Youth Aging out of Foster Care Project
Jun 18, 2006
An estimated 9.2 million to 15.8 million children are considered â€œat-riskâ€ in this country encompassing all ages from 13 to 19 years old. These youth are at-risk because they are at a crossroad: one leads to successful transition to adulthood, the other to dependency and negative long-term consequences. Youth typically considered or identified as at-risk are more likely to become pregnant, use drugs and/or alcohol, drop out of school, be unemployed, engage in violence and face an increased likelihood of a host of mental health problems, which in turn places them at high risk for entering the juvenile and criminal justice system.
Many of these youth are in foster care and will eventually be aging out of the system incapable of providing adequate care for themselves. These youth lack focus, education, work experience and work ethics. In conjunction with current funding opportunities under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) the project would take those youth at age 16 and provide intensive core curriculum that will provide them with the tools necessary to become self sufficient. In order for this project/ program to be effective several partnerships with community agencies, court system, and private/public sector employers will need to be established.
Understanding that the youth of today are the connecting cornerstones to an ever evolving workforce, this program will aide in transforming the futures of many of these youth. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Workforce Development Board (C-MWDB) youth program, governed by rules and regulations of WIA has proven to be successful in assisting identified at-risk drop outs in obtaining their GED, tech/ trade skill and subsequent employment. Providing these services has changed the perspective of many youth and their futures.
The mission of the of the C-MWDB is dedication to ensuring that the C-MWDB system is effectively meeting the current and future needs of local employers and job seekers (www.charlotteworks.org). This project will provide employers with employees that are able to meet the need at an acceptable level.
In keeping with the mission of the WDBsâ€™ youth program the scope of services or statement of work will be the projectâ€™s road map in providing these services.
Goals and Objectives
The program will seek to provide youth services (academic learning, work experience, summer employment, life skills training opportunities and other related services and supportive services) to youth aging out of foster care. The target population will be individuals who are age 16 through 19; (1) deficient in basic literacy skills; (2) school dropout; (3) foster child; (4) pregnant or parenting; (5) offender; (6) an individual who requires additional assistance to complete an educational program, or to secure and hold employment. The program design will be very much like an after school enrichment program. Enrollees will focus on employment preparation, career development, investments and community involvement.
The recruitment and selection of applicants for participation will be done in such a way as to ensure that a total of 35 eligible individuals are enrolled. Once enrolled the program will provide appropriate services and activities which will ensure that the following performance standards are achieved; secondary school diploma, placement and retention in post secondary education, advanced training, qualified apprenticeships, unsubsidized employment and retention in unsubsidized employment six months after completion.
Termination and Follow-up
Appropriate termination documentation on all participants , who exit the program, will provided to the WDB and will also be provided a minimum of one (1) year follow up after exit. The hosting agency will provide assistance as requested to WDB and all independent agencies selected to conduct participant and employer customer satisfaction surveys.
Measuring the success of a program focused on at-risk youth is not easy, primarily because many of these youth are driven by emotions, internal and external. In the United States, there is a continuing debate about how success should be measured. Many parameters can be used to evaluate program effectiveness. Since this program is based on how and if the youth applies the skills that were taught, if the youth enters post-secondary education and whether the youth is gainfully employed these parameters are very concrete. This will be measured by 90 day, 180 day and 365 day follow-up. Follow-up will consist of office visits, home visits, mailings and phone calls.
An old adage-plan the work and work the plan, in essence this is the key to successful project management. Project Managers (PM) must first plan out the project and then monitor and control the execution of the program work. There is a tendency for projects to short change the planning process. This is a common mistake. The time spent properly planning will result in reduced cost and duration, and increased quality over the life of the project. Using tried and true best practices for a PM will provide assurance that the program /project will be beneficial and successful.
For this program, Program Definition is a key. Program definition will be the primary deliverable for the planning process and describe all aspects of the program. This will include program overview, objective, scope and assumptions and risks. Ensuring that the appropriate stakeholders are at the table and that everyone is adequately informed of what the program is to accomplish and how it will impact their lives and the lives of the community is vitally important.
Once the project has been planned sufficiently, execution of the work can begin. Managing and controlling the project is as important as the planning phase; continuously reviewing the work plan, monitoring the timeline or schedule and closely monitoring the allocated budget will guarantee that program is meeting the planned goals. Because so many agencies are involved with these youth, managing the project will consist of providing sufficient data and updates to the guardian, court, schools and interested parties. Project Managers have to always be cognizant of warning signs, such as disinterest from participants. The success of the project will benefit society on many levels.
After completing the simulation it is very clear that projects/programs have to be closely aligned to the organizations strategic plan. Evaluating projects/programs using project screening systems ensures the success of the project. Since the WDB will oversee this project, sub-contracting will be vitally important to the success of the program. Ensuring that those subcontractors that are charged with this vision have buy-in to the program, a vendor matrix selection is critical. The success of the program is based on the effectiveness of each phase and the strength and dedication of the PM and stakeholders.
