Evaluation of the Family Guidance Program for Families in Distress in Yokneam and the Megiddo Regional Council

The Family Guidance Program is an innovative joint enterprise of the municipality of Yokneam, the Megiddo Regional Council, and the Jewish Federations of St. Louis and Greater Atlanta. The goal is to help families with multiple difficulties extricate themselves from the cycle of distress and dependency on social services through a comprehensive intervention based on family strengths. Since it began in 2006, the program has assisted the families in employment, education, parenting and other areas. The program has served close to 200 families from the Megiddo Regional Council and Yokneam, including some 50 immigrant families from Ethiopia. The families were assigned a coordinator, who used life-coaching methods and met with them regularly to help them set and achieve objectives. The family members were also offered participation in projects, such as programs to encourage vocational training and employment, a mentoring program for youth and a parenting workshop.

The goal of the evaluation was to contribute to further program development. The evaluation, which lasted 3.5 years, examined the implementation of the program as well as feedback from the participants and the families’ progress regarding employment and financial status, self-efficacy and self-image, the scholastic, social and emotional status of the children and youth and parenting and relationships within the family. Data were collected at two points in time from the coordinators and the participating parents and adolescents. In addition, in-depth interviews with the professionals and participants and case studies of 7 families were conducted.

Findings from the evaluation were discussed yearly with the program directors and representatives of the Federations and served to introduce ongoing improvements.

At the time that the program was being developed in Yokneam and the Megiddo Regional Council, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services was becoming increasingly aware of the need to change the way that the social service departments work with families. A committee appointed by the director-general recommended a broad reform in the work of the social services, which is now on the verge of implementation. It has adopted two major principles on which the Family Guidance Program in Yokneam and the Megiddo Regional Council is based: 1. Families struggling with poverty, unemployment and social exclusion will be prioritized and community-based interventions will be implemented to assist them; 2. The social workers will work at the family level, and the new position of family social workers will be developed to coordinate the work with the family by the social service department.

The study was funded with the assistance of the Jewish Federations of Greater Atlanta and St. Louis.