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Designing Program Workshops for Teenage Parents: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration

Publication Date

Submitted to:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)
Rm. 404E, HHH Bldg.
200 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20201

Project Officer:  Reuben Snipper (

Submitted by:

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ 08543-2393
(609) 799-3535

Project Director:  Rebecca A. Maynard

Contract No.:  HHS-100-86-0045
MPR Reference No.:  7700-925



This report would not have been possible without the help of others.  The state project directors, first Lydia Davis-Barrett and then Janet DeGraaf of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and Denise Simon of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, were helpful and supportive throughout the evaluation.  The demonstration site project directors and managers, Frank Ambrose and Kathy Abbott in Camden, Yvonne Johnson in Newark, and Melba McCarty in Chicago, provided many of the insights and information on which this report is based, and always gave us access to demonstration staff for discussions of their work.  Thanks are also due to the supervisors, case managers, and other demonstration staff who offered their views and recounted their experiences in the program.

A great contribution to this report has also been made by the Federal project officers for the evaluation and the demonstration in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  They are Reuben Snipper, the evaluation project officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and Judith Reich and Nancye Campbell, demonstration project officers in the Administration for Children and Families.  All three made very thoughtful comments that shaped this report.

As is always the case, other staff at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., have also helped.  Rebecca Maynard, Project Director for the evaluation, helped with critical comments.  Denise Dunn and Monica Capizzi provided expert production support.  Any weaknesses in the report or its conclusions, however, must still be traced to the author.


This report was prepared for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under contract HHS-100-86-0045.  This report does not necessarily represent the official opinion or policy of the Department of Health and Human Services.  The results of this study and the views expressed are solely the views of the authors.


From 1986 through 1990, the States of New Jersey and Illinois conducted the Demonstration of Innovative Approaches to Reduce Long Term AFDC Dependency Among Teenage Parents -- also known, and referred to here, as the Teenage Parent Demonstration (TPD).  With grants from the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), awarded in September 1986, the States of New Jersey and Illinois implemented Teenage Parent Demonstration programs in the fall of 1987, after an initial planning and pilot phase.  The demonstration programs were known as Teen Progress in Camden and Newark, New Jersey, and as Project Advance in the south side of Chicago, Illinois.  The general features of these programs are reflected in some of the major provisions concerning adolescent parents in the Family Support Act of 1988 (FSA) and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training program it created.  The two States' experiences operating this demonstration program of education and training services for teenage parents provide valuable lessons for other jurisdictions as they develop initiatives to serve adolescent parents under the provisions of the Family Support Act.

In the three demonstration sites, all teenage parents of a single child who began receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) for the first time for themselves and their child were required to attend an intake session where they completed a baseline survey and took a basic skills test.  They were then randomly assigned, for evaluation purposes, to program or control status.  Those assigned to program status were required to participate in appropriate education, training, or employment activities as long as they were receiving AFDC.  Failure to participate could result, after prescribed warnings, in a sanction -- reduction in the AFDC grant -- until the teenage parent complied with program requirements.  The programs provided case management support, child care assistance, allowances for transportation and other training-related expenses, and a variety of workshops designed to develop the teenagers' personal life skills, motivation, and ability to pursue continued education, training, or employment.  Those assigned to control status could not receive the special services of Teen Progress or Project Advance and were not required to participate in education, training or employment, but they were free to pursue other sources of training and education on their own.  A total of 5,297 eligible teenage parents were referred to the demonstration and completed intake during the research intake period (1,218 in Camden, 1,190 in Newark, and 2,889 in Chicago).(1)

The Teenage Parent Demonstration provides useful lessons about the possible role of workshops for teenage parents in the JOBS program.  Although the demonstration was implemented before the passage of the Family Support Act, and workshops are not explicitly called for in the JOBS program regulations, demonstration workshops focused on skills and information that are important to JOBS participants, and workshops are one setting in which States could address service needs that are defined in the regulations.  For example, demonstration workshops served as job readiness preparation -- providing orientation to the world of work, and development of time management, parenting, and life skills that contribute to job readiness.  Workshops can provide opportunities for elements of contextual basic skills education, by integrating instruction on substantive concerns such as nutrition or consumer awareness with development of relevant reading skills.  Workshops dealing with topics such as family planning and substance abuse clearly address supportive service needs.

This report is one in a series of four reports on various aspects of the design and operations of programs for teenage parents on AFDC.(2)  It describes how the Teenage Parent Demonstration programs used workshops -- group sessions combining instruction and discussion on topics relating to the life problems of teenage parents, the skills they need, and the choices they have to make.

