Agencies should follow up with individuals who have completed programming to assess overall effectiveness. Following up with clients helps staff learn about the long-term effects of programs. For example, agency staff can begin to determine the long-term effects of program activities on the ability of clients to refrain from future contact with justice agencies, to reconnect with their families and communities, and to further their educational attainment. In addition, agencies can use the results of follow-up with clients to document effectiveness for current or future funding organizations.
The follow-up process begins at intake. To ensure follow-up is simple and seamless, agency staff should keep the goals of follow-up in mind from intake, to program completion, and beyond. Maintaining contact with clients for follow-up purposes will be less difficult and time consuming. At intake, agencies should use forms that collect as much information about program clients as possible. This information should include names and residences of the client, their family, and friends. Client educational, training, and employment status is also very useful. Staff will use this information for following up with clients and tracking the progress they have made during the program and after.
Staff should periodically update information on intake forms throughout the client’s participation in agency programming. The Graduate Fellows recommend performing these checks every two to three months, updating information on housing, family and friends, and program participant progress (e.g., education, employment). This information will ensure the most accurate locator information for clients upon their completion of the program, while also providing measures of client performance on program requirements.
Upon completion of the program, agencies should conduct exit interviews to determine where clients are most likely to be found. Exit interviews can also update the overall progress of clients upon program completion. Evaluators should use a longer follow-up period because lasting program effects may diminish over time or may not be present in the short-term. The Graduate Fellows recommend that the follow-up period be at least three years to provide an adequate amount of time to measure recidivism and other program impacts (e.g., educational attainment, employment, and family reunification status). In order to streamline the follow-up process, the research team has included specialized intake information forms and follow-up forms in the appendices of the Follow-Up Guidebook for each specific organization affiliated with Evidence Generation and the Pinkerton Fellowship Initiative.
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