- Indicate strengths of their needs assessment plan that will enable the needs assessments to yield support for the program that they want to develop.
- Offer suggestions to improve the needs assessment plan in areas such as:
- Defining the extent and scope of the need
- Obtaining important information about the target population
- Identifying issues that might affect the target population’s ability to access the program or services
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The population I work with are at-risk youth that are involved in the criminal justice system. Needs assessments are a form of research conducted to gather information about the needs of a population or group in a community (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). Needs assessments are used to develop new services or to evaluate the relevance of existing programs (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). Unmet needs arise when there is a discrepancy between desirable conditions and current actuality (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). For this population, needs are typically being met while clients are in residential treatment, however, they typically struggle once back home. The unmet need I would like to focus on for this population is a more intensive style of case management and more supportive, comprehensive services for them to transition home and be successful in their community.
One of the main groups I would want to gather information from would be the population that is directly impacted by these unmet needs. This population can be difficult to obtain information from as they are young, impoverished, and often have large difficulty trusting those in authority. This population may not easily articulate their needs to a researcher when invited to do so. This could also be the case for their families, who could also have valuable information regarding their needs once their children are out of treatment. Another group serving as a common source of data, are key informants, as “opportunistically connected individuals with the knowledge and ability to report on community needs (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). Key informants are lawyers, judges, physicians, ministers, minority group leaders, and service providers who are aware of the need and services perceived as important by a community (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). This group would be extremely helpful when working with this population as they all have been in DFS custody and all typically have a probation officer that they have worked closely with.
In order to gain a full understanding of how to meet this need, I believe that qualitative data would need to be gathered. Results from qualitative needs assessments often lack statistical data that could convey the extent of the problem, but they tend to be rich in detail that conveys the complexities and uniqueness of the experiences of different individuals (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). This could be completed by conducting interviews and a focus group. Face-to-face and telephone interviews are one method of gathering in-depth information about the needs of particular groups (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). Preparation involves thinking through the purpose of the interview, constructing an interview schedule, and training interviewers (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). Focus groups are relatively unstructured small group experiences, typically with about 8 to 12 participants, that can gather information more efficiently than conducting separate interviews with each participant (Tutty & Rothery, 2010).
Tutty, L. M., & Rothery, M. A. (2010). Needs assessments. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed.,pp. 149–162). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (PDF)
Planning a Needs Assessment
Needs assessments gather information about the needs of a population in a community to develop or evaluate existing programs. (Tutty & Rothery, 2010). The current unmet need I want to address is the supported employment (SE) for individuals with mental illness. SAMHSA (2009) indicated that about 70% of adults with serious mental illness want to work and up to 60% can be successful at work when using SE services. SE is a vocational, rehabilitative approach that emphasizes helping individuals obtain competitive work in the community. (SAMHSA, 2009). Despite launching SE programs since the early 80s, the unemployment rate for those receiving public mental services is approximately 80%. (NAMI, 2014). SE programs need to be reevaluated to improve their efficiency and access to their target population.
Sources of information
VDARS and Endependence Center would be the sources of information researchers can use to conduct the needs assessment. VDARS (n.d.) offers the vocational rehabilitation program to empower individuals with disabilities to find employment. Once an individual is determined eligible for the SE, the vocational counselor creates an individualized employment plan to prepare for employment. (VDARS, n.d.). With consent, researchers can create a survey for their participants to identify their progress and information regarding where the program can improve. Endependence Center coordinates with the VDARS and Social Security Administration to provide services under the Ticket-to-Work program. (Endependence Center, n.d.). Endependence Center can provide the number of individuals who have applied for the Ticket-to-Work program, expressing the number of individuals who are seeking SE services.
Endependence Center. (n.d.). Employment Network. http://endependence.org/employment-network/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2014). Mental illness: NAMI report deplores 80 percent unemployment rate; State rates and ranks listed – Model legislation proposed. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-Illness-NAMI-Report-Deplores-80-Percent-Un
Tutty, L. M., & Rothery, M. A. (2010). Needs assessments. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed., pp. 149–162). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (PDF)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2009). Supported employment: Building your program. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/buildingyourprogram-se_0.pdf
Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (VDARS). (n.d.). How Vocational Rehabilitation Works. https://www.vadars.org/drs/vr/howvrworks.htm