This report describes:

Lessons Concerning Workshops

The experience of the New Jersey and Illinois sites in running workshops as part of the Teenage Parent Demonstration suggests the following broad conclusions:

  1. Initial workshops for new program enrollees can serve several functions:  provide instruction in important life skills, help teenage parents begin developing the social skills and personal discipline necessary to participate in training and eventually a job, and help program staff assess new enrollees' readiness for educational and training activities.
  2. The planned length of initial workshops affects the depth to which topics can be covered, their usefulness in developing motivation and participants' acceptance of the program, the administrative burden of monitoring attendance and completion, and the likelihood that participants will complete the workshops.  Short workshops of just a few days provide a quick introduction to important life skill topics that can readily be completed by most new participants, but allow only limited substantive instruction.  Extensive workshops lasting several weeks provide more opportunity for developing participants' motivation and discipline and for substantive instruction, and provide an opportunity for new participants to become acclimated to the demands of a regular daily schedule.  However, they also create greater administrative burdens for scheduling and attendance monitoring.
  3. Program staff can promote attendance at initial workshops by providing prompt assistance with child care arrangements or on-site child care, and by scheduling workshops at various times of day to accommodate participants' school, training, or job schedules.  Nevertheless, if initial workshops exceed a few days in length, attendance problems are likely to be fairly common and require a clear and prompt staff response to keep participants in the program.
  4. Of the several alternative approaches used to staff workshops, it appears to have been most effective to have an in-house program coordinator lead some workshop sessions and -- if other resources are also used -- coordinate the scheduling of outside workshop leaders and monitor their performance.  Relying solely on case managers to lead workshops encroaches on the time they can devote to individual participants, and limits the special expertise that is desirable in workshops dealing with topics such as health, nutrition, and family planning.
  5. Workshops for ongoing program participants can be used selectively for defined groups with particular needs, such as those preparing to enter job training or job search.  It is relatively inefficient, however, to schedule "special" workshops that are given only occasionally; considerable effort is required to schedule and plan such events and to recruit participants.  There is no effective way to make attendance at such occasional events mandatory.
  6. The cost of initial workshops varied widely in the demonstration, ranging from as little as $18 per person enrolled in the program to as much as $505 per enrollee.  The variation in cost was due to wide differences in the overall duration of the workshop sequence and in the extent of reliance on contracts with outside experts to lead the workshops.

Types of  Workshops

Workshops were included in the demonstration program to meet needs that program planners felt would not be adequately addressed by the major education, training, or employment activities.  Participants in Teen Progress and Project Advance were generally expected, as long as they were receiving AFDC, to be active in one of the program's major components:  job training, employment, or education (continuing high school, a GED or adult basic education program, or post-secondary education).  These major program components were expected to help participants acquire basic skills they would need for continued education or employment, and in some cases, specific occupational skills.  However, program planners expected that teenage participants would need help in overcoming much more than deficits in basic or occupational skills.  To help address these other needs, all three sites defined a set of program workshops -- group sessions that provided a forum for instruction, presentations by a workshop leader and in some cases by guest speakers, group discussion, and in some instances films related to workshop topics.  These workshops served three purposes.  First, program planners viewed workshops as a way for participants to acquire important information -- about nutrition, drugs, family planning, workplace demands, parenting, child support, and other topics -- that would help them make sound decisions about their personal lives and choices concerning their futures.  Second, program staff saw workshops as a useful personal development process -- a way of integrating participants into the program, building motivation, interpersonal skills, and acceptance of the program, and dispelling fears about the program.  Third, workshops served assessment purposes -- providing opportunities for program staff to form direct assessments of participants' behavioral and cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

Two Major Types of Workshops:  Initial and Ongoing

  1. Two types of workshops were offered:  initial workshops and ongoing workshops.  After completing the intake session,(3)  newly enrolled participants in each site were required to go through a prescribed set of initial workshops, over a period as short as three days in one site and as long as several months in another.  When they had completed these workshops, a "self-sufficiency plan" for continuing activity was developed, prescribing the education or training or, in some cases, job search activity they would pursue next.(4)  Therefore, initial workshops were offered on regular, quite frequent cycles, so that new participants could enter them as quickly as possible after enrolling in the program.  The workshops covered topics that program staff judged to be important for all new program participants.
  2. Ongoing workshops, on the other hand, were used more selectively.  They were designed to meet the needs of particular groups of program participants, and were generally offered less frequently.  Some ongoing workshops -- for example, the Camden site's six-week Pre-Employment Workshop to help participants prepare for the demands of finding and keeping a job -- were conducted on regular repeating cycles.  Other ongoing workshops -- such as those held on AIDS, drug abuse, planning for the future, and other topics at the Chicago site -- were more like special events held once or twice per year.  Participants were generally scheduled into the next available session of an appropriate ongoing workshop when it became clear that they needed and could benefit from the workshop material, and when the time demands of the workshop could be accommodated in their schedule of other activities.  In some instances, ongoing workshops became transitions or preparation for other activities.

