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Milestones in Human Services Evaluation
While all periods of evolution of human services evaluation are important, the origins of the phenomenon are of most interest. According to Martin and Frahm (2010), the first milestone happened in the 1960s, when accountability became the central concept of human services. The reason for that was three major policy changes that allowed more funds to enter the field of social services. First, State governments became authorized to contract with private organizations (Martin & Frahm, 2010). Second, the upper limit on the amount of federal funding to states for human services (Martin & Frahm, 2010). Third, States became authorized to use donated money to match government funding (Martin & Frahm, 2010). These three policies allowed more freedom to State governments and allowed private actors to enter the sphere of human services. Since the upper limit was gone and the private sector was now a funder, a push to financial accountability became natural since all the investors wanted their money well spent. However, since it was only the beginning of the process, there were evident flaws. In particular, there was no link between direct and administrative practice (Martin & Frahm, 2010).
The period described above gave rise to the push for program evaluation to maintain the accountability of all projects. According to Barret and Sorensen (2015), the need for clinicians and administrators with evaluation skills is continuously increasing since the demand for objective information about program outcomes is growing. The assessment of program processes and outcomes is crucial since it helps to realize if the practice is worth the allocated funds. Even though program evaluation is a complicated process since there are no universally accepted outcomes, it helps to ensure public satisfaction and confidence in human services.
Creating a Needs Assessment
In the case study by Giffords, Alonso, and Bell (2007), the purpose of gathering needs information is to assess and record the level of individual adolescents’ skills. The program uses structured interviews and questionnaires to identify the needs using a Life Skills Assessment Scale that includes three categories (Giffords et al., 2007). The normative needs are access to healthcare services, education, affordable housing, and stable income (Giffords et al., 2007). Such needs can be assessed using standardized questionnaires. The comparative needs include psychological help to acquire self-sufficiency and education about basic social skills. This type of needs is determined using structured interviews. The felt needs include stability, human contact, and acceptance, while the expressed needs are food, clothing, shelter, and financial support (Giffords et al., 2007). These needs are identified using informal methods such is talks with the homeless or care providers.
A needs assessment is crucial for identifying the goals and objectives of the program described in the case study. Giffords et al. (2007) state that the goals or to develop independent living skills, help to identify long-term goals, and provide instruments and competences to achieve these goals. The objectives include enhancing self-esteem, developing moral values, expanding the level of recreation activities, teaching housekeeping responsibilities, managing nutrition needs, improving time-management skills, helping to learn individual living skills, and encouraging efficient planning (Giffords et al., 2007). While goals and objectives are clearly identified, the program has no mission statement. However, having a mission statement is of extreme importance since it helps to identify long-term plans and serves as a reference for making consistent decisions.
Assuring Proper Measurement of Need
The needs of members of one population may differ depending on their location. Therefore, a universal approach for addressing a problem in any part of the world does not exist and needs assessment is to be conducted every time before the start of a human service program. For instance, the needs of young homeless are entirely different from the needs of homeless women. According to Riley (2016), students are not comfortable talking about their situation in schools; therefore, psychological help is irrelevant to this population. Instead, they need to be connected to social organizations that can help to find shelter (Riley, 2016). At the same time, according to Lowenstein (2019), homeless women need empowerment and personal hygiene items as the top priority. Therefore, the perceived needs of homeless in one community may differ considerably from the needs of this population in another location due to many factors, including demographic differences.
The importance of understanding the accurate needs of populations during the development of a program hypothesis and plan is self-evident. Without a proper assessment, program planner risk addressing wrong needs and fail to develop an adequate change. According to Grant (2002), needs assessment is a vital stage of program planning that ensures positive changes in practice. Without a clear understanding of populations’ needs, a program may fail to be cost-efficient and accountable.
There are formal and informal methods for gathering accurate needs information for the homeless population. According to Grant (2002), questionnaires and structured interviews are the most common formal ways of collecting relevant data. However, program planners can utilize informal means, such as talking to the homeless or local volunteers. Project planners are to use a wide variety of methods to guarantee that the gathered information is adequate.
Barret, T., & Sorensen, J. (2015). Human services program evaluation. Web.
Giffords, E. D., Alonso, C., & Bell, R. (2007). A transitional living program for homeless adolescents: A case study. Child & Youth Care Forum, 36(4), 141–151. Web.
Grant, J. (2002). Learning needs assessment: assessing the need. BMJ, 324(7330), 156-159. Web.
Lowenstein, B. (2019). The homeless woman’s monthly struggle: Periods. The Homeless Voice. Web.
Martin, L., & Frahm, K. (2010). The changing nature of accountability in administrative practice. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 37(1), 137–148.
Riley, A. (2016). New report highlights needs of homeless students and liaisons. Street Sense Media. Web.