Strategies for Contacting Hard to Find Youth

Strategies to Contact Youth for the PaPOS Process: Lessons from Pennsylvania Schools

Information collected from a focus group conducted with PA Schools who experienced high response rates lead to the following recommendation strategies:

Provide Pre-Notification (while students were still in high school)

  • Discussed the PaPOS process with students and/or parents; explained the purpose; provided the questions; and defined the timeline for conducting the survey. I

  • Informed the students and/or parents of how the PaPOS process was going to be managed (e.g., when it would occur, why youth were selected).

  • Presented students with the number of former students who enrolled in college or other post-secondary education or training opportunities.

  • Provided PaPOS information at the student’s final IEP meeting.

  • Outreached with students prior to contacting them for the PaPOS post-school survey.

  • Included PaPOS information with other important information sent home to parents (e.g., information about class rings, senior portraits and graduation information)

  • Established any sort of social media campaign (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to maintain contact with students for the PaPOS post-school survey

Create Familiarity

  • Explained to students and/or parents that they are helping other students like themselves by answering the questions on the PaPOS

  • Shared PaPOS survey with students and/or parents so they knew what questions would be asked and that the information being asked is legitimate, not a scam for personal information.

  • Practiced completing the PaPOS interview with the student and/or parents

  • Showed students and/or parents specific examples of how PaPOS information can be used to make school better

  • Identified the person who had a relationship with the hardest-to find-youth and asked that person to inform the youth of the PaPOS process and/or conduct the survey conduct the survey

Make Contact

  • Ensured that the person who called left a message and/or call back number so youth/families could distinguish the PaPOS caller from a telemarketer

  • Contacted family members near significant dates (ie., holidays) when youth could be in touch with family to verify or update contact information

  • Maintained a list of former student’s family members who were still in school (e.g., cousins, siblings) who may know how to reach the student who left school the previous year.

  • Varied the person who called to administer the PaPOS postschool survey to the student

Show Interest

  • Interested in the answers that the youth provided

  • Enthusiastic

  • Conveyed a non-judgmental tone with varied voice

  • Read the interview with voice inflection as opposed to a monotone voice


National Post School Outcomes Center: Contacting Hard-to-Find Youth: Strategies for the Post-School Survey

To learn strategies for contacting youth who are hard-to-find, the National Post-School Outcomes Center conducted six focus groups with young adults and their family members in four states. This document summarizes the strategies recommended by youth and their families. Strategies are organized by five common themes.