Most Initial Workshops Dealt with Personal Life Skills

Program staff at the three demonstration sites designed initial workshops to help new participants direct and control their own daily lives, maintain their own and their children's health, and face the personal challenges of preparing for self-sufficiency.  Initial workshops were offered on motivation, life skills, family planning, health and nutrition, child support, parenting, AIDS and drug abuse, and personal grooming.(5)

The aims of these workshops were as follows:

  1. Motivation/Self-Esteem and the World of Work:  To help participants identify their own personal strengths and self-defeating behavior patterns, recognize the possibility and importance to them and their children of making decisions to improve their lives, take responsibility for their own future, and prepare emotionally for the rules, discipline, and behavioral demands of future employment
  2. Life Skills:  To strengthen participants' abilities to cope with the challenges of daily life and changes in their lives, including teaching them how to communicate effectively, establish goals and make decisions, manage their time and money, and deal with incidents of racism and sexism
  3. Family Planning:  To help participants recognize the importance and possibility of taking control over their sexual lives and child-bearing, understand the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of contraception and how to use them properly, and grasp the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid them
  4. Health and Nutrition:  To impress upon participants the importance of sound eating habits for them and their children, teach them economical ways to shop for and prepare nutritious meals, and encourage proper use of medical services and preventive care for them and their children
  5. Child Support:  To "demystify" the child support enforcement process and correct misconceptions about how it works, demonstrate to participants the long-term importance to their children of establishing paternity and a legal support obligation
  6. Parenting:  To help participants understand the stages of child development, recognize and respond to children's physical and emotional needs at different ages, handle the stresses of responsibility for a child, and confront concerns about the use of child care
  7. AIDS/Drug Abuse:  To educate participants about the risks and consequences of drug abuse and AIDS, and to encourage them to avoid high-risk behaviors
  8. Personal Grooming:  To convey information about commonly accepted standards of dress, hygiene, and behavior at different types of workplaces

Ongoing Workshops Were for Participants in Particular Circumstances

Although each of the three demonstration sites covered most of the topics listed above in their mandatory initial workshops, each site also offered certain ongoing workshops for active participants.  In some cases, these ongoing workshops were for participants identified by case managers as having a particular need.  In other instances, workshops were defined to help participants prepare for a new challenge or make a transition.  These ongoing workshops covered parenting, preparation for employment and school, life management, prenatal care, and other topics. 

The workshops were structured as follows:

  1. Special Parenting Workshop:  The Newark Teen Progress site offered an intensive workshop of ten sessions over five weeks conducted by a clinical psychologist and a pediatrician, for participants identified as at particularly high risk of child neglect or abuse.  The workshop had a more therapeutic approach than the initial parenting workshops, although it dealt with many similar issues:  child development, children's needs, coping with stress, and the participant's relationships with her parents and her child's father.
  2. Pre-Employment Workshop/Job Club:  All three sites conducted structured sessions with participants who were preparing to enter the labor market for permanent full-time or part-time employment or summer jobs.  Project Advance offered a three-session Job Club workshop focusing on job search methods, completing job applications and preparing resumes, and how to dress for and behave in an interview.  A Job Service employment specialist attended one session each cycle to begin working on individual job placement.  Camden Teen Progress required participants who were not in school to attend Pre-Employment Workshop sessions daily for six weeks, and supplemented the job search topics with basic skills "brush-up.".  Newark Teen Progress conducted job-preparation in one-on-one counseling with participants who had completed the Motivation/Self-Esteem workshop and were ready to look for a job.
  3. Education Preparation Workshop:  Project Advance offered a three-session workshop for participants who were about to enroll (or reenroll) in high school or a remedial education course or who were having difficulty in school.  The workshop attempted to instill organized and effective study habits, help participants plan time for their schoolwork, and understand the resources available to them through the educational system.  Program staff viewed this short workshop as an important way to increase participants' chances of benefiting from their education activity.
  4. Home and Family Life Management Workshop:  Project Advance conducted periodic workshops for ongoing participants on homemaking skills, time and money management, comparative shopping, and home safety rather than an initial workshop focusing on life skills.  Staff scheduled participants into these workshops if they were between other activities or seemed particularly unpracticed in basic home skills such as laundering, cooking, or maintaining basic home cleanliness.
  5. Pre-Natal Workshop:  Every two weeks, Project Advance offered a three-session workshop conducted by a nurse or a counselor from a local women's center, focusing on proper nutrition and health care during pregnancy, and emotional preparation for childbirth and parenting.
  6. Topical "Special-Event" Workshops:  Particularly at Project Advance in Chicago, short, often single-session workshops were used to present and discuss subjects viewed as important issues for teenage parents.  When commitments were obtained from outside experts to conduct these workshops, program staff reviewed their caseloads and invited participants who they believed could benefit from the sessions.  These workshops were given on topics such as motivation and problem-solving, career awareness, abstinence and other methods of birth control, drug and alcohol abuse, personal grooming, and dealing with rape and sexual assault.

Purposes of the Workshops

Demonstration workshops addressed three distinct needs:  development of participants' cognitive skills, development of their personal skills, and opportunities for staff assessment of participants.

Workshops Can Provide a Forum for Instruction

As can be seen from the list of program workshops above, program planners designed workshops on topics about which participants need to know something.  Ignorance of basic reproductive physiology and family planning can contribute to repeat pregnancies.  Misconceptions about the importance of child support and procedures for getting it, if they discourage pursuit of support, seriously constrain single parents' income prospects.  Lack of exposure to clear and accurate information about workplace expectations and career choices can make sound choices about education and training impossible.  Workshops were used to teach participants about these and other topics.  In some workshop sessions, the use of basic reading and writing skills was called for; the workshops could thus contribute to overall educational objectives, even though basic skills development was emphasized more heavily in other program components.

