Family Advocates, a nonprofit organization serving families in the Treasure Valley in Idaho, offers the Family Strengthening Program. This is a 20-week program providing weekly meetings for families who need to develop strong family cohesion, resilience, and parenting skills to maintain healthy families. The program uses the Strengthening Families’ approach with an emphasis on the protective factors framework and provides incentives to participants for participation. A third-party evaluation team from a local university conducted a formative evaluation of the program to help improve its quality. The evaluation team used both goal-based and goal-free, needs-based evaluation approaches, and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data. This included survey data from past weekly sessions, Facebook alumni group communications, and group interviews and surveys with participants, graduates, volunteers, and staff. The triangulated data indicated that program participants were highly satisfied with the program and felt the program helped improve their protective factors. The data also revealed the parents’ perceptions regarding program incentives as well as their preference for learning in socialized contexts. Based on the formative evaluation results and considering the participants’ perceptions and experiences, the program amended their curriculum and incentive plans to better accommodate the participants’ needs.

Key Take Away Points

  • The use of multiple data sources helped the evaluation team identify the stakeholders’ needs and develop needs-based evaluation methods and needs-based recommendations.
  • The use of multiple data sources also helped the evaluation team analyze a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, draw credible conclusions, and generate evidence-based recommendations.
  • This evaluation conducted by an external evaluation team helped the organization find an answer to the question regarding the value of incentives and make changes to the incentive schedule. The evaluation also helped the organization realize that participating parents desire to learn through social interactions where they can share and learn parenting strategies through peer-to-peer conversations and support. These findings were not easily uncovered by the organization’s internal assessments only.
  • The evaluation project exemplifies the benefits of having partnerships between community service programs and academic programs.
  • The external evaluation team followed up with the program after the evaluation project was completed and was pleased to learn that the program implemented the evidence-based recommendations the team provided.

Author Biography

[Author 1 bio] Seung Youn (Yonnie) Chyung, Ed.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning at Boise State University. She teaches courses on program evaluation, quantitative research in organizations, and survey design and data analysis. She recently published a book, 10-Step Evaluation for Training and Performance Improvement (Sage). She has published over 80 papers in professional and academic research journals and refereed conference proceedings. She is a frequent presenter at professional conferences including International Society for Performance Improvement and American Evaluation Association conference. [Author 2 bio] Megan Miller, M.S., is a quality assurance data analyst at Idaho Youth Ranch. She earned a master’s degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. In her master’s thesis, she investigated a non-profit organization’s struggles during its evaluation capacity assessment process. She has published a research article in Performance Improvement journal and presented at professional conferences. [Author 3 bio] Jennifer Shamsy, M.S., is an adjunct faculty member for the Department of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning at Boise State University, as well as a commercial airline pilot. She teaches a course on survey design and data analysis. She has published research articles in Performance Improvement Journal and Educational Gerontology, and presented at professional conferences. [Author 4 bio] Jaime Hansen, MPA, was Executive Director of Family Advocates in Boise, Idaho during the time when the evaluation project was performed. She holds a Bachelor’s in Psychological Sciences and Master’s in Public Administration. She has over 20 years of experience in the community benefit sector. Her community engagement includes a seat on the Leadership Boise Alumni Board, the Idaho Nonprofit Center Policy Committee, and the Mayor’s Council on Youth & Children. In the evenings, she also is an adjunct faculty member at Boise State University teaching Nonprofit Management to graduate students in the College of Public Administration. [Author 5 bio] Sarah Leeds, MPH, is currently a program manager of Idaho Immunization Program at Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Before that, she was a Family Strengthening Director of Family Advocates in Boise, Idaho.

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