When implementing a program where achieving the desired outcome is not based on raw materials, weather or increased material cost but o pure emotions, feelings and trust â€œRisk Managementâ€ has a different meaning. Risk is a powerful motivator. Failure to properly manage risk can result in unprecedented professional loss. These targeted youth will come to this program screaming they are adults and can provide for themselves; however, their past failures and persona says otherwise. Completing a project of this magnitude, without incident would be great and many project managers (PM) have this desire. Nevertheless, understanding that no project is risk free being prepared for such incidents makes the project managerâ€™s job easier.
In developing the roadmap for this program the identified risks and milestones for this program are funding/budget, staff development/training and criteria/selection process.
In seeking funding for this program by way of grants and foundation donations, meeting deadlines are critical. Many federal grants have stringent guidelines are requirements and adhere to cut-off and due dates. This program will rely heavily on this type of funding, therefore identifying plausible grants and setting attainable milestones will aide in assessing adequate program funding. Also included is being mindful that funding federal funding streams and sources are not governed by the traditional calendar year but by the fiscal funding year.
Identifying, interviewing and hiring the right staff is half of the success of the program. Setting a clear and concise timeline on hiring and trainings and adhering to this schedule is important. Not adhering to this policy can be costly. This may not seem as if it meets the defined milestone requirements; however, staff will be the front-line of the project and ensuring that they are qualified is important.
Ensuring that this section is complete, coherent and all encompassing is important. Knowing who the target audience is notable; yet, accepting that everyone may not be suitable is different. At this juncture several meetings would have been held and each member should have contributed to this process. Setting and meeting this scheduled milestone will also aide in completing the request for funding. Adhering to milestones and required task are the first steps to ensuring that the project meets the ultimate goal.
Every project assumes a substantial level of risk. Identifying and prioritizing these risks that may affect the project will provide the PM with information to develop a plan on how to handle these risks in the event they occur. Assessing and prioritizing the impact of each of these risks of the projects objectives is also important. The PM should feel confident in knowing that the end result outweighs the risks. In order for the PM to have a plan the mitigating strategies should be clear and comprehensive. These strategies should speak specifically to each risk, due in part because each risk impacts the progress of the project. Assigning mitigation strategies to identified risks will ensure continued validity of the strategies and will steer the project back on track if these critical risks are manifested. Any lapse in risk analysis can have a severe impact on the schedule and cost estimates of the project.
The Workforce Development Board Youth Program currently serves over 400 disadvantaged and at-risk you and the likelihood of adding an additional 100 youth with this program will stretch the operating capacity of the program. This risk goes hand in hand with becoming too costly for the board to operate. The risk is not substantial and can be quantifiable at 5% but is doable. Ensuring that the housing location provides adequate space to accommodate these youth and that hired staff are sufficiently trained and experienced can keep the project on schedule. The larger risk associated with this program would be that all or partial sought funds are awarded to the board for this program. This can be quantified at 65% and can halt the program immediately. The best mitigating strategy to handle this risk is not relying one source to be the only funding for the program. Allowing sufficient amount of time in planning to seek out several funding streams can allow the program to move forward with an expected begin date. The program will rely heavily on community partners to provide resources such as computers, software, teachings, food and other resources that these youth will need to be successful and sustainable. This can be quantified at 10% and in the event many of these partners become disinterested this can cause a change in the initial plans. The strategy can then become one of meeting with the partners to find out why they have become disinterested and attempt to regain there support. While doing so it will also be important to partner with other agencies such as the colleges and universities. The main focus of the program are the youth and not getting and acceptable interest from them and the foster system is also a pretty substantial risk. Quite naturally with any new proposed planned project or program initially there is significant buy-in and support; however, during implementation and waiting phase some organizations lose interest or may become consumed with other projects. This can be quantified at 15% and can be changed with involving the youth in the planning and implementation phase. Finding out from them their needs will give them a sense of ownership. The final risk can be a stand alone risk or coupled with partnerships and that is the lack of community support and community resources. This can be quantified by 5%. Many of these youth will need appropriate interviewing attire, child care, health care, jobs and so on. The ultimate goal is to get them to sustainability and in doing so there needs to be agencies willing to provide these services a little to no cost to the program and not the participant. The mitigating strategy here is to have forums and meetings reminding the community that these youth will be returning their neighborhoodsâ€™ and the desire are to have them to be and benefit and not a hindrance.
Having a change management plan is critical to the projects beginning. When the project was defined, expectations were set as to what the project will produce, the cost involved, and the amount of time and resources required. Any request that changes the scope of the project can jeopardize the successful outcomes of the project. Therefore, execution of a formal Change Management Plan is crucial.