Initial Workshops Can Help New Participants Become Accustomed to the Program

The demonstration sites had clearly defined topics and substantive curricula for their workshops, but program staff viewed the workshops as even more important for their contribution to participants' personal development.  Workshops were not structured to require mastery of curriculum material or to gauge what participants learned.  Regardless of the degree of cognitive development achieved by workshops, staff viewed workshops as a valuable way to initiate and socialize new participants to the program, and increase the chances that they would take advantage of case managers' ongoing help and the specific education and training available to them.

For many of the teenage parents in the demonstration, it represented a new set of demands and experiences.  According to program staff, many of the teenage parents were unaccustomed to meeting appointments or adhering to any daily routine or schedule.  Many participants proved to be socially isolated and unaccustomed to situations in which they had to deal with demands placed on them by newly encountered figures of authority, or interactions with a new set of peers.  Program staff were keenly aware that to succeed in any future workplace, the teenage parents would have to learn the personal skills needed to deal with the expectations and tensions generated by both kinds of relationships.

As a result, program staff viewed the initial workshops as a valuable socializing experience for new participants.  At the New Jersey sites, where initial workshops extended over a period of at least four weeks, the sequence of initial workshops was referred to as "boot camp," because it imposed rigorous attendance demands and immersed each new cohort of demonstration participants in a common introductory experience that for some required considerable adjustment of attitudes and habits.  Some site staff viewed this aspect of the initial workshops as more important than their instructional value; although staff hoped that participants would learn information and skills that were presented in the workshops, some felt that the more important successes of workshops were measured by changes in the way participants behaved as they interacted with program staff and their program peers. 

Program staff noted the following changes as indicators of workshop success:

  • Initial hostility and resistance to attending program workshops or other activities softened as participants recognize the supportive attitude of program staff;
  • Participants became less reticent and reserved and begin to express their feelings and thoughts in workshop discussions; and
  • Participants began to form relationships with their peers and develop a common sense of involvement in the program.

Initial Workshops Can Provide an Opportunity for Further Assessment

Demonstration staff reported that workshops also provided useful information about participants that supplemented more structured and formal methods of assessment.  Case managers had to assess the skills of new participants, their interests, and the personal and family circumstances that affected them, and work with them individually to develop a plan of activities to work towards self-sufficiency.  Intake and assessment questionnaires and basic skills tests were used to gather information on educational backgrounds, personal backgrounds, and math and reading proficiency.  However, staff reported that, even with these formal assessment methods, they could overlook important factors affecting participants lives.  Observing and interacting with new participants during initial workshops provided more subtle insights into their strengths and weaknesses and personal problems.  Some case managers led initial workshops and thus formed direct impressions of the new participants they would work with.  Even when new participants were assigned to case managers who had not led any of their initial workshops, the workshops served as a source of informal assessment information.  Case managers' informal discussions with workshop leaders about each new cohort of participants yielded useful advice or information that might not emerge in the case manager's own assessment.

Approaches to Linking Workshops with Other Program Components

Program staff at the three demonstration sites generally agreed on the purposes of workshops described earlier, but the three programs adopted quite different approaches to integrating workshops into the sequence of program activities.  To a large extent, these three approaches reflected models that staff were already familiar with from other programs at their sites, as well as administrative constraints.

Project Advance Used a Short Sequence of Introductory Workshops and a Variety of Topical Workshops Available to Ongoing Participants

Project Advance in Chicago required new participants to go through a three-day sequence of short workshops on six topics, totalling nine hours, all conducted by program case managers.  Later, in their individual dealings with participants, case managers could continue discussing these issues in more detail.  Program staff scheduled selected participants for ongoing workshops offered on a regular repeating cycle (e.g., Home Life Management workshop, Education Preparation, Job Club, Pre-Natal Care).  Staff selected participants based on their apparent need for help with issues covered by these workshops.  Invitations to other "special-event" workshops, conducted only occasionally or at long intervals, were sent to a large list of active clients; usually, a smaller, manageable size group attended.

The Camden Teen Progress Program Required an Intensive "Boot Camp" of Initial Workshops Before Other Program Activity

The Camden Teen Progress program required new participants to go through a sequence of initial workshops that spanned about four weeks and required about 78 hours of total attendance.  Outside consultants and staff from other service agencies were used extensively to run workshops.(6)  The workshop cycle was structured so that new participants had virtually a full-time schedule of workshop activity for four weeks, and then went on to other education, training, or job search activities.  The only Camden workshop for ongoing participants was a six-week program of Pre-Employment Preparation for participants getting ready to look for a job.  In some instances, these participants were judged at assessment or upon completion of a training course to be ready for the job market; in other instances, participants were scheduled for the pre-employment workshop if they resisted pursuing recommended education or training or if they failed to complete such activities or comply with their requirements.

