Works Wonders™ Research Project: 2011-2016

In 2011, Foster Forward and its partners - The Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, Rhode Island College and the Workplace Center at Columbia School of Social Work, and The Voice Youth Leadership Board - were awarded a five year grant from the Children's Bureau to help youth impacted by foster care develop skills to strengthen and manage relationships. Using evidence based research from the field and expertise feedback and guidance from the youth we serve, Works Wonders™ was built and tested and then went live in April 2013.  Between April 2013 - March 2016 Foster Forward engaged 180 youth between the ages of 14 and 21 years old to participate in the intervention.

independent Evaluation Results: 

The Works Wonders™ Initiative began as a Randomized Control Trial, but was changed to a formative evaluation in 2014. The formative evaluation used pre-determined benchmarks to evaluate feasibility and impact given that the design did not include comparison groups.  Benchmarks were derived from the conceptual framework, the current evidence base and practice experience that ensured calibration to the Rhode Island context. The evaluation of Works Wonders™ assessed the impact of a career readiness preparation program as a strategy to support youth in foster care gain economic self-sufficiency. 

The results demonstrated that this program was effective in enhancing youths' career preparation, connecting them with jobs and supporting a sense of self-determination. Findings suggested that it did so through its influence on challenging life circumstances that had the potential to undermine work, developing the skills to secure work, and on the relational competencies important to getting and keeping jobs. Highlights of the specific evaluation findings were: 


  •      Youth who participated increased their engagement in career exploration, work readiness activities, job search activities, and job retention activities during their program participation and these increases persisted through a one year follow-up post-enrollment.
  •      The proportion of youth employed following program participation increased by 35.7% (from 38.3% to 52%). Further there were significant increases in the proportion of those who both worked and stayed connected to school or training important to progressing in their careers. 



Foster Forward's Deputy Director was invited to present at a Joint U.S. Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in March of 2017. Below you can find a copy of the presentation that provided preliminary results from the evaluation about Works Wonders' success. 

Foster Forward's ongoing efforts to recruit employers as partners is critical to helping find meaningful work-based experiences for our youth. Below is a copy of presentations that have been offered to prospective employers. 


Resources & Supports


research Project RESOURCES:

Works Wonders got its start in 2011 as a research project funded by the Children's Bureau. These resources were developed during the implementation phase (2013-2016) of the project to help raise awareness with youth, community providers, employers, and the funding community. 


  • Watch the Works Wonders video that describes the project in its early days. 
  • Our Youth Brochure was used to recruit youth to participate in the study.
  • The Adult Brochure was used to help group home providers, foster families, and social workers know how they could support youth in Works Wonders. 
  • These Mental Health Resources (English)/ Recursos de salud mental  (Spanish) were developed early on to help reduce barriers to employment for Works Wonders Participants.



If you would like to learn more about the Works Wonders research project or to discuss whether the Works Wonders model is right for your jurisdiction, contact Kat Keenan at 401-438-3900 ext. 106. 


The Works Wonders Research Project was funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, Grant #90CW1141   



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