Designing Program Workshops for Teenage Parents: Lessons from the Teenage Parent Demonstration. Lessons Concerning Workshops


The experience of the New Jersey and Illinois sites in running workshops as part of the Teenage Parent Demonstration suggests the following broad conclusions:

  1. Initial workshops for new program enrollees can serve several functions:  provide instruction in important life skills, help teenage parents begin developing the social skills and personal discipline necessary to participate in training and eventually a job, and help program staff assess new enrollees' readiness for educational and training activities.
  2. The planned length of initial workshops affects the depth to which topics can be covered, their usefulness in developing motivation and participants' acceptance of the program, the administrative burden of monitoring attendance and completion, and the likelihood that participants will complete the workshops.  Short workshops of just a few days provide a quick introduction to important life skill topics that can readily be completed by most new participants, but allow only limited substantive instruction.  Extensive workshops lasting several weeks provide more opportunity for developing participants' motivation and discipline and for substantive instruction, and provide an opportunity for new participants to become acclimated to the demands of a regular daily schedule.  However, they also create greater administrative burdens for scheduling and attendance monitoring.
  3. Program staff can promote attendance at initial workshops by providing prompt assistance with child care arrangements or on-site child care, and by scheduling workshops at various times of day to accommodate participants' school, training, or job schedules.  Nevertheless, if initial workshops exceed a few days in length, attendance problems are likely to be fairly common and require a clear and prompt staff response to keep participants in the program.
  4. Of the several alternative approaches used to staff workshops, it appears to have been most effective to have an in-house program coordinator lead some workshop sessions and -- if other resources are also used -- coordinate the scheduling of outside workshop leaders and monitor their performance.  Relying solely on case managers to lead workshops encroaches on the time they can devote to individual participants, and limits the special expertise that is desirable in workshops dealing with topics such as health, nutrition, and family planning.
  5. Workshops for ongoing program participants can be used selectively for defined groups with particular needs, such as those preparing to enter job training or job search.  It is relatively inefficient, however, to schedule "special" workshops that are given only occasionally; considerable effort is required to schedule and plan such events and to recruit participants.  There is no effective way to make attendance at such occasional events mandatory.
  6. The cost of initial workshops varied widely in the demonstration, ranging from as little as $18 per person enrolled in the program to as much as $505 per enrollee.  The variation in cost was due to wide differences in the overall duration of the workshop sequence and in the extent of reliance on contracts with outside experts to lead the workshops.