A formative evaluation of a coach-based technical assistance model for youth- and family-focused programming

Jonathan R. Olson, Kimberly J. McCarthy, Daniel F. Perkins, Lynne M. Borden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background The Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk (CYFAR) initiative provides funding and technical support for local community-based programs designed to promote positive outcomes among vulnerable populations. In 2013, CYFAR implemented significant changes in the way it provides technical assistance (TA) to grantees. These changes included introducing a new TA model in which trained coaches provide proactive support that is tailored to individual CYFAR projects. The purpose of this paper is to describe the evolution of this TA model and present preliminary findings from a formative evaluation. Methods CYFAR Principal Investigators (PIs) were invited to respond to online surveys in 2015 and 2016. The surveys were designed to assess PI attitudes towards the nature and quality of support that they receive from their coaches. Results CYFAR PIs reported that their coaches have incorporated a range of coaching skills and techniques into their work. PIs have generally positive attitudes towards their coaches, and these attitudes have become more positive over time. Conclusions Results suggest that CYFAR PIs have been generally supportive of the new TA system. Factors that may have facilitated support include a strong emphasis on team-building and the provision of specific resources that support program design, implementation, and evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalEvaluation and Program Planning
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from USDA-NIFA. The funder did not play a role in study design; the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; the writing of this manuscript; or the decision to submit this article for publication.

Funding Information:
Specific coaching strategies used within CYFAR were drawn from the literature on peer coaching, which includes a combination of mentoring, technical assistance, guidance, reflection, problem-solving, and team-building ( Allen, 2013; Denton & Hasbrouck, 2009; Olson, Hawkey et al., 2016; Olson, Smith et al., 2016 ). A defining characteristic of the CYFAR coaching model is an ongoing empowering relationship that emphasizes regular contact between the coach and members of each CYFAR grantee’s programming team. CYFAR PDTA Center coaches use a combination of telephone and in-person meetings to establish relationships based on mutual respect, open communication, and trust. Grantees are encouraged to actively participate in knowledge and skill-building and the purpose of regular coaching contact is to help facilitate the learning process. Grantees do not answer directly to their CYFAR coaches. Although coaches provide reminders and support as grantees navigate through grant requirements, grantees are ultimately responsible to the funding agency, not to the PTDA team, for financial and outcomes reports. As such, coaches do not manage or police specific grantee behaviors ( Bluckert, 2005; Denton & Hasbrouck, 2009; Kutilek & Earnest, 2001 ), but rather provide support, encouragement, and access to resources developed by the PDTA. In addition, individual coaches are in regular communication with the leadership team of the PDTA Center as a way to receive updates and support, consider revisions to the coaching model, and engage in team-building and problem solving. As such, CYFAR grantees are supported by a full team of technical assistance providers.


  • Coaching
  • Evidence-informed practice
  • Technical assistance


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