Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS): Implementation Findings from the Evaluation of Employment Coaching

Publication Date: March 2, 2021
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  • Published: 2021


Research Questions

  1. What is the intervention design?
  2. What factors appear to have impeded or facilitated implementation of the intervention as designed?
  3. What were the clients’ experiences with coaching and what services did they receive?

This report summarizes the design and implementation of the Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS) program. Operated by the Iowa Department of Human Rights for more than 30 years, FaDSS uses a coaching approach during home visits to assist families deemed most at risk of long-term welfare receipt to work toward and attain economic self-sufficiency. Family Development Specialists (“specialists”) work collaboratively with participants to set short-term and long-term goals that reflect participants’ interests, strengths, and current circumstances. It is one of four coaching interventions included in the Evaluation of Employment Coaching for TANF and Related Populations. Sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the evaluation aims to learn more about the potential of different coaching approaches in helping low-income adults become more economically secure. The evaluation includes an implementation study and an impact study.


This report describes FaDSS’ design and goals, the target population and program participants, the implementation of coaching, and other services available to program participants. The findings are of interest to practitioners and policymakers considering implementing or supporting coaching interventions and will provide important context for understanding and interpreting the findings from the impact study and support future replication of employment coaching interventions.

Key Findings and Highlights

Overall, FaDSS was implemented as designed. Key findings from the implementation study are:

  • FaDSS staff view home visiting as key to fostering a relationship with the participant and family, but it can be challenging to conduct.
  • FaDSS specialists are highly educated, experienced, and trained in family-centered practices.
  • Family-focused, strengths-based coaching helps families set and achieve goals.
  • Small caseloads enable frequent contact with participants.
  • FaDSS specialists coach within a mandatory work participation environment, which affects the goal-setting process.
  • FaDSS serves a population facing numerous challenges to employment, but specialists reported having limited resources available to address many of those challenges.
  • FaDSS participants described their experiences positively.


The data sources for this report are in-person interviews with FaDSS staff and coaching observations during site visits to a subset of FaDSS service providers; a FaDSS staff survey; participant demographic, economic, and educational information collected in a baseline survey when participants enrolled in the study; in-depth, in-person interviews with a sample of FaDSS participants; video recordings of coaching sessions; service receipt data from the study’s data tracking system; and discussions with FaDSS staff as part of technical assistance related to implementing the evaluation. These data were collected in Spring 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report includes a text box that summarizes how the program has operated in the context of COVID-19, based on information collected during additional discussions with FaDSS staff.


Deena Schwartz, Karen Gardiner, Kristen Joyce, Sheena McConnell, and Correne Saunders (2020). Family Development and Self-Sufficiency (FaDSS): Implementation Findings from the Evaluation of Employment Coaching. OPRE Report 2020-177. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.