Hello! We are Laura Beals, Director, and Aaron Gunning, Database Implementation Manager, of the Department of Evaluation and Learning at Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JF&CS), a multi-service nonprofit located near Boston, MA. We are part of an internal evaluation team responsible for collecting, analyzing, reporting, and using client-level data at the agency, including implementation and administration of our electronic client management system. Our programs span many types of services—from intensive long-term one-on-one case management to short-term information and referrals—across several target populations—new parents and their children, older adults and family caregivers, children and adults with disabilities, and people experiencing poverty, hunger, or domestic abuse.
Literature across the fields in which we work continue to reinforce the importance of supporting clients’ individual goals (e.g., parents of young children). As evaluators, we also know that data related to individualized goals can be difficult to collect uniformly and analyze meaningfully. After reviewing current literature, brainstorming with staff, and reflecting on the data architecture of our client management system, we recently revamped how we record and report on individual client goals to align with best practices for service delivery and evaluation use.
Connect case notes to service plans. Many of our staff now create a service plan for each of their clients in which they lay out agreed upon goals. Then, each time a staff member documents their work with a client in a case note, they are prompted to reflect on which, if any, goals they worked on during that session. This allows us to create reports that examine the relationships among dosage (i.e., effort devoted to a goal), goal progress, goal characteristics (e.g., category of goal), and client characteristics (e.g., age, disability, etc.).
Create a consistent set of close-ended goal categories and goal attainment responses. For example, in one division, goal categories include: Benefits, Education and Employment, Finances, etc. The attainment categories include “Met,” “Not Met,” and “Continuing”—we purposively steered programs towards using a very simple goal attainment scale which allows for more uniformity in data collection and easier aggregation in reporting. This then allows program leadership to understand what kind of goals are being set and accomplished across programs.
Though Googling will reveal many resources on the topic, here are a few that have been particularly helpful:
- The 1968 paper entitled “Goal attainment scaling: A general method for evaluating comprehensive community mental health programs” by TJ Kiresuk and RE Sherman that is the foundation of much of today’s work on this topic.
- King’s College London has created several tools for Goal Attainment Scaling in Rehabilitation.
- Evaluation of Employment Coaching for TANF and Related Populations, a project by Mathematica Policy Research for the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation has several relevant reports, including Self-Regulation and Goal Attainment: A New Perspective for Employment Programs and New Perspectives on Practice: A Guide to Measuring Self-Regulation and Goal-Related Outcomes in Employment Programs.
Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.