The Newark Teen Progress Program Integrated Extensive Initial Workshops with Education and Training Activities

At the Newark Teen Progress program, an extensive sequence of required initial workshops involved over 100 hours of attendance at sessions dealing with family planning, HIV syndrome and drug abuse, nutrition, and life skills.  These initial workshops were viewed as one set of activities -- along with education or job training, as appropriate -- from which a full-time schedule of classes could be selected.  Since the workshops were of varying length -- one of them lasting six weeks -- and sometimes had conflicting schedules, even participants who adhered to their plan might attend initial workshops for several months.  Staff developed a schedule of classes for each new participant, consisting of a combination of workshops and appropriate other activities such as on-site remedial education classes or JTPA-funded job training (if the participant had adequate basic skills).  Thus, many participants followed, for as much as several months after their enrollment, a school-like schedule of classes at the program site, centered around an on-site remedial education class, and supplemented by the various initial workshops as they became available and could fit into the participants' schedules.(7)

Workshop Design Decisions

These three approaches to integrating workshops in the overall program design differ on several dimensions -- the length of initial workshops, the types of staff used to conduct the workshops, and the relative emphasis on initial and ongoing workshops.  These implicit choices can affect the contribution that workshops make to program objectives, the administrative demands they place on staff, and the resources they consume, as explained below.

Setting the Length of Initial Workshops

The demonstration experience highlighted the implications of decisions about the length of initial workshops for new participants.  Workshop length affects what can be accomplished in the workshops, the administrative complexity and burden of monitoring participants' workshop completion, and the choice of staff to run workshops.  There is no simple definition of the ideal workshop length, but the demonstration helped to identify the factors program planners should consider.

The time devoted to initial workshops obviously affects the potential contribution they can make to cognitive and personal development as well as to staff assessments of new participants.  Extensive initial workshops like those offered in the New Jersey programs provide greater opportunity for socialization and formation of peer relationships, which are important objectives of initial workshops.  For those who participate, it is possible to explore and develop topics in more detail than would be possible in an initial workshop sequence of just a few days.  Longer workshops at the start of the program sequence also offer more opportunity for participants' personal interests, communications and social skills, family problems, and motivation to be clarified before decisions are made about their involvement in an ongoing education or training activity.  On the other hand, some demonstration staff felt that it was difficult to hold the teenage parents' attention and make effective use of the workshop format over a period of several weeks, and that shorter workshops are preferable because they make it possible for new participants to move as quickly as possible into substantive education or training activity.

Workshop length also affects the likelihood that new program enrollees will participate promptly in workshops.  Given the time commitment required for the New Jersey workshops, the Camden and Newark programs had to defer workshop activity for new participants who were in school at the time of enrollment until the next school vacation, and maintain a system for reminding staff to schedule these participants for workshops.  If initial workshops span just a few days, as they did at Project Advance, program staff may be able to arrange for local school officials to recognize the workshops as valid educational activities, so that all new participants can go through the initial workshops immediately.  For most participants, prompt exposure to the issues covered and the guidance offered in workshops is an advantage of a brief initial workshop sequence.

The length of initial workshops is also likely to affect the burden presented by related administrative tasks -- scheduling participants for workshops, monitoring attendance, rescheduling participants who fail to attend, and imposing sanctions on those who do not comply with this aspect of program requirements.  Lengthy workshops involving multiple sessions over a period of several weeks create substantial opportunity for noncompliance; there are simply more days of required attendance and thus more opportunities for participants to fail to show up before the workshop requirement is satisfied.  If the requirement to attend and complete workshops is treated seriously and only minimal absence is allowed, lengthy workshops require careful attendance monitoring and systematic follow-up with participants who miss workshop sessions.  The experience in the New Jersey programs showed that a substantial percentage of participants entering lengthy initial workshops are likely to miss sessions and have to be rescheduled to attend particular sessions they missed or to start an entire workshop again.  Long initial workshops are more likely to give rise to use of formal compliance warnings and sanctions than is the case with short workshops.

Data on workshop completion from the three demonstration sites are consistent with these expectations about long and short initial workshops.(8)  Participants in Chicago, where initial workshops spanned only three days, were more likely to complete required workshops quickly than were participants in the New Jersey programs.  In Chicago, 73 percent of all Project Advance participants had completed at least one workshop within the first four weeks after intake.  In Camden and Newark, in contrast, only 18 and 8 percent, respectively, of Teen Progress participants had completed a workshop within the first four weeks.  Workshop duration clearly contributed not only to differences in how quickly workshops were completed, but also to whether participants completed them at all.  In Chicago, 89 percent of the demonstration participants completed at least some initial workshops, while 57 percent in Camden and 38 percent in Newark completed at least one initial workshop.  Sanctions relating to failure to attend workshops had to be imposed on about 19 and 26 percent of Camden and Newark participants, respectively, and on about 15 percent of Chicago participants.

Choosing the Staff to Conduct Workshops

The decision about the extent of initial workshops also interacts with decisions about which staff should lead them, and the choice of staff has implications for the feasibility of dealing in depth with some issues, the drain on general case management resources, and the value of workshops as a source of assessment information.

