Works Wonders®

About This Program

Target Population: Adolescents/young adults ages 14-26 with a history of child welfare, juvenile justice involvement, or housing instability/homelessness

For children/adolescents ages: 14 – 25

Program Overview

Works Wonders® promotes increased well-being, career development, employment and education engagement, relational competencies, and self-determination for youth who are currently in (or have aged out of) foster care and/or involved in other systems. Works Wonders® is not designed to simply place youth in jobs but works to help them explore career paths that align to their individual interests and needs while assisting them to build the social competencies that are necessary for positive, productive workplace relationships. The program addresses barriers to employment and educational attainment through community partnerships and leveraged resources. Works Wonders® aims to empower youth to achieve success as they transition into adulthood.

Program Goals

The goals of Works Wonders® are:

  • Identify and overcome barriers that could otherwise prevent them from obtaining and maintaining employment
  • Complete the Employment & Empowerment (E2) Training to learn important career exploration, career readiness, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and self-advocacy skills
  • Build an understanding of careers and career paths, and create career/educational pathway to achieve their goals
  • Explore various fields and careers and build soft skills
  • Establish and maintain connections to work/employment
  • Establish and maintain connections to education and stay enrolled in school, if already attending
  • Access resources and supports necessary to meet their basic needs

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Works Wonders®.

Essential Components

The essential components of Works Wonders® include:

  • Referral and Enrollment:
    • Works Wonders® operates on a referral basis, but participation is voluntary. Given that youth often feel mandated to participate in programs, Works Wonders® values giving youth decision-making control over their own lives. This promotes more active participation and commitment to the program steps.
    • A Career & Education Coach meets with prospective participants and assists them to troubleshoot challenges and encourages them to consider the benefits of career development and employment engagement.
    • Once the young person agrees to participate, they are scheduled for the next available and most convenient E² Training date.
  • Employment and Empowerment (E²) Training:
    • A 12-hour group training is co-facilitated by a Career & Education Coach and Youth Leader with lived experience in foster care.
    • Participants gain an introduction to the world of work/employment covering such topics as:
      • What careers exist
      • What a career path is
      • The mechanics of applying for and securing employment
      • Workplace behavior needed to maintain employment in the long run
    • The training is interactive and involves the youth:
      • Participating in mock interviews
      • Role playing real-life workplace scenarios related to conflict resolution
      • Providing each other peer support around their own experiences with employment
      • Playing games together that illustrate the importance of teamwork, communication, and self-advocacy
      • Discussion of the impact that systems involvement can have on career development and how best to navigate those challenges
      • Eco-mapping activity to identify adult supporters who can support career development
  • Career Coaching:
    • Following the training, participants receive a minimum of 12 weeks of one-on-one coaching from the Career & Education Coach.
    • The coach and young person work together to:
      • Develop the young person's resume and cover letter
      • Fill out a sample W4 form
      • Fill out an employment application
      • Utilize the RIASEC Inventory to explore the young person’s possible career interests
      • Develop a career and education plan that outlines the young person’s job goals and the steps that are needed to achieve those goals
    • The coach personally:
      • Facilitates connections to experiential learning opportunities, training, education, or employment
      • Helps the young person to address any barriers that may impact their ability to execute their career and education plan
  • Experiential Learning:
    • Participants are connected to informational interviews, job shadows, and internships that align with their career interests and allow them to build their skills in a supported way.
    • The coach checks in with both the young person and the employer partner throughout the experiential learning opportunity, to see how things are progressing and offer additional support, if needed.
    • When the opportunity is concluded, the youth and coach debrief on lessons learned from the experience.
    • Experiential learning opportunities offer young people a safe place to apply lessons learned in the classroom setting to a real-world context to facilitate learning and growth.
  • Connection to Employment, Education, and Training:
    • Participants are connected to the next steps in their career and education plan, whether that be enrolling or reenrolling in an educational program, accessing a training program that is specifically related to their career interests, or direct entry into the workforce.

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Works Wonders® directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Lack of career exploration, insufficient career readiness skills, limited exposure to early work experience, as well as a dearth of relational competency skills
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Adult supporters (foster parents, case workers, program staff, mentors) are involved in the logistics planning and execution of experiential learning opportunities for program participants.

Recommended Intensity:

Varies throughout participation. At program start, participants engage in 12 hours of Employment & Empowerment Training, which can be held bootcamp style over the course of one week or spread out over the span of several weeks. Following the training, participants are matched with a Career and Education Coach and meet once a week for 4 weeks, then bi-weekly for a minimum of 12 weeks. Length of coaching contact depends on the purpose of the meeting, ranging from 20 minutes to an hour.

Recommended Duration:

Six months to one year, depending on age and life circumstances of the participant, as well as which career readiness activities are chosen.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Setting
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)


This program does not include a homework component.

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • A private space with seating
  • A trained Career & Education Coach and Youth Leader to facilitate the training or individual coaching
  • Copies of the Facilitator Guide and Youth Navigator

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Bachelor's degree or relevant experience. Knowledge of trauma, adolescent brain development, positive youth development. Experience working with youth who have experienced foster care is preferred.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Works Wonders® Replication Manual, Works Wonders® Facilitator Guide, contact the training contact below for copies.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Replication training is provided by Foster Forward, it can be conducted at a trainee’s organization, onsite at Foster Forward, or virtually.

Replication sites are required to complete the full replication training before program implementation, then participate in monthly technical assistance calls, annual site visits, and an annual cross-site learning community meeting. The formal support includes fidelity monitoring and support, leadership and role-alike coaching, evaluation, and sustainability support.

Number of days/hours:

40 hours over the course of one week in person, or over the span of four weeks virtually.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Gates, L. B., Pearlmutter, S., Keenan, K., Divver, C., & Gorroochurn, P. (2018). Career readiness programming for youth in foster care. Children and Youth Services Review, 89, 152–164.

Type of Study: One-group pretest–posttest study
Number of Participants: 180


  • Age — 14–21 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 66% Non-Hispanic and 62% White
  • Gender — 64% Male and 36% Female
  • Status — Participants were young people who were in the foster care system or alumni of care and recruited from the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) information system, and the Foster Forward Consolidated Youth Services Programs.

Location/Institution: Rhode Island

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to offer findings from a formative evaluation of Works Wonders, a career readiness program for young people in care, that contribute to the understanding of the factors that affect their career preparation, self-determination, and work outcomes as they transition from foster care to the adult world of work. Measures utilized include the American Institutes for Research (AIR) Self-Determination Scale and a developer checklist that measured career readiness and work status. Results indicate that there was a significant relationship between career readiness and employment. Young people who completed the career club and participated in a hands-on work experience while in enrolled in the program were more likely to be working at follow-up compared to those that dropped out. Self-determination also increased for young people who completed the group compared to those who did not. Limitations include program participants received additional supports through Foster Forward which may have skewed their ratings of relational competency, and self-determination in a positive direction; lack of comparison group; findings are limited to younger, white boys; and measures of relational competency, career readiness, and self-determination were all self-reported by the young people and there were no objective measures to corroborate their perceptions.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 6 and 12 months.

Additional References

Grucza, S. (n.d.). Working Wonders for foster youth: Winner of 2018 Innovations in American Government Award builds bridges to careers and opportunity.

Lansing, J., Coffey, A., Daly, H., Ali, Z., & Pergamit, M. (2021). Employment programs for young people with histories of foster care: Comparative snapshots, creating a typology, and considerations for the field. OPRE (Report No. 2022-81).

Contact Information

Caitlin Divver
Agency/Affiliation: Foster Forward
Phone: (401) 438-3900 x109

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: December 2022

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: August 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: August 2023