Creating a change management checklist will assist the PM and all parties involved with keeping the scope and vision at the forefront. Having certain procedures in place will allow for needed changes to be done orderly and not haphazardly with emotional factors. The change management process should be clearly defined, to include those changes that could benefit the program. Ensure that the process has been communicated to the project team and stakeholders and accessible to all parties. Create a change request log with specific instructions, directions and guidelines. The change request should be analyzed for recommendation in a timely manner, which was set out in the initial process. The change request resolution should be done in a timely manner and only discussed with the appropriate partners and stakeholders. Once the changes are made they should be recorded and incorporated in the projects sub-plans as appropriate and then logged and actively monitored. If all of these processes are followed the project can go smoothly.
The three key learning points that can be applied to this project are identification, analysis and response. Being able to apply these points from planning through the implementation stage will alleviate some pressure from PM but will also ensure that there is accountability within the project.
Project Management demands a free flow of communication with and among project team members, and internal and external project stakeholders. The project team needs frequent information from each of its team members to complete and improve the project and to understand the needs and expectations of the projects customers. Project communication management involves project communication planning, information distribution, reporting performance and formal project close-out.
The project board will meet at least twice, once to formally initiate the project and once at the projected end of the project to review the success of the project. Further meetings will be arranged as deemed necessary. A project status report will be issued to the interested parties and stakeholders before each meeting of the board. The project manager will meet with the program director on a 1:1 basis monthly to review progress achieved, issues raised, risk management and any changes that may impact the agreed project plan.
Clarifying the project priorities, making sure the planning process allows for proper and complete estimates, applying lessons learned from the other projects and not making the teamsâ€™ plans managements plan. Following these four essential elements will ensure the accuracy of the projects forecast. The time forecast for this project will be 12 months. This forecast is very generous because it leaves room for reconsiderations and set backs. Understanding that this program will need the buy-in of several community agencies and partners, one of the most critical partnerships will be with companies to provide employment. The ever changing economy can create a major setback.
Projects can be closed because they are completed successfully or because it is clear the proposed benefits of the project are unlikely to be attained. To gain formal acceptance of project output, and confirm the realization of the outcomes, the closing down of a project should be planned. Usually it will occur once all the work of the project is finished; all of the outputs have been delivered and accepted by the planner. The steps involved in closing a project should be planned and documented at the beginning of the project.
The project closure process that will be utilized for the program will be in a two stage approach, evaluation and formal project closure. The evaluation process will allow all interested parties to make referrals to the program and observe the process of screening and admission. Even though the program is not operable closure to the program does not begin there. The committees and board will need to be satisfied that the following matters have been satisfactorily addressed. Also during this process all of the outputs have to be produced per the business plan, a final PMâ€™s status report, financial resources have been fully accounted for, all cost have been paid and then the project team ( the board) will be disbanded. After these things are done celebrations can begin.
The purpose of an audit is to look at the existence and adequacy of internal controls to make sure that the risks associated with those controls are effectively managed in order to meet the programs overall goals and objectives. The audit process for this project will consist of field work, communications of the results and follow-up. The processes will compile data interviews with participants, community agencies and initial stakeholders. Once this information is completed and written report will be provided to the major players informing them of the success or failure of the program. Finally the last stage will be done to ensure that any recommendations or findings from the field work have been corrected and the program is meeting the intended goals and expectation. When working with government funding several audits will occur within the first 90-180 days of implementation.
Due in part that this projectâ€™s primary stakeholders will the foster care system, legal system and the school system funding streams can be small in the amounts awarded but limitless on how to disseminate the funds. The budget estimates will include line items such as, administration allocations, agency overhead, indirect cost and participants support and incentives. These estimations will be discussed at each meeting between the PM and program director. Much of the initial spending will be done to secure adequate location and space, proper curriculum and all the necessary tools to ensure the success of these participants. This amount may not exceed a third of allocated funds.
This successful outcomes of the program are based on the willingness of the enrolled individuals desire to be able to proved for themselves. The program will be monitored and governed by performance standards that would have been included in the program plan. Regardless of the number of enrollees in the first year, at least half of those enrollees should have sustainable employment. This will measured by checking wage information for the first and third quarters with the Employment Security Commission. These processes are in line with Workforce Investment Act and the C-MWDB policies and procedures. The required performance standards will also mimic the WIA regulations. Although this program will receive funding from different sources the outcomes are very similar to the outcomes of the WIA youth program.
After the final simulation the complete process of what goes into the final stages of a project became clearer. The PM has to shoulder final implementation for delivery of services to the stakeholder. The ability to identify activities that may need approval from the stakeholders is important because optimizing your time to ensure on time delivery will ease anxiety from all involved parties. The allocation of resources is also important. Within this project there really is not need to allocate resources outside what will be needed to run the program effectively. Finally, the PMâ€™s ability to work with several members of the project and remaining steadfast to the mission of project will keep the project on task. Listening to concerns and reporting only those concerns to the program manager/ stakeholders that can benefit the program. The PM has many hats to wear and effectively doing the job speaks volumes of their commitment to the project.
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