The demonstration sites staffed their workshops in three different ways:

  1. In Chicago, Project Advance case managers were entirely responsible for leading the three-day initial workshops.  Most ongoing workshops were led by outside consultants (some paid, others volunteers);
  2. For most Newark and Camden workshops, the programs contracted with other agencies such as Planned Parenthood, JTPA, and community organizations to provide workshop leaders; and
  3. In Newark and Camden, in-house program staff were designated to conduct certain initial workshops, either in addition to their work as case managers, or as part of a broader workshop coordination role.

Staffing decisions were clearly linked to other program design issues.  Most clearly, the approach to staffing workshops hinged on the character of the workshop component.  The heavy input of personnel time needed to conduct the extensive Camden and Newark workshops more or less required that they be led by specially designated staff -- either program staff or contracted topic specialists from other agencies.  Only in a program with very brief initial workshops, as in the Chicago site, is it realistic to assume that case managers could lead workshops in addition to their responsibilities working with individual participants.

Using case managers to run workshops has several advantages.  As they run workshops, the case managers become acquainted with new participants and their problems.  Thus, for those participants who are assigned to the workshop leader's caseload, the workshops become a fruitful assessment opportunity.  Even for those participants assigned to other case managers, the workshop leaders can serve as a valuable source of information to help other case managers understand their new clients.  Workshops led by outside staff can also provide feedback to case managers, but a more conscious strategy is probably needed to elicit assessment information from outside staff, whereas workshop leaders who are part of the case management unit have natural informal opportunities to share information with their colleagues.  Finally, using regular case managers to run workshops -- and limiting the extent of the workshop component -- can hold down program costs.

Relying on case managers to run workshops, however, adds to the strain on case management staff and limits the special expertise available in the workshops.  Using case managers is really only feasible where the case management staff is large enough that responsibility for running workshops imposes only a periodic additional task on each case manager; otherwise the time they have for their own caseloads is too seriously eroded.  However, case managers who ran Project Advance workshops only every two to three months reported that they did not have time to become and remain truly up to date on the topics they were discussing -- particularly with regard to workshops covering issues of physiology, health, and medical care.  If case managers take turns running workshops, program managers should take particular care to provide initial and refresher training to equip case managers to lead such workshops.(9)  Even for the very limited introductory workshops held at Project Advance, some case managers eventually came to the conclusion that it would be preferable to assign special program or contract staff as workshop leaders.

The Camden and Newark demonstration programs tapped various community resources for initial workshop leaders with more specialized skills (and the Chicago site did so for some ongoing workshops).  Under contracts or in some instances no-cost inter-agency agreements, workshop leaders came from local Planned Parenthood Associations for family planning workshops, from county extension services for nutrition and life skills workshops, a non-profit drug rehabilitation program for an AIDS/drug abuse workshop, and several small local non-profit agencies for life skills and grooming workshops.

To the extent that outside staff are used to conduct workshops, care must be taken to maintain communications between these workshop leaders and the case managers who will work with the new participants, to take full advantage of the "assessment input" value of the workshops.  In addition, program staff need to observe workshop sessions periodically, monitor the presentation approaches used by outside consultants, and assess the quality of staff assigned by outside organizations to run workshops and the appropriateness of the curriculum.

A particularly promising staffing approach that combined the advantages of using in-house staff and outside specialists to run workshops was adopted in the Camden program part way through the demonstration.  The Camden program reassigned a case manager to work as an "in-house workshop coordinator".  This person -- a full-time member of the program staff -- led the Life Skills workshop, coordinated the scheduling of all initial workshops, and monitored the content and delivery of workshops led by outside staff.  The workshop coordinator met with individual case managers regularly to discuss special issues or problems pertaining to individual participants observed in the workshops.  This structure seemed to offer the advantages of specialized workshop leaders as well as close in-house monitoring and coordination of workshop curricula and approach.

Deciding Which Types of Workshop to Emphasize

Three workshop formats were used:  initial workshops for all new participants, regularly scheduled "cyclical" workshops for selected ongoing participants, and "special event" workshops open to all participants.  Each form of workshop has different implications for the breadth of participation achieved, the topics to be covered, and the administrative effort required to achieve a given level of participation.

Mandatory initial workshops are the most appropriate format for topics likely to be of importance to most or all new participants, in large part because they provide the surest vehicle for achieving high participation.  New participants can be routinely scheduled for the next cycle of workshops.  Since a clearly and readily identified cohort of new participants is scheduled for each workshop cycle, it is relatively straightforward to treat the workshops as mandatory activities, monitor attendance, take sanction action when necessary, and reschedule participants for the next cycle if they fail to attend the required number of sessions for each workshop.  Problems of scheduling participants into workshops are most manageable for initial workshops; with the exception of those attending school, most new participants should be able to attend initial workshops without delay.

Workshops for selected ongoing participants, however, are more appropriate when the objective is to focus more closely on the needs of particular participants or on topics that are relevant only to some.  For example, requiring all new participants to attend workshop sessions dealing with work place behavior, job applications, and resume preparation may be inappropriate if a substantial percentage of participants are young teenage parents for whom continued school attendance or reenrollment in special remedial classes is likely to be the focus of program activity.  Therefore, for some topics ongoing workshops for selected subsets of the participant population may be more effective.

