step 2: Identify the Part That Is a Belief or Value

What Can You Say?
  • Most of the questions you’ve been asking have been ‘fact questions’ where I could look up an answer all the experts agree on. This question also has a value piece to it where every person, every family, every religion has a different belief.”

Teaching program participants to distinguish facts from opinions is just as important as the content you will convey.

Best Practices: Identify the part of the question that is a belief or value

Question: "Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?"

Answer: "Most of the questions you’ve asked me have been about facts where I can find an answer based in evidence and research. You asked me to share a belief about what makes someone a good or bad person. People have lots of different opinions about what makes someone a bad person. These beliefs can come from family, religion, culture and personal opinion."

Step 3: Answer the Factual Part of the Question

What Can You Say?

You can answer the fact-based part of the question and still take the opportunity to have a discussion about the underlying beliefs or values.

Best Practices: Answer the factual part of the question

Question: "Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?"

Answer: "Having unprotected sexual intercourse puts you at increased risk of pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, or STIs."

Step 4: Help Identify the Range of Beliefs or Values

What Can You Say?
  • Tell me some of the things you've heard that people believe about that.

  • Some people believe____, what do others believe?

Program staff’s role is two-fold: to make sure that every belief gets expressed—or paraphrase—respectfully; and to make sure that a complete range of beliefs get expressed, even if they have to supplement what participants can think of.

Best Practices: Help identify the range of beliefs or values

Question: "Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?"

Answer: "Some people may believe that it’s always wrong to have more than one partner, while other people may think that it’s okay to have multiple partners as long as you’re safe about it. What other beliefs may people have about this?"

Step 5: Refer to Family, Clergy, and Other Trusted Adults

What Can You Say?
  • Because people have such different beliefs about this, I really want to encourage you to speak with your family (parent/guardian, grandparent, aunt, uncle, stepparent, mom/dad's partner), someone at your community of worship if you attend church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, or with some other adult you love and whose opinion matters to you.”

Knowing one’s family’s beliefs and values is developmentally important for young people. It is also important to recognize that not every participant has a parent they can talk with or is part of a community of worship. Help them think of other trusted adults they can reach out to as well.

Best Practices: Refer to family, clergy and other trusted adults

Question: "Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?"

Answer: "People have really different beliefs about this, and it’s important for you to figure out what you're comfortable with for yourself. I want to encourage you to speak an adult who you can trust about thisthat could be a parent, a family friend or someone at your church/temple/mosque/synagogue."

Step 6: Check to See if You Answered the Question

What Can You Say?
  • Is that what you were asking?

When appropriate, check with the program participant to make sure their question was answered and provide additional information as necessary.

Step 7: Leave the Door Open

What Can You Say?

Finally, if you can do it sincerely, thank the class—or in a one-on-one situation, the participant—for their maturity, curiosity, compassion, or whatever positive qualities the question/statement has helped them demonstrate. That will not only increase their retention, it will improve the odds of their repeating their positive behavior on the next occasion.

Question: Does hooking up with lots of people make you a bad person?

Answer: That's a really good question. A lot of people have questions about their sexual behavior and what it means about them.

Most of the questions you've asked me have been about facts where I can find an answer based in evidence and research. You asked me to share a belief about what makes someone a good or bad person. People have lots of different opinions about what makes someone a bad person. These beliefs can come from family, religion, culture and personal opinion.

Having unprotected sexual intercourse puts you at increased risk of pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.

Some people may believe that it's always wrong to have more than one partner, while other people may think that it's okay to have multiple partners as long as you're safe about it. What other beliefs may people have about this?

As you can see, people have really different beliefs about this, and it's important for you to figure out what you're comfortable with for yourself. I want to encourage you to speak an adult who you can trust about this—that could be a parent, a family friend or someone at your church/temple/mosque/synagogue.

Does that answer your question?

Exercise 1

Which of these steps is NOT part of the Values Question Protocol?

Final Exam

Go to Section: Overview > Exam

Overview

This section provides an opportunity to practice using the Values Question Protocol. Remember, you want to separate opinion from fact and provide medically accurate information while respecting the participant who asked the question. To successfully complete this e-learning module and earn a certificate, you need to correctly answer four of the five questions.

Question 1

The following is an example of a question that an adolescent may ask:

Is it okay to have sex on the first date if you really like the guy?

Read the following responses and see which one best addresses the question using the Values Question Protocol. Keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Does the response legitimize the question/statement?
  • Does the response explain which part is a belief/value? How?
  • Does the response answer the factual part? What are the sources for those facts?
  • Does the response offer some examples of the range of beliefs/values on the issue?

Response A: Thanks for bringing that up. No matter how much you like the guy, it’s not a good idea to have sex on the first date. Some people may say that it’s okay, but really you should wait until you’re sure that he’s the right one for you.

It may seem like everyone’s having sex, but lots of teens are not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study that showed that more then half of teens in high school have never had sex, and only about a third are sexually active. So see, you don’t need to do it—lots of people aren’t. The National Survey on Family Growth showed that over two-thirds of teens were in serious relationships the first time they had sex.

You should talk to your family or another adult you trust about this. There are also hotlines and websites I can recommend.

Does that answer your question?

Response B: That’s a really important question and I’m glad you asked it. A lot of the questions you’ve been asking me have been fact-based questions where I can look up an answer, but this one also has a value piece where different people will have different opinions about when sex is appropriate. Some people may think that sex is always okay as long as it’s safe and consensual, and others may believe that you should only have sex after you’re married.

Most teens are in serious relationships the first time they have sex, according to the National Survey on Family Growth. No matter how well you know your partner, having unprotected sexual intercourse puts you at an increased risk of pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that condoms, when used consistently and correctly, reduce your risk of HIV/AIDS, other STIs and pregnancy, and birth control reduces your risk of becoming pregnant.

It could really help to talk to your family or another adult you trust about this to help you decide how you feel about sex and how to know if you’re ready. There are also hotlines and websites I can recommend.

Did that answer your question?

Response C: I’m surprised that you asked me that; it seems like a really personal question.

A lot of times, men don’t respect women who have sex with them right away. Most teens are in serious relationships the first time they have sex, according to the National Survey on Family Growth.

If you’re serious about having sex with someone on a first date at your age, you need to talk to a parent or another adult you can trust.

Did that answer your question?

Which of the responses above best addresses the question using the Values Question Protocol?

Question 2

The following is another example of a question that an adolescent may ask. Choose the best response from each set of two to create the best answer:

My mother says birth control pills are for dirty girls and won’t let me take them. I don’t have sex all that much so I’m not too worried about getting pregnant. Most of the time I don’t use anything at all.

What could you say to legitimize the question/statement?

Question 3

How would you clarify that this may be an issue of different beliefs and values?

Question 4

How would you answer the factual part? What are the sources for those facts?

Question 5

How would you phrase the referral to family, clergy, and other trusted adults for the specific participants you are working with?

Conclusion

Conclusion

This course was designed to strengthen the skills necessary for identifying and communicating medically accurate information about reproductive health.

In addition to knowing the current facts—or where to go for facts—it is also important that program staff help participants recognize the difference between beliefs, values, and facts.

It is possible to teach about reproductive health issues, communicate medically accurate information, and be respectful of the range of beliefs and values that exist in our society.

Thanks for all that you are doing to improve the lives of young people!