With the ultimate goal of helping youth in foster care transition to independence, not homelessness, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Safety & Permanency Division sought to identify an evidence-based model of intervention. The project was funded by a Youth at Risk of Homelessness (YARH) planning grant, which was intended to help DHS prepare an application for implementation funding of strategies identified through this planning process.
To accomplish this goal, DHS commissioned the Improve Group to:
- Orchestrate a grant-planning process, including the identification of evidence-based strategies to address the specific needs of different target populations.
- Produce a comprehensive readiness assessment to identify organizations capable of implementing a comprehensive prevention strategy and to be rigorously evaluated as part of the future implementation grant.
- Facilitate an interdisciplinary strategic planning team of 18 agencies, plus youth members who had been through foster care, focused on identifying at-risk populations.
- Develop a Theory of Change surrounding these populations.
In addition, our team conducted a qualitative needs assessment to:
- Gather perspectives on challenges and opportunities from youth and key informants.
- Generate a list of potential interventions.
- Identify potential partners who could implement those interventions.
- Provide context and depth to available quantitative data.
Key findings from interviews and focus groups with youth provided a qualitative vantage point for risk factors that can lead to homelessness. Moreover, they highlighted the characteristics of effective interventions for reducing youth homelessness.
Meanwhile, to assess the capacity of potential partner organizations to implement planned strategies, the Improve Group adapted the Tri-Ethnic Center Community Readiness Assessment tool for use with seven potential YARH partners throughout the state. The tool evaluated six areas of organizational readiness:
- Organization Efforts: What are the existing prevention efforts?
- Knowledge of Efforts: What is the staff’s knowledge of existing efforts?
- Leadership Awareness: How is leadership supportive of prevention efforts?
- Organization Climate: What is the organization’s climate towards prevention?
- Knowledge of Issue: What is the organization’s knowledge of how to prevent homeless with foster care youth?
- Resources: What resources are the organization dedicating to prevention?
Findings from the strategic planning report, combined with other needs assessment data and organizational readiness scores, will help ensure:
- The selection of a feasible and effective evidence-based homelessness-prevention strategy.
- Implementation with the right sub-populations and with fidelity
- Preparation for DHS to apply for implementation funding in 2015.