"Special event" workshops for ongoing participants -- offered in the Chicago demonstration program -- pose special problems for staff in preparing the workshops and promoting attendance.  Whereas initial and cyclical workshops were typically arranged through negotiated contracts or staff assignments, special event workshops required finding appropriate workshop leaders, selecting dates when the workshops could fit into their schedules, and then promoting the event.  Although program staff viewed these workshops as very valuable and important experiences for participants, they did not classify them as mandatory activities, because their infrequent scheduling made it impossible to reschedule participants who failed to attend and insist that they attend a later session.  As a result, staff sometimes made extensive efforts to arrange a special workshop and invite large numbers of participants, but ended up actually delivering the workshop activity to a small group of participants.

Promoting Workshop Completion

Demonstration staff in all three sites came to realize that special efforts were needed to encourage participants to fulfill requirements to attend initial workshops.  New participants were often unaccustomed to any kind of daily routine, and in some instances did not quite understand that their participation was really required and would be monitored.  Moreover, dealing with a variety of other needs or life pressure could easily become for them a more immediate priority than attending a program workshop.  Program staff found several useful approaches to lower the barriers to workshop attendance, and also resorted to the demonstration sanction policy when necessary.

Flexible Scheduling Was Important

Flexibility in scheduling was essential in encouraging workshop completion, for several reasons.  On the one hand, program staff realized -- particularly in the New Jersey sites where workshops demanded a substantial time commitment -- that teenage parents still attending school could not be expected to miss school for workshops.  In addition, it became clear that for some participants, daily life crises, lack of motivation or habits of sticking to schedules, and other commitments such as medical appointments could interfere with workshop attendance. 

The sites took several approaches to dealing with these problems:

  1. Deferring workshop attendance to summer months for participants attending school;
  2. Scheduling particular workshops alternately for cycles meeting in the morning or the afternoon, to make it more feasible for participants with other school or work commitments to fit the workshop into their schedules; and
  3. Rescheduling participants for a later workshop cycle when their attendance at the originally scheduled sessions was disrupted.

Help with Child Care and Transportation Was Essential

The availability of child care and assistance in covering the costs of transportation also proved important.  All programs provided help in finding child care providers if necessary, paid the providers, and gave participants weekly stipends to cover the cost of public transportation.  In addition, all of the programs made some arrangement for on-site child care during part or all of the demonstration -- ranging from a special child-care room with a full-time staff person, to informal "baby-sitting" by case managers or other staff as needed.  On-site care was useful for participants attending on-site workshops or other activities, and particularly important for initial workshops because new participants may not yet have had time to identify a provider arrangement for the longer term, and were in many instances still wary of leaving their babies in the care of others.  When on-site care was not available, some participants inevitably brought their children to the workshops, which caused disruptions.

As an alternative to on-site care for the workshop period, program staff can help new participants find suitable child care providers and provide assistance in paying for care.  Given the time and effort sometimes required to make child care arrangements, this approach may not be feasible in a program designed to move new participants rapidly into and through a very short sequence of workshops, as in Project Advance.  In such programs, on-site care is likely to be particularly important to the smooth operation of initial workshops.  Helping with outside child care arrangements to promote initial workshop attendance is more feasible in a program with a more extensive workshop component that may be seen as meriting a greater investment of staff time to ensure that participants will be able to attend.

Judicious Use of the Sanction Policy Was Necessary

Despite scheduling flexibility and the availability of support services, program staff had to rely quite often on the demonstration sanction policy to promote workshop attendance.(10)  The sanction process was used particularly often in the New Jersey programs, where the length of the initial workshop sequence posed a greater demand for sustained attendance and thus created a greater risk of attendance problems before the workshop requirement was satisfied.  Some steps in the sanction process -- either a warning notice or an actual grant reduction -- had to be taken because of workshop attendance problems with about 43 percent of the teenage parents who entered the Teen Progress program in Camden and over half in the Newark site.  Grant reduction sanctions for failure to attend workshops were imposed on 19 and 26 percent of all these participants in Camden and Newark, respectively.  Sanction actions were taken less often in Chicago, most likely because the brief initial workshops made it less likely that attendance problems would occur.  Some form of sanction action was taken with 23 percent of Chicago enrollees, and about 15 percent had grant reductions imposed because of failure to attend initial workshops.

These sanction actions had some success in promoting further program participation.  Of all New Jersey participants who had completed intake by December 1989 and who were sent a warning notice or were actually sanctioned for failure to attend workshops, about half went on to some further participation in program activities -- completing a mandatory workshop, entering some other activity, or both.  In Chicago, despite some ambiguity in the available data, it appears that sanctions were successful 75 to 85 percent of the time in getting participants to complete further activity, in almost all cases including the mandatory workshops.

Cost to Provide Workshops

If workshops are to be part of a teenage parent program, planners must obviously allocate resources for them.  If workshops are to be conducted by outside specialists under contract, or by specialist program staff, the estimated cost of these staff positions or contracts would be included in the budget.  If case managers are expected to conduct workshops, the portion of their time that will be devoted to workshops must be taken into account when the required number of case managers is projected.

We estimated the cost of the initial mandatory workshops at the three demonstration programs over the period from July 1988 through June 1989, including the cost of contracts for outside workshop leaders and the time spent on workshops by program staff and donated staff from other agencies.

The Cost of Initial Workshops Ranged from $18 to $505 Per Person Entering the Program

The resulting estimates of initial workshop costs correspond to the differences in workshop intensity described earlier.  In Chicago, initial workshops were limited to nine hours per cycle and the primary workshop cost was for the time of the case managers who took time out from their caseloads to run the weekly workshops.(11)  With this "low-intensity" model, the overall cost of initial workshops in Chicago was estimated at $12,705 per year, or about $18 per teenage parent who completed program intake.  Initial workshops were a very minor portion -- less than 1 percent -- of total program expenditures.

In the New Jersey programs, where initial workshops were considerably more extensive, costs were correspondingly higher.  In Newark, where the program used a mix of case managers and outside contracts, initial workshops cost an estimated $41,260 in the period July 1988 through June 1989, or about $266 per enrollee.  In Camden, the intensive four-week curriculum of initial workshops cost an estimated $95,379 over this period, or about $505 per enrollee.  This cost was composed largely of contracts with outside agencies to lead specialized workshops; for example, a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide eight full-morning sessions in each four-week workshop cycle throughout the year cost the program about $12,000 -- about the same annual cost as the case manager time devoted in Chicago to the full initial workshop program.  In Newark and Camden initial workshop costs were approximately 5 and 10 percent of total program costs, respectively.(12)

The considerable difference in workshop costs between the Newark and Camden programs corresponds to differences in the approaches the two sites took to scheduling workshops.  In Camden, all of the initial workshops were scheduled as an intensive "boot camp" period during which new enrollees would normally complete all workshops.  Using this approach, the Camden program could schedule complete "packages" of workshops back-to-back, and thus made heavy use of each leader or outside provider of workshop services throughout the year.(13)  In Newark, less priority was placed on creating an intensive workshop schedule, since workshop attendance was interspersed with other activities such as remedial education classes or training.  As a result, each initial workshop was repeated less frequently in Newark than in Camden, and less use was made of the providers involved in running workshops.

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1.  Project Advance completed intake for the research sample in September 1989, and Teen Progress in March 1990.  All three sites, however, continued beyond those dates to enroll new participants (who will not be included in the formal impact analysis research), in order to maintain the program environment affecting the research sample.  In all three sites, the demonstration programs have been absorbed, under various strategies and resource constraints, into the regular JOBS program.

2.  The first paper dealt with identifying and enrolling teenage parents in mandatory employment and training programs.  Other papers in this series present findings concerning case management and education and training activities.

3.  The intake session for the demonstration entailed completing a "baseline questionnaire" and taking the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE).

4.  In some instances an initial plan was developed before participants attended workshops, but in most such cases the plan simply laid out the schedule of workshops the participant was required to attend.  Later a longer-term plan was developed.

5.  The topics listed here correspond generally to the specific titles that the sites assigned to workshops.  Some topics were the subject of a distinct workshop in one site but may have been a subject included in a more broadly defined workshop in another site.  Not all sites offered initial workshops on all of these topics, but each site covered these topics either in an initial workshop or a later ongoing workshop for selected participants.  Some changes in the list of workshops offered were made during the course of the demonstration.

6.  Towards the end of the demonstration, a member of the program staff was designated to conduct some workshops previously run by outside consultants, to reduce costs and maintain closer control over workshop quality.

7.  The Newark program also offered an intensive six-week ongoing workshop in Parenting Skills for participants identified as at high risk of child abuse or neglect.  This workshop was discontinued because of its high cost and the difficulty of developing a suitable curriculum for small groups.

8.  Although the sites' workshop attendance rates could be affected to some degree by differences in the client population, the differences in the demands posed by the workshops appear to be the most important factor.

9.  The Chicago program did, in fact, provide an extensive series of training sessions for case managers -- to prepare them to lead workshops as well as to work individually with the teenage parents in their caseloads.  This training is described in another paper in this series (Hershey, 1991).

10.  A general discussion of the role of sanctions in case management is presented in another paper in this series by Hershey (1991).

11.  We estimated that for each cycle of workshops, a case manager spent nine hours leading workshops and an additional six hours preparing for the workshops and maintaining attendance and other records.

12.  The three demonstration programs also used smaller amounts of workshop resources for ongoing participants.  In Newark, where substantial costs were incurred for an intensive parenting workshop for selected participants, total workshop costs were 10 percent of total program costs.  In Camden, the pre-employment workshop for ongoing participants raised total workshop costs to 12 percent of program costs.  In Chicago, although numerous workshops were held for ongoing participants, they were not scheduled with great frequency and were brief; even including these sessions, total workshop cost remained less than one percent of overall program cost.

13.  Costs in Camden were particularly high because contract costs for the intensive workshop series were spread over a very small flow of new enrollees.  The Camden program's workshop resources would most likely suffice for a program scale comparable to that achieved in Chicago.  At that scale, the workshops approach used in Camden would have consumed resources valued at about $135 per